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Do You Know Your Style of Passion?

Studies by a Canadian researcher have identified two types of passion: harmonious and obsessive. According to Dr. Robert Vallerand, harmonious passion happens when we choose to do an activity we love and feel happy both during and after it. Harmonious passion with an activity leads to better engagement, higher levels of concentration, and greater well-being.

Obsessive passion is another matter. This type of passion occurs when an uncontrollable desire to engage in the activity causes pressure (like those who can’t stop playing video games). You are doing something you love, but the activity controls you rather than you controlling it. You have to do it and find it difficult to step away from it.

In general, being involved with something you are harmoniously passionate about predicts higher well-being and greater resilience. Engaging in obsessive passion activities predicts just the opposite.

In a recent study with his colleagues, Dr. Vallerand looked at another type of passion — the one between romantic partners. As it turns out, they found couples, too, can be harmoniously or obsessively passionate with one another. Couples who enjoy being harmoniously passionate revel in the process of being together and the aftereffects. The obsessively passionate couples neither appreciate the process nor the outcome. They see being together more of an obligation than a delight.

The researchers then asked an interesting question: what happens when partners who have harmonious passion engage in a mutually exciting activity. In other words — what happens when a harmoniously passionate couple loves the activity they are doing together? The short answer is that it strengthens the relationship.

This might not seem like such a significant finding — but it is. The standard recommendation for couples is to improve their relationship is to do more things together. But this new research shows that couples who are obsessively passionate (feeling obligated) engage in an activity they are not harmoniously passionate about the results can be detrimental. Just spending time together isn’t the answer. Choosing to do something that each of you love together is what’s needed. There is a bonus if the activity you both love is exciting. The positive energy that comes from the shared excitement is also part of what will strengthen your connection. Sharing your harmoniously passionate activities with your partner may be one of the most direct ways to improve your relationship.

“Honey, want to go bungee jumping again tonight?” Might not sound like the most romantic sentence you can whisper into your partner’s ear — but it just might be the most effective.

Source: Rapaport, M., Carbonneau, N., St-Louis, A. C., Rochette, S., & Vallerand, R. J. (2018). More than Shared Love: Does Sharing a Passionate Activity with a Romantic Partner Strengthen the Relationship?. International Journal of Applied Positive Psychology, 2(1-3), 61-78.

Do You Know Your Style of Passion?


Daniel Tomasulo, Ph.D.

Dan Tomasulo Ph.D., TEP, MFA, MAPP teaches Positive Psychology in the graduate program of Counseling and Clinical Psychology at Columbia University, Teachers College and works with Martin Seligman, the Father of Positive Psychology in the Masters of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) program at the University of Pennsylvania. He is Director of the New York Certification in Positive Psychology for the Open Center in New York City and on faculty at New Jersey City University. Sharecare has honored him as one of the top 10 online influencers on the topic of depression. For more information go to: http://www.dare2behappy.com/. He also writes for Psych Central's Ask the Therapist column and the Proof Positive blog.


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APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2019). Do You Know Your Style of Passion?. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 25, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/do-you-know-your-style-of-passion/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 15 Jun 2019
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 15 Jun 2019
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