For over a decade, David Tian, Ph.D. — a uniquely qualified therapist, life coach, and former university professor — has coached tens of thousands of people from over 87 countries to achieve happiness and success in their relationships, dating, psychology, and lifestyle.
Dr. Tian has been featured in international media, as well as co-hosting a radio show on national radio and a weekly dating advice column in a national newspaper in Singapore.
The show, “Man Up: Masculinity for the Intelligent Man” (https://www.davidtianphd.com/blog/), is David’s way of helping as many people as possible enjoy empowering and fulfilling lives, while contributing to the global understanding of masculinity in modern times. In the show, he takes your questions posed in the Man Up private Facebook group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/manupcommunity/) and answers based on his experience coaching tens of thousands of students around the world for over a decade.
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What It Takes To Make A Relationship Passionate Over Time
David Tian Ph.D. talks about succeeding in a relationship over the long-term.
David Tian Ph.D. explains passionate attraction and companionate attraction.
In this Man Up episode, David Tian Ph.D. shares what we can do to make our relationship passionate
David Tian: Boom, stop! I’m David Tian, Ph.D., and this video is about what it takes to make a relationship passionate over time.
Masculinity for the Intelligent Man. I’m David Tian, Ph.D. and this is Man Up!
Hi, I’m David Tian, Ph.D., and for over the past 11 years, I’ve been helping hundreds of thousands of people in over 87 countries attain success, happiness, and fulfillment in life and love, and welcome to the Man Up series, Man Up episode – I forget which number this is, 200-something. Right now, I’m in Jakarta. And as always, leaving it to the last minute.
We are literally on the way to the airport right after I film this, and enjoying this amazing suite on the 65th floor of the Westin here. A wonderful suite, two bathrooms, a dining room. Anyway, so you can see this view. It’s a little bit hazy today, blue skies the past few days, been pretty nice.
So anyway, let’s get into the question. And I haven’t been in Jakarta in a couple years, so kudos to Jakarta. You guys are really coming along in development. I see a new light rail transit system going up and the highways are moving a lot more smoothly than I remember.
William has a question here from the private Man Up Facebook group, and I’ve chosen this question – it’s quite long. I won’t read the whole thing. It’s about four screens long, but I’ve chosen it because he encapsulates very well the difficulty of succeeding in a relationship over the long-term, especially when the vagaries and necessitudes of life come crashing in on your existence, and the honeymoon period wears off.
I’ve done other videos on the scientific literature around how difficult it is to go from passion, passionate attraction, which is relatively effortless when two people have chemistry, and that just ignites this thing. And that’s why there’s that myth that if it’s love, it should be easy. That’s just because they’re still in that first phase of passionate attraction.
And that will go normally between six months to like three years. And on the high side, five years. And then for long-term couples to actually make it past that five-year hump, they’re going to have to transition from passionate attraction to companionate attraction. That’s when they stay together.
And that’s usually – companionate attraction is a lot like affection, the feeling of love of a friend. And if they don’t reignite their passion later in that relationship after that five-year hump, they’ll be best friends but they won’t be passionate. That’s part of the problem here that William is asking about.
If you haven’t yet watched that video – actually, the best thing to do is to get the free course that’s available within the Man Up Facebook group. So, join the private Man Up Facebook group. Click the link, join the group. It’s a Sunday right now and we had a long night on Saturday, so my throat’s kind of hoarse from all the shisha smoking and all that, so excuse that.
Join the private Man Up Facebook group. Get the free course called How to Make a Relationship Passionate. And one of the videos there will explain all of the science on this. I’ve also made a free video on this which is the – if you Google ‘Love versus Attraction David Tian’, you’ll find it – or YouTube search it.
So, I go over the science of it. It’s like a one-hour seminar. And then of course, the How to Make a Relationship Passionate is the way to go. So, let’s get into it. So, William:
“I’m approaching 35 with a divorce behind me and in a relationship of almost 2.5 years with a woman who is 30 with a 3 1/2-year-old son. We met toward the end of our divorces after being separated and starting to date again. The rebound dating really wasn’t…”
“I was really taken aback by the chemistry we had, the amount of similarities was shared amongst a lot of other things, but really wowed by the intense level of passion that we had. Although we didn’t waste much time getting to the physical side of things, I felt like we really took our time progressing our relationship, mostly for the sake of her son, but also based on our past and wanting to better ourselves.”
“Our time together then was limited to baby-free days. So, needless to say, when it was on, it was on. Hell, we would meet for lunch hook-ups. She had it so bad and was so short on time some days. It was absolute fire with substance that went way beyond the physical satisfaction.”
