Through the Eyes of a Stranger: Good Love Versus Bad Love

The English language has developed a very ample terminology for romantic feelings that is impossible to translate to many other languages. In love, in lust, infatuated, obsessed – all these gradations of emotion are opposed to what is considered to be “real love.”

Real love is, supposedly, what happens once the relationship loses every trace of uncontrollable and dangerous sexual passion. “When the buzz wears off”, as one reader put it recently. Only when a relationship reaches a stage where the feelings towards your partner are the same you normally feel towards a relative, then the real love American way can begin.

In the contemptuous “he isn’t in love with her, he is just in lust” one can hear the echoes of the Puritan forebears who condemn every trace of human sexuality.

37 thoughts on “Through the Eyes of a Stranger: Good Love Versus Bad Love

  1. It strikes me as though you approach “love” like a dog chasing its tail, in your endless pursuit of “passion”, and the irrational fear of being labeled a ‘puritan’. Getting beyond the lust and loving the person your with brings joy. I’m sure you won’t understand it – nor am I sure how to communicate it.

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    1. So lust is superficial, right? šŸ™‚ I rest my case. šŸ™‚

      Also, passion doesn’t need to be “pursued.” It resides within oneself. It’s interesting that you see it as something to be chased and pursued, though. Observe how you are the one who brought this vocabulary into the discussion. Now the question is why you see passion as ever-elusive and in need of pursuit.

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      1. I don’t see passion as ever-elusive and in need of pursuit. I simply see value in life beyond (and in addition to) sexual passion.

        I’m trying to discern your opinion based on the collective responses you give – and you seem to focus a lot on sexual passion – which is not unhealthy, unless it is at the exclusion of building a relationship.

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          1. Because that is the image conjured whenever you write about passion. Clearly there is a gap in our understanding of each others views. Based on what you’ve said in various threads throughout your blog, I”m left with the impression that you don’t value your relationship unless you in a constant state of intercourse (which wouldn’t leave a lot of time for blogging – or you go through a lot of laptops).

            After 22 years, I still find my wife the most desirable women I’ve ever met. But I realize that sex can wait until the company leaves, the lawn is done, the roof is fixed. . .whatever the tasks of the day may be. From reading your comments (not just here, but on other threads), I imagine you would say I’m in prison because I don’t throw down with her every time we get aroused.

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            1. —But I realize that sex can wait until the company leaves, the lawn is done, the roof is fixed. .

              It can, but should it? I mean I agree with you about the company (although on the grounds of privacy, not on the grounds that interaction with friends should take priority with respect to sex with your wife). But why the lawn should be more important???

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              1. Pragmatism, my friend. Tall grass is a breeding ground for bugs and insects. Bugs and insects bite my wife, which causes inflammation and discomfort. I love my wife, I take care of her and want to ensure she doesn’t experience discomfort, if I can prevent it.

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              2. Patrick, of course one can think of a number of emergencies which have to be addressed immediately. But I guess both me and Clarissa are responding to the apparent spirit of your messages, namely “sex in a long-term relationship has low priority”. How often does your roof leak? How fast does your grass grow?
                Which is fine, who am I to tell anybody his priorities are wrong?.. However, the dominant cultural message these days (and apologies if it is not what you personally meant) is not “whatever your priorities are is fine”, it is “sex should be low priority in a long-term relationship, and if it is not, you are not developed enough to understand real love or just not long enough in a relationship”. Which is not true, it is just a statistical reflection of the state of development of most people.

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              3. Not a low priority – but a competing priority. I have two jobs, two kids, commitments to community and the such. Sex may be enjoyable today, and tomorrow, and the day after that. But I can’t forgo work today to have sex. Nor should I ignore basic home maintenance to have sex – in which case my home will collapse. The passion you seem to speak of is the irrational, everything else be damned I’m getting laid today mentality, which has short term pleasure but long term detriment. And to be perfectly clear, – my wife and I NEVER prefer to do a chore instead of sex – it’s the mature, adult realization that we have a responsibility to take care of something in the here and now.

                I resent the implication that because I choose to feed my kids instead of having sex this morning, that I somehow am trapped in a passionless prison.

