Why Intense Passion Early On In A Relationship Could Be A Red Flag

Photo: Jenny Marvin/unsplash
Why Intense Passion Early On In A Relationship Could Be A Red Flag

Imagine for a moment how many people are in relationships where they felt an instant attraction and intense passion for the other person.

There was something compelling about their partner, or they just "knew" that this person was the one for them. Perhaps, because of the intensity of their feelings, they even got married after a very short courtship.

These couples have fallen into the trap of passionate attraction — and it can turn unhealthy real fast.

RELATED: 9 Secrets Couples In Happy, Healthy Relationships Never Keep

Don’t get me wrong, being passionately attracted to your significant other is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it’s good to be physically attracted to each other when you're in a relationship.

Intense physical attraction can also be a red flag for an eventual toxic relationship.

Physical attraction should only be one of the aspects of what you love about your partner. And often, this kind of attraction is elevated and distorted when people talk about relationships.

When you're out dating and looking for love, having "chemistry" or giddy feelings about your budding romance is often discussed as if they are the primary indicator of whether this will be a successful relationship.

Those, in fact, are not necessarily even good or ideal indicators of long-term healthy relationships.

In ancient Greece, they had four words for love: "eros," "storge," "phileo," and "agape." Each describes different aspects of relationships.

When we talk about healthy committed relationships, we need to understand the difference between these four types of love.

"Storge," familial love.

Storge implies an instinctual drive to care for another person, evident in a parent’s love for their child.

Storge means devotion to the other person. It’s holding that person in your heart and carrying them with you as if they are now a part of you.

"Phileo," brotherly love or friendship love.

Phileo implies more of a companion-based relationship.

You spend a lot of time together and do nice things for them simply because you care about them.

You intentionally try to make them feel cared for by listening to them and remembering what they say.

"Agape," unconditional love.

A selfless act of enduring hardships on behalf of that person.

Being willing to make sacrifices of your convenience, your will, your comfort, and potentially even your life and well-being because it is what is best for the other.

Additionally, it doesn’t require you to reciprocate these same behaviors. You simply love the other and want the best for them, regardless of what the other can or will do for you.

"Eros," erotic love.

The physical attraction that partners feel toward each other.

Eros expresses a desire for that person sexually. It also explains why you might feel strong feelings of jealousy when you’re insecure.

This kind of love often fades after the initial infatuation.

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Eros tends to fade. 

The fact that eros love generally fades is one reason to be cautious about how much you value it.

Most 70- or 80-year-olds don’t feel the same erotic love towards each other as they may have in their prime. That’s not to say older partners don’t feel sexual attraction toward each other or have a healthy sex life. They can, and some do!

But usually, the erotic love is of lower value or significance when you’re older.

Erotic love isn't a stable foundation. 

Your physical attractiveness through your own eyes and the eyes of your lover will fade over time, which is why you don’t want eros love to be the foundation of your relationship.

You want something that will outlast passion.

It’s like eros is one leg of a chair and you know that leg will break at some point.

If you don’t have the other three legs — storge, phileo, and agape — then what will you fall onto when eros fades?

For people who are passionately attracted to each other from early on, I have one question for you...

What do you even know about them?

The answer is "very little" at the beginning stages. There is something compelling you towards that person and I wouldn’t disagree.

Psychology would point towards this being an unhealthy attraction, though. Usually, it’s one of two things happening and neither are good reasons to get involved with someone.

You may be projecting unresolved issues. 

First, there’s something unresolved within you that you see your partner has.

This is true when "opposites attract." One partner has a flaw or is weak in one area and meets someone who has strengths where they are deficient. Then, instant attraction!

"You complete me. Where I’m less than, you can cover over the gap so that I don’t have to do the hard work of completing myself. I’ll be in a relationship with you, and you’ll do that for me."

Often, both partners view this as an asset early on but later find out that it’s extremely frustrating to live with someone so very different in those same areas, even if those were the reasons for the allure in the first place.

Or, you've developed a negative "type."

Second, there are unresolved relational issues that your partner fits the criteria for.

This is seen when you develop "a type." You fall for the emotionally unavailable (people who you care for more but they can't reciprocate), or the "bad ones" over and over again.

Usually, these can be indicators of a significant relationship issue, perhaps with a parent who was unavailable for you or undervalued you.

Maybe you were a victim of some form of abuse so you have underlying self-esteem issues that make you believe you are unworthy of the "good ones."

A sign you need to heal. 

There is a lot of healing that needs to be done and, subconsciously, you’re looking for the same type of person who hurt you in an effort to finally resolve the issues.

It’s likely not going to happen that way. And if it does, you likely won’t want to stay in a relationship with that person anyway.

Most people never consider these possibilities though.

They don’t intentionally look for the deeper reasons that they may be attracted to someone because we’re programmed to believe that passionate attraction is perfectly fine.

Culturally, we’ve come to believe we must have a passionate attraction for it to be a healthy relationship.

Hollywood is a major endorsement of this ideology. Time and again we’re shown scenes of passionate attraction because, quite literally, it’s sexy and sex sells.

What doesn’t feel sexy is the healthy approach to long-term romance. The attraction, yes, but also the course of time that it takes to build trust in a person.

Getting to know someone well enough to see shared values and ideals, and know if your hobbies and the way you spend time and money are compatible with each other.

We’re quick to jump into passionate attraction because we’re eager to be in a relationship.

We long to be loved, especially in an unconditional way (agape). It’s like we want to fast-forward the getting to know you phase and become committed.

We are a fast-paced culture and, like everything else, we want dating to offer instant gratification.

That’s not the lasting approach nor a healthy one — it only leads to unhealthy relationships and broken hearts.

So, here's an important piece of dating advice if you want to find true and lasting love: turn off the instant pot or microwave approach, and use a crockpot approach instead.

Become friends, develop a deep longing to care for your partner, and put them as a priority in your life slowly over time.

Figure out ways that you mutually benefit from having each other in your life and how you can encourage them to be more of who they are.

Find way more in common with each other than complementary differences.

In short, develop all the different kinds of love for a relationship that is built on four legs — all four loves — instead of relying on just one.

RELATED: Why Having Immediate Sexual Chemistry With Someone Is Actually A Bad Thing

Amy Sargent is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist for over 10 years. For more information on her services, visit her website.