The Two Faces of Passion

He is your everything.

There’s nothing you’d rather do than be with him.

You’d face any obstacle to be by his side.

Without him, life feels meaningless.

That’s the pinnacle of romance:

A love so obsessive and all-consuming that it defines you.

Have you had a relationship like that?

Have you ever wanted a relationship like that?

From Romeo & Juliet to Twilight, we know that this kind of love can be dangerous, sometimes even fatal.

But surely it would be worth it, just to have the experience

Just to know what it’s like to love like that.

Yet there’s another story to be told about passion.

A passionate love affair can be healthy and sustainable. It can fit into your life rather than controlling it. It can fill you up without taking you over.

Healthy passion may never inspire bestselling movie franchises, but it’s the kind I want for you.

Here’s how to know what it feels like…

Two Kinds of Passion

Robert Vallerand, a professor of psychology at the University of Quebec in Montreal, proposed that there are two kinds of passion:

  1. Harmonious passion
  2. Obsessive passion

Both kinds of passion motivate people to invest significant time and energy in what they love. Your passion is more than just a value; it comes to define you.

That’s all well and good.

From there, passion goes in two separate directions.

One type of passion leads to healthy, lasting relationships.

The other type of passion leads to stressful relationships that can take over (and break) your life.

Let’s find out which type you may have…

Two-Part Passion Quiz

Part 1.
Answer yes or no to the following questions.

  1. Does being with him allow you to experience new things?
  2. Do those new experiences make you appreciate your relationship even more?
  3. Do you create many memorable experiences together?
  4. Do you like who you are with him?
  5. Does this relationship slot easily into the rest of your life (friends, work, self-care)?
  6. Despite how much you love him, do you still feel like you’re in control of your choices?
  7. Do you feel completely taken with him?

Count up your yeses. This is your Harmonious Passion score.

Part 2.
Answer yes or no to these questions.

  1. Do you feel like you can’t live without him?
  2. Is the urge to be with him so strong that you couldn’t stay away even if you tried?
  3. Do you have difficulty imagining your life without him?
  4. Are you emotionally dependent on him?
  5. Do you have a tough time controlling your need to be with him?
  6. Do you have an almost obsessive feeling for him?
  7. Does your mood depend on whether you’re able to be with him?[1]

Count up your yeses. This is your Obsessive Passion score.

What A High “Harmonious Passion” Score Means

If you scored high in harmonious passion, then your relationship fits in well with who you are, how you spend your time, and your social circle.

You don’t have to sacrifice any part of yourself to be in this relationship. It enhances your life, rather than taking it over.

Even though you know that nothing is certain and your relationship might not last, you can still enjoy today with him. Your pleasure in the relationship doesn’t depend on making it down the aisle. You won’t feel like a failure if it doesn’t work out. Rather, you’ll be grateful for the memories you created.

You see your relationship as a learning experience. You know you’re going to get some things wrong. You know you’ll mess up. You don’t beat yourself up over it. As long as you do better today than yesterday, you’re happy with yourself.

If something happens in the relationship to cause you to reconsider, you have the power to walk away. You love him, but you also love yourself. You won’t stay in a situation that violates your values or harms your wellbeing.

What A High “Obsessive Passion” Score Means

If you scored high in obsessive passion, your relationship is the center of your life. The other parts of your life come second.

You’re happy to sacrifice for this relationship, because it’s a sign of how much you value it. You’d do anything for him—anything. For you, that’s simply what love does.

You don’t want to mess this up. You work hard at your relationship. You overthink your behavior. You get mad at yourself for upsetting him or stressing him. You put his happiness above yours.

Your goal is to earn a future with him. You hate the uncertainty of not knowing whether it will happen or not. You just know that life will be bliss the moment he says yes to a future with you.

You put so much pressure on yourself that the relationship becomes a major source of stress in your life.

Which Makes You Happier?

Obsessive passion crackles with dramatic tension.

It’s like the kind of love you see in the movies. It feels the way love ought to be.

But it doesn’t make you happy.

People with harmonious passion tend to be more satisfied with their lives and themselves than people with obsessive passion.

They’re more adaptable and resilient. They know life goes on, even if they lose the person/thing they’re passionate about.

It doesn’t seem very romantic to think to yourself, “I can live without him if it doesn’t work out. I love him and value him, but I’m not willing to give up everything else I love for him.”

But star-crossed lovers don’t always make the happiest couples.

And happy endings don’t always look the way they do in the movies.


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