“This carried on into this past June when she and her son moved in after deciding we really wanted a long-term thing with the end goal being marriage eventually. Life is good…”
“Moving in, we obviously shared the everyday family life, learned a lot. All of it was perfect in my book. Our level of intensity continued after the move-in and really picked up, actually. I couldn’t have asked for anything more at that point. I was a happy dude.”
But then here’s the problem. I’m going to skip some stuff here.
“So, she has a thing for laying down with his son every night and most times falling asleep, leaving me to wake her later on. All good by me, and honestly, adorable most days. But as time went on, it became very routine with no surprise. Hey, I’m still up. Let’s have some fun tonight.”
“No big deal, really, as real life isn’t all fairies, roses, and a sex fest, and she would usually start the next day out with some teasing and sexy motivation for that night, which I enjoy. We would miss a few of those nights, again okay.”
So, pay attention to this part. I think this is a very common pattern among couples. So, I’ve seen a lot of comments in various videos of ours that, “Hey, I found my woman. I don’t need help anymore.” But it’s like on a video about how to make a relationship passionate.
Just getting into a relationship is actually going to – that’s just the beginning. Just because you’re in a relationship, you need to pay attention to this even more. You need to learn how to keep a relationship passionate even more. It’s not just about maintenance, it’s about growing it. Because if you just maintain, it’s sort of like when you work out.
If you just maintain and you’re not looking to grow, you’re actually going to probably move backwards over time, because of father time. Okay, so real life isn’t all fairies, roses, and a sex fest…
“We would miss a few of those nights, again, okay. But after a while of this, a few episodes of her allowing BS to consume her and take down our rare, quiet time opportunities, I eventually brought it up. Settle at first…” Okay, so he’s trying to bring up the issue by verbally communicating this with her.
“So, her initial responses to him bringing it up seem genuine, that she was also missing it and acknowledging she was letting life get in the way of us sometimes. I think at this point, it’s been a discussion four to six times, with two of them turning into our first real fights, ending in her confession she needs to get right with regards to rest and making the most of the time we do have to ourselves.”
“Sometimes, a few seriously intense days of sex and then circling back to a week or two of fall-off and me getting aggravated and bummed out or whatever you want to call it. I started questioning if I’ve allowed myself to be the guy to basically handle everything in the household to allow her to focus on her son and maximize their time, and maybe made myself less attractive? In my mind, I’m just doing what I do and being the best guy I can be for them both.”
“I feel like I’m present and compassionate for the good, bad, ugly, passionate romantic, staying unpredictable with my personal interests and things I do for with them, her, and keeping the spark on my end.” I’m probably leaving a lot out, but this is already long-winded.
So, this is a second post by William. I’m choosing to go off the second post. In-between his first and second post, he went in to watching some of David’s free courses, and now he understands a lot better overall on how to keep a relationship passionate. So, that part right there where he’s talking about things that he’s doing on his side, of being present, and compassionate, and staying unpredictable, and staying growing on his end. Those are things that are within your control and that the man and woman ought to be doing.
So, then he says,
“Bottom-line: I’m wondering if I’m starting to allow myself to become the ‘friend’ she loves somehow. If I’m out of line, I need to realize it’s life or ??? We both always said we never experienced a passion like we had. We wanted to work hard to keep that over time and be the best versions of us we could for the sake of our relationships. The fact that this has become a discussion or concern is disheartening.” That’s the part I really want to focus on.
So, all of that is pretty ample background, context for the actual issue. “The fact that this has become a discussion or concern is disheartening, but I also understand why it is sometimes and just wish, when life allowed, she would turn it up.” So, he’s asking for suggestions and input.
So, what’s happening here is life is getting more routine now. They have moved in together, so that’s always going to be a challenge in terms of just keeping things unpredictable, and fresh, and new, and injecting novelty, and continuing to grow. Because it’s not really about sitting around, thinking of new date ideas all the time for the rest of your life.
Although, that’s a good idea too, but unless it comes naturally, that’s really forcing it. What’s really underneath it all that will really create a passionate relationship is that each person, the man and the woman, or both partners, are growing as individuals, that they’re continuing to grow, stretch themselves, go to their edge, of their comfort zone, and step beyond that, and continuing to push themselves.
I see this all the time where people, when they finish university or their formal education and they get into their career, they don’t progress. They don’t grow. They don’t challenge themselves in other areas. They don’t become better people. They just do the next thing. Like they wake up and do the next thing.
And sometimes, they’ll force to do it because of money issues to grow, like take personal professional development in their career. But in their personal lives, they stopped growing and they don’t think that there’s a need to do so. And then they’re wondering why they’re so dissatisfied with life and why the partner isn’t excited by them, why their relationship isn’t growing and all of that.
