Most people think that romantic love is associated with intense passion and passionate excitement. However, I have found that in our current fast-tracked society, calmness may be the new romantic excitement.
“True love is not a strong, fiery, impetuous passion. It is, on the contrary, an element calm and deep. It looks beyond mere externals, and is attracted by qualities alone. It is wise and discriminating, and its devotion is real and abiding.”
–Ellen G. White
Emotions are often associated with storms and fire. Consider the descriptive words you use. They are generally intense words that imply passionate excitement. Emotions are often generated when we recognize significant changes or anticipate possible changes in our current situation. They often amplify situations and cause us to rally our resources.
This explanation also exists in descriptions of romantic love. It has been said:
“Love goes brackish in still waters.
It needs to be stirred up with obstruction and difficulty and spiked with surprise.”
“What’s granted is not wanted.”
The result of these sentiments is that popular culture has taught millions to think ideal love consists of constant exhilaration. We have people out there for whom love knows no varying degrees and never has to compromise…remember this ridiculous statement:
“Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”
Those characterizations are basically correct concerning a specific type of emotion—intense and focused, which typically lasts for a brief period and then like smoke, is gone. Living in upheaval, in constant change, is unsustainable. The human system soon accepts the change as normal, stabilizes the situation, and adjusts. You call it all normal and move on to the next.
But there are enduring emotions which continue for a lifetime. Enduring emotions permanently shape your attitudes and your behavior. A flash of anger can last moments, but grief over the loss of a loved one lasts, affecting your mood, demeanor, and how you relate to time and space. A man’s love for his spouse may not involve continuous feelings, but it influences his attitudes and behavior toward her and others.
Not all passionate emotions turn into enduring emotions, but romantic love can and does. Over time, most of us learn to differentiate between romantic intensity and depth. Romantic intensity is a snapshot of a romantic experience at a given moment. It refers to the momentary level of passionate, often sexual but always sensual desire. It has a discrete duration but no meaningful development, because it is designed to demand your attention. Romantic depth is, by contrast, an ongoing romantic experience that has both frequent intensity and lasting experiences that develop and enhance the relationship going forward. That kind of love is measured mainly by the growth of shared experiences, joint activities, and emotional experiences. Time is a positive influence and helps build romantic depth. Romantic intensity alone is degraded and destroyed by time.
Deep, Calm Excitement
“Enthusiasm is excitement with inspiration, motivation, and a pinch of creativity.”
— Bo Bennett
“The kind of energy I attract is very calm.”
— Julia Roberts
Many of my clients have learned that excitement is not just a brief passionate event that only involves romantic intensity; it is so much more satisfying when it is a part of an ongoing romantic relationship. If excitement includes wanting to learn more about someone, you can assume that time will increase excitement. Profound, long-term excitement can involve brief states of intense desire, but most adults learn to distinguish between the superficial, stormy kind of excitement and the more profound, calm excitement. One stimulates hormones, the other your soul.
The concept of calm excitement might appear to be an oxymoron. Let me explain. I had a client that described calmness in this way:
“Calmness is an overall feeling in which I feel no agitation.”
Calmness is free of negative features that include agitation, turmoil, nervousness, disturbance, or distress. It doesn’t suggest being passive or missing positive activities or fabulous excitement. Calmness is an essential element to our prospering as people. Deep, thoughtful calmness is associated with deep-rooted strength, and a steadying force in our lives.
Understanding the characteristics of emotions and moods, the two basic ranges of the feeling dimensions—the arousal range and the pleasantness range—become obvious. Some suggest we separate the arousal scale into two classes, one that ranges from energy to tiredness and the other from tense to calm. Then you have four basic moods states: calm-energy, calm-tiredness, tense-energy, and tense-tiredness. Each is linked to a certain state on the continuum of pleasantness. Do you see how the state of calm-energy could be the most pleasant state, and tense-tiredness the most unpleasant? Lots of people don’t distinguish between calm-energy and tense-energy since they assume that whenever they are energetic, there‘s going to be tension. The idea of calm-energy is foreign to many of us in the west, but not other cultures. Read Zen master Shunryu Suzuki and see what I mean:
“Calmness of mind does not mean you should stop your activity.
Real calmness should be found in the activity itself.
It is easy to have calmness in inactivity, but calmness in activity is true calmness.”
— Shunryu Suzuki
This kind of self-motivated calmness is found in deep essential experiences, ones that allow us all to flourish and be happy. Those activities are almost always exciting, so you have the idea of profound calm excitement.
Personal Development and Calm Excitement
“It strikes me that we are ‘behaving’ (actually, we are not behaving) like teenagers; can’t we at least try to behave as if we were mature adults? I feel like I am twenty again.”
