Key points

  • Passion in relationships is an important goal for many couples.
  • Personal growth from mind-broadening activities—done without one's partner—might provide a source of passion.
  • Personal growth is associated with desire and relationship passion; however, too much personal growth is associated with drifting apart.
  • To ensure that self-expansion doesn't lead a couple to drift apart, it can be helpful to regularly share in the activities or discuss them.
Budgeron Bach/Pexels

Passion refers to intense feelings of longing for a partner, whether emotionally or sexually. In North America, at least, people who have more passion in their relationships tend to be happier.

But while passion is often high at the beginning of relationships, it tends to decline over time. Luckily, there are things couples can do to combat passion decay.

One way to increase passion in a relationship is by engaging in exciting activities with a partner (e.g., going on a trip together, taking a cooking course, hiking). These exciting, shared activities are associated with increased relationship well-being, sexual desire, and passion.

Why might exciting, shared activities increase passion? According to some scholars, people are motivated to seek and form relationships to obtain rewards related to expanding the self-concept (e.g., learning about a new person, seeing the world from another perspective). These self-expanding relationship rewards are associated with feelings of passion. Although it is relatively easy to learn new perspectives at the beginning of relationships, in established ones, couples may need to actively add novelty and excitement to the relationship to maintain passion.

There are challenges, however, with coordinating exciting activities together and finding experiences that both members enjoy. For instance, couples might not be able to get a babysitter, might not have the money to engage in their desired activity, or might not find an activity they both like. What can they do instead?

Promoting Relationship Passion With Personal Growth

Engaging in an exciting date is not the only way to promote relationship passion. Personal growth (e.g., from hobbies, work) is another potential way to increase passion in relationships.

Personal growth (or personal self-expansion) from hobbies (e.g., birdwatching, woodworking, dancing, volunteering) as well as from work can provide people with new perspectives on the world. They also have the potential to make a person feel more competent and better about themselves.

 Ekaterina Bolovtsova/Pexels
Couple having a conversation.

The benefits of personal growth are not restricted to the self; they also might provide benefits to the relationship. For instance, personal growth activities might make a person feel new and change how they interact with their partner. In turn, the partner might see a new side of the partner (e.g., they might suddenly seem more interesting) and spark feelings of desire and passion—just like at the beginning of the relationship. At the very least, the personal growth activities might give couples more to talk about at the dinner table.

Juggling Personal Growth With Relationship Well-Being

In the context of relationships, people must juggle their own needs with those of their partners. Time spent engaging in personal growth activities has the potential to take away from energy and resources from the relationship. If a partner decides to take up a hobby that involves a considerable amount of time on the weekends, for instance, this might detract from the leisure time in the relationship.

To answer the question of whether personal growth benefits or hinders relationships, we investigated the consequences of personal self-expansion (personal growth from activities done without the partner) for passion in two studies that tracked community couples on a daily basis over three weeks. People who scored higher (vs. lower) on daily personal self-expansion reported more passion in their relationships.

However, people who consistently had higher levels of personal self-expansion reported lower passion three months later, suggesting that individuals may drift apart from partners with too much personal self-expansion. These decreases in passion were due, in part, to reduced feelings of intimacy.

Relationship Fun-Damentals

Personal growth benefits the self and can contribute to increases in passion at the daily level; however, it is also possible to go too far and detract from the intimacy and passion in the relationship.

One way to maintain personal growth and reduce drifting apart is to share the experiences with your partner. Over dinner, for example, partners can describe what they are working on, or perhaps make it a more fun experience by getting the partner involved and doing the activity together from time to time. Sharing the personal growth with your partner can promote intimacy and passion in your relationship.


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