It’s because they’ve stopped growing. That’s one of the options or possibilities. Now, with William, he’s watched the free course on how to make a relationship passionate. And a part of that course is about what you can do. He’s saying, “I’ve checked off these various boxes about what I can do, what’s in my control, as a man, being present for the good, bad, ugly, being passionate, romantic, staying unpredictable,” and I would add to that, William, improving yourself in other ways like in fitness, in learning new skills, and things like that, having more fun with stretching your comfort zone or going beyond your comfort zone.
But he’s on the right path for himself, but she’s not. She sounds like she’s kind of burnt out. We don’t have as much information about her side and what’s going on there, but she’s obviously spending a lot more time with her son now, which is a good thing, and he says it’s a good thing. It’s just that they got into this routine where she’ll put the son to sleep and then fall asleep in his bed, and then there’s no sexy times and all this.
He says two and a half years in, so this is just about right. Like I predicted, like the science predicts, right around three years, and then definitely into the upper end five years, three to five years. If you don’t know how to inject passion into the relationship, it will die. It will die. You might stay together out of convenience or expedience, but the passion won’t be there anymore because the chemicals of novelty have worn off.
And the things that triggered those chemicals naturally aren’t triggering them anymore because your brain has adjusted to the trigger, to the stimuli. So, it’s just like the same old, right? And so, now, you actually have to put in the effort. And this is the one sentence that I really want to focus on, draw your attention to.
The fact that – so this is his ending, the ending of this very long post. “The fact that this has become a discussion or concern is disheartening, but I also understand why it is sometimes, and just wish when life allows, she would turn it up.”
So, he’s coming up to that three year mark, and he’s like, “It sucks that we have to put effort into this. The fact that we have to discuss this sucks.” It’s sort of like the guy who is like – he’s starting to see that he’s fat. He’s getting older. His testosterones going down, so he’s getting the fat, and he’s getting out of shape. And he’s like, “It sucks that now that I’m older, I actually have to go to the gym, and diet, and watch my food if I want to keep my figure.” That sucks.
And you know the guy who thinks that that sucks will never succeed in his fitness goals. So if you don’t embrace the process and lose yourself in the process, and get to the point where you enjoy the process of improving, of learning, of working out – if you don’t enjoy the workout, you’re not going to keep doing it. If you don’t enjoy the food you’re eating on the diet, you’re not going to stick with the diet.
And this is a life-long thing. Like, fitness, and diet, and your health is a life-long thing for your life. And a relationship that you want to have a life-long relationship – so I’m not sure how old William is here. Oh, he’s 35. So, if you’re 35 and you’re probably going to live then, like the average life expectancy for somebody who is 35 in the US is going to be like 80.
So, you’re looking at the next 45 years, like the rest of your life, with this person, and you don’t want to put any work into it? You think it’s disheartening that you’ve got to actually talk about this with her, and that’s really disappointing, and you’re only 2 1/2 years in? Then you’re done. You’re not going to succeed in a relationship.
It’s like the fat guy who keeps complaining about dieting and workouts, and he’s like 2 1/2 months or weeks in. That guy will not actually succeed. At best, he’s going to go on a crash diet. You can imagine like The Biggest Loser TV show scenario. And as soon as the show ends, he goes home and he’s surrounded by all of the old triggers, and boom, he gains all that weight back.
And it’s the same thing. You see these yo-yo diets. So, I guess fitness is a really easy example of this, but that’s true in everything in life. You’re not going to get good at anything that is a long-term pursuit like love, like your relationship, which is supposed to be for life, or like your health. You’re not going to succeed over the long-run unless you enjoy the process.
And what’s the process of the long-term relationship? It’s the process of sometimes, shit gets hard for one of the partners and you’ve got to be there and understand, and you got to talk it out. You’ve got to communicate that what’s happening right now for you isn’t meeting your needs, and that you’re understanding, and you’re going to work together on that.
So far, it sounds like she’s happy to work together on it, but she needs – maybe it’s her motivation as well. Maybe she needs to watch my videos. Maybe she needs to take the free courses as well and really get that into her mind, that a relationship that goes past three to five years takes work. If you want to keep the passion going, you actually have to go through the exercises.
You have to take that effort to think a little harder. You have to be attentive. You have to put the willpower into it. When you don’t want to, you got to put that willpower and get that engine started, so to speak. And if you want that passion to be there, you have to make that time. It’s not supposed to happen naturally and effortlessly like when you first started going out.
