Would you rather have your partner love you with the burning fire of a thousand suns or the sustained warmth of a well-tended hearth?
If the popularity of romance novels and movies depicting passionate love stories is any indication, chances are most of us would rather be loved with the fire of a thousand suns. Otherwise, where are the works of art, literature and film that celebrate lukewarm love?
Here’s the thing, though: If you want to be in a marriage for the long haul, being loved less passionately is your best bet. At least that’s the argument that Aaron Ben-Zeév, a professor of philosophy at the University of Haifa, argues in Psychology Today.
Ben-Zeév is considered an expert in the study of emotions and his recent research revolves around love and romantic compromises, including this whole issue of passionate love versus mild love, and which one is better.
"Romantic intensity is not the same as romantic depth. Romantic intensity is a snapshot of an emotional peak at a given moment; it refers to the momentary degree of passionate (often sexual) desire," Ben-Zeév writes. "Romantic depth goes beyond romantic intensity to include the dimension of time, as establishing depth requires time."
Makes sense. Sort of like you can feel love at first sight, but you can’t turn that love into a great love at first sight; it takes time.
Although mild love certainly doesn’t seem as sexy or desirable as passionate love in a marriage, it’s important to keep in mind that mild love isn’t without its ups and downs, as well.
"Another aspect central to the nature of mild love is its given baseline position and the frequency of passionate peaks," Ben-Zeév explains, "which occur much less often when compared with the peaks found in torrid affairs, for example."
In long-term relationships, it’s not the passionate peaks, big sacrifices or intensity that make love endure or grow; it’s the small day-to-day kindnesses, compromises and appreciation that strengthen the bond between a couple. (Like unloading the dishwasher.)
“Go ahead, tell your partner you feel a mild and calm love—one that will last,” Ben-Zeév advises, but who really wants to hear that? Is there really any harm in telling your significant other that you love them to the moon and back when, really, you love them sitting next to you on the sofa every evening while you argue about what to watch on Netflix?
Sure, the "rip the clothes off each other" kind of passionate love may be what you choose to watch on screen, but mild, deep and mutually satisfying love is what you want to crawl into bed with every night.