— A married woman to her married lover, both in their 50s
Did you ever notice that as time passes you tend to grow less interested in novelty and excitement and more in-depth experiences? Younger people are considered more emotional than older people as a rule. Short-term romantic passion is usually provoked by sudden external changes, while long-term deep love is usually based upon an internal development with someone you know deeply and well. The first state is usually comprises wild excitement; the latter is usually interwoven with tranquility (e.g., peacefulness, serenity), and involving maturity associated with more experienced lives and minds.
It is because of these very differences that people say:
“Happiness declines with age.”
That’s crap. Research indicates that older people are actually happier and more satisfied with their lives than their younger companions. Why? Older people realize life is short. They change their perspectives and focus on positive current experiences, what they have and not what they don’t have. In these circumstances, the primary emotional experience relates to calmness. I had a client who said:
“My best years are in the second half of life.”
Older individuals understand their spouses as warm during both disagreements and common tasks and they are quite happy with their marriages. Many older married couples have less intense relationship conflicts than younger friends. Erotic connections are less important in their lives as their love, companionable love, based upon friendship and deep trust, is the most important part of their relationship. Overall, intimate relationships in older age are sweet and satisfying.
Calmness in Romantic Activities
“Romance is tempestuous. Love is calm.”
— Mason Cooley
Deep and profound love involves activities important to both, activities that grow each lover as well as improving their togetherness. Depth is usually associated with complexity. To love someone profoundly or deeply involves a far-reaching attitude that sees the rich, meaningful, and complex nature of the person loved. A superficial or shallow attitude toward someone is to see the person in a simplistic or incomplete way, ignoring their deeper characteristics. Romantic depth and profundity offsets the reduction of intensity that occurs over time. When love is deep and profound, romantic activities can be calm and yet very exciting. Romantic calmness is related to the profound trust that you find in a true loving relationship; the excitement derives from the feeling of developing and getting the best out of oneself and one’s partner.
The information contained can help with the dilemma people experience when they want a romantic relationship that is both exciting and stable. It is not uncommon to find people who want their romantic love to be exciting; they want to feel fully alive and intensely exhilarated. A client related the motto of a chat room they visited regularly “Married and Flirting” is “Married, Not Dead.” In this chat room they hoped “to feel alive again.” However, it really doesn’t help in the long run. That kind of superficial excitement doesn’t involve continuing enthusiasm, approval, or interest in knowing more about the other. It is all about the passionate release in the moment. In my experience as a coach, it wears off, leaving you with neither passion nor love. In deep profound love, over time you may lose some of the superficial excitement, but you gain a long-term calm excitement from knowing and interacting with each other in a way that is deeply satisfying.
What Kind of Excitement Will You Pick?
“I discovered the wonder of love (new, brand new) with the discovery of a wonderful peacefulness that is flowering in me. All is quiet, calm, without stress and upheaval of fear.”
In an impatient 21st century society, based on speed and efficiency, we are bombarded with superficial thrills. Slow and profound people can fall victim to that too rapid pace; fast and superficial people have the edge. Social networks make connections between people faster and less profound, decreasing the romantic profundity we need. It also increases the problem of loneliness. I don’t mean loneliness generated by a lack of social connections, but by the kind that leaves one with a lack of meaningful, deep, and profound social contacts.
The world most of us have constructed around ourselves offers a wealth of superficial excitement, but not so much profound excitement. To some, the superficial road is more attractive and appears to offer more opportunities. They find, as many of my clients have who chase after a brief thrill, that’s not the solution. When you choose momentary superficial excitement, the moment soon becomes boring and disappointing. The moment soon leaves you bereft of support, care, or even pleasure.
I am not going to deny the importance of tempestuous, exciting experiences. They can be so very enjoyable. I’m also not going to try and hide from you that there is always a trade-off between superficial excitement and romantic depth. Interestingly, it isn’t a trade-off between intense excitement and the absence of excitement. Instead, your choice is between sporadic, brief states of shallow, superficial excitement and an ongoing experience of deep and profound excitement.
We are all living longer and our society allows us both the time and opportunity for an over-abundance of superficial exciting experiences. The value of deeply profound, calm excitement has increased considerably and yet is almost completely ignored in popular culture today.
To be happier, we really don’t require extra superficially exciting experiences. Instead, we need the ability to build, maintain, and enhance deeply profound calm excitement. In many circumstances, as did our grandparents before us, we should consider mindfully selecting profundity and recognize calmness as the newest of romantic excitements.
How are you feeling about the romance in your life?
Schedule some time and we can talk about how things are going and where you would like to go.