Now, here’s the thing. Just like working out, at the beginning, when you’re the fat guy, it’s going to be hard for you to do the workouts and the diet. But once you get into the habit of the workouts and the diet, and you got a good coach or trainer who changes up your workouts and keeps it fresh and all of this, you’re going to start to enjoy the workout and you’ll start to enjoy the food that you’re on the diet with, if it’s a good dietician, right? You’ll start to enjoy those healthy foods.
And your body and brain will adjust, so that when you have unhealthy foods, you’ll be turned off, or the days where you don’t get to work out, you’re getting kind of antsy because you have extra energy. That’s the goal. That’s the life-long pursuit of it.
It’s the same with the relationship. When you don’t feel like having sexy time, maybe things are hard at work, you make the extra effort to do so. Or if you know it’s just going to be a couple of weeks or a limited time, you could put that on the backburner and then hit it doubly hard, so to speak, when you get back from that.
But what happens is, once you start putting in that effort, at the beginning, it’s difficult. It’s like pushing that boulder up the hill. But then once you get the momentum, then it gets a lot easier. It’s like once you get the momentum of enjoying the workouts, enjoying the diet; once you get the momentum of enjoying of thinking of how to make the relationship more passionate, enjoying putting that into play, putting that into action, actually doing that, actually making the time and having the great sex, and then enjoying that, and then looking forward to doing that again; really putting conscious effort and thought into, “This is actually going to take work. This is not a natural thing, to have a relationship be passionate after five years together. That’s not a normal thing.”
We’re not evolved for that. But if you want that, and there’s a higher level of passion in there, just like – we’re not evolved to say no to Krispy Kreme donuts, by the way. We’re not evolved to say no to these things that our evolutionary ancestors had no exposure to. And if you just go with what’s natural for you, you’re going to lead a short life and it’s going to be unfulfilling and pretty empty, and can be actually quite dangerous.
So, what’s natural isn’t what’s good necessarily, by the way. So, that’s an important thing. So, right now, you want it to be natural. You think it sucks that you have to work at it. That’s why it will never succeed. Once you realize, just accept the fact that the – take a relationship past that three-year mark, three to five-year mark. And even like for some people, it might be six months. It really depends on how many external stressors are going on with your relationship.
But to take it past the honeymoon stage takes work, and that’s normal, and that’s a good thing, and you can embrace that work for what it is. And there’s a lot of resources for this, by the way, for helping couples become more passionate, more connected to each other, and stronger together.
Once you embrace the process, you’ll enjoy the process. And then you won’t be like, “Oh, I wish it was when we first started going out.” It will be even better than it was when you first started going out. But if you keep pining for that effortlessness, you will never get that relationship to work.
So, the point is, this whole idea, “The fact that this has become a discussion or concern is disheartening. I wish life was just going to be easy.” If you keep that attitude, then all of your relationships will fail over time. But if you flip that around and say, “I’m going to embrace the grind, so to speak, and it might seem like a grind at the time, but when I get that momentum going, then the passion will be its own reward, the process will be its own reward. The passion will feed you to continue to look for new ways to get stronger together” and so on.
And you’ll get that momentum going. It will become easier and easier over time, once you start getting into the habit of putting in that effort and accepting the fact that you need to put in that effort. So, there you go. It takes effort to succeed in a relationship over the long term. It takes effort, and it takes willpower, and it takes some reflection, and thought, and communication with each other.
And that part may not be so honeymoon sexy, but that’s what’s necessary to get to the greater passion and companionship further down the road. Just like when you first start working out and dieting, it’s not sexy. But over time, for all those people who have succeeded in this endeavor, you embrace the workout, and you find one that you enjoy, and you love it, and you miss it when you don’t, on the days you can’t do it, and your diet, too; the same thing.
You start looking for more creative ways to get that diet and then it will taste good. But right now, you’re like, “Ah, I wish I could just eat pizza and ice cream every day. Why can’t I?” Well then, that person will never succeed in his goals in fitness or health. So, it’s the same with relationships.
Okay, there you go. A great example of common way of thinking and the reason why – one of the many reasons why the divorce rates around the world are so high. People think it’s supposed to be effortless and easy, and it never was. And there are so many easy ways to escape nowadays, so they take the easy way out.
So, if you want to get to the other side, if you want to see what’s on the other side of the rainbow, get the gold, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, you got to put in the effort and have the right mindset that it will indeed take effort. And there you go.
All right, so click the link. Join the private Facebook group, if you haven’t yet taken the free course on how to make a relationship passionate. Do it. So, you can click the link, join the group. It’s inside the group. I’ll see you inside the group. David Tian, signing out. Man Up!