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              4. Patrick–
                Can I just say, you sound awesome? šŸ™‚

                My husband and I are pretty much on the same page. You’ve articulated this way better than I could have.
                –J

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              5. Now, I am really confused. I’ve lived in this society for the better part of 40 years, and I’ve never been taught “about the dangers of passion”, as you put it. I’ve been taught that there is a time and place for everything. I’ve been taught about respect and civil behaviour. I’ve been taught about self control. I guess you just see a vastly different world than I see.

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              1. It seems we have gotten far from the idea of what is love. I get the passion thing. I find my wife very sexy and we have passionate lovemaking. But I dont love her because I lust her. I lust lots of women but I dont love them. Love for me is more about the knowledge and understanding I have for someone and my want of that. That can only come through time and experience. Lust doesnt need any time or understanding.

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  2. Think of it this way, when you are 16 or 17 and you discover you love someone how can that be based on anything other than a hormonal reponse, especially if you have only been dating for a week. šŸ˜‰

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      1. Of course it hasnt been broken. The only ways humans can attempt to circumvent it is by using birth control and obviously by the looks of our freaking population it isnt working too well.

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  3. I think Clarissa’s just trying to make the case for passion not being unimportant or something that should fade.

    I know a couple getting divorced because of sex. People are saying tut tut, they still love each other and should be able to minimize the importance of sexuality for that reason. I disagree.

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  4. Well, sometimes lust is superficial. And sometimes it isn’t. šŸ˜€

    I think english might be a little limited when it comes to words for love; I believe the the Greeks had at least four? (My greek is more than a little limted, sadly, it’s non-existent.)

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  5. But the “thing that remains” very definitely exists. And there is a tendency of people who are “in lust” to confuse their current feelings with ones that will endure. What would you call that feeling, if not love?

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    1. Is it true that people get so confused? Is it that hard to see when it’s just that they’re hott? Isn’t it a problem to say it is “just” lust when lust is one of the elements? Why is there so much emphasis on lust diminishing / disappearing? What if it doesn’t, is that bad / a sign of immaturity / a sign of non love? Seriously, this is one of the issues on which I agree with Clarissa and feel like a real foreigner in US.

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    2. It could be love, one or more of various kinds. It can also be friendship, or complicity, or all kinds of things. One is definitely familiar with people one’s been in a romantic / sexual relationship with in ways one isn’t with others, but that familiarity can take on a whole range of qualities, depending on what the relationship was like, how it ended, what other aspects it had, and so on.

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  6. I tend to subscribe to the view according to which passion fizzling off is not a biological phenomenon, but mainly psychological one. It is a consequence of people in a relationship becoming more important to each other, and more intertwined and fused than their level of personal development permits. As the author of this theory bluntly puts it – “people cannot fuck with their support systems”… (Double meaning intended šŸ™‚ )

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    1. “He’s like a brother to me, so it feels weird to do this to him” kind of thing? I can see how that could happen. Is there a way of preventing that from happening that you are aware of.

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      1. I do not think it is that simple (but then I do not have a sister). It is more about people being afraid to be more fully known (in general, but in this context – by their partner). Heinlein’s “grok” is a good synonym for what I mean by “be fully known”. And people are afraid to be known because they do not fully accept themselves. Including (to a large extent) that they do not accept themselves sexually.
        The way of preventing that from happening is to work on self-acceptance and on risking to show oneself to one’s partner in all complexity. In sexual sphere it includes introducing novelty into sex, but not necessary technical novelty, it may be the novelty of meaning.
        In this model feeling that the “buzz is gone” likely means that partners reached their level of tolerance for intimacy. And leaving a relationship at that point for a new, more intense relationship is likely a search for a person who does not know you well enough to make you feel uncomfortable.
        Note that this logic is different from the traditional “buzz disappears and this is how things should go”. In this model one a) acknowledges that it is not how the things should go and b) can make conscious effort to get the buzz back at a new level. As an added bonus for those suspicious of “working on a relationship” šŸ™‚ – it is really working on oneself, which just happens to have positive effect on a relationship. This relationship or the next one.

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        1. This is fascinating. I think I’ll print this out when I get home and think about it at length. I’m glad this post is contributing great insights for me.
          Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

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  7. I just imagined the “Wait until I fix the roof, honey” scenario and it felt kind of disturbing. Fixing a roof takes forever, it’s exhausting and messy. If a person prefers that activity to being with me, then that’s very sad.

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    1. I guess if you are the type of woman who wont complain when its dripping in your face then I can see how he would get on you before he gets on the roof. šŸ˜‰

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