The subject came up today about whether a relationship could exist without passion. One participant claimed that passion dissipated within 18 months. A therapist making the rounds on talk shows suggests you "shake it up" and start new relationships in order to maintain the feeling of passion. I wasn't sure if they were defining passion or infatuation. Infatuation is an extravagant short lived passion. Some people call it calf love.

To me one of the earmarks of infatuation is that the other person doesn't have to participate. Teens and pre-teens can develop crushes on famous actors or singers. They never meet the person in question, so what is that intense feeling based on? Talent? Looks? Studies show we do tend to ascribe higher moral character to good looking people, whether or not they deserve it. Unfortunately, in today's TVland, what is defined as moral character has radically changed. People receive contracts for lucrative reality shows for exhibiting very low moral character. So it's hard to understand what sustains a crush.

Other times the feeling is connected to a live person, early in the relationship. It is still more of a fantasy than real love, though. Infatuation sees what it wants to see. The feeling is pleasant and very intense. At that time the person you love seems to float on air. You are always happy to see them. Little can you imagine this person could ever hurt you or blurt out anything you don't want to hear. When does the infatuation fade?

Sometimes it goes away by itself over time. The person doesn't have to do anything bad. It's just seeing them day after day do mundane activities rubs the polish off. You start to realize this person can have a grouchy day, a zit, bad breath in the morning. Slowly they don't seem so magical or perfect. Other times the reality check is more harsh. The person exhibits a behavior you did not expect. They disagree with your choice for dinner, or correct your grammer, and then poof, the party is over, just like that.

Philosophers would argue that real love is markedly different. In real love you care for the person. You don't base your airy fairy notions on what they can do for you, or how they dress, or how much money they make. Real love is according to the bible, able to endure all things. Or according to Shakespeare does not alter when alteration finds. So you could you still love your spouse if they were in an accident? What if it's a brain injury? What if their whole personality changes? There are all kinds of strange possibilities.

Funny how when we were kids we thought love was when you really really liked someone, and when you grown up you realize you don't even like some of the people you love. You like people who share your values and laugh at your jokes. Love, seems deeper than that. You love people who you can admire and respect. My first husband cheated on me, cheated on his taxes, cheated on his business partners. He rarely paid back money he borrowed, shrugging it off with the explanation "He didn't have it." I found I did not love him when I could not respect him. It surprised me, really, to find someone I had cared about enough to marry I couldn't even love. Then I realized part of the dissipation of our love was discovering the layers and layers of his betrayals. When nearly everything he said was a lie, I realized I didn't even know the man I had married. ?He was a fine con.

Passion, may or may not be different from infatuation. I like to think it is. After all I have a passion for writing I have sustained for years. Passion, unlike infatuation should not have to disappear. In fact, I like to believe it can grow. Call me silly, I think it's hot when a man treats me well. The more he does it, the more I want. It fans my flames. I don't know if men feel the same way. My second husband insisted that everyone loses their feelings after marriage. I didn't see why that had to be so, he said it had something to do with feeling familiar. Can't being familiar be passionate?

According to the dictionary passion is a strong emotion. To me, strong emotions are elicited by intense activity. There are things in life, passages so to speak, that are very intense: having a baby, raising a child, empty nest syndrome. To my mind, experiencing any one of these events with a mate ought to increase passion. They are what I call bonding experiences. And I wanted so dearly to bond with him, he was the love of my life, the man who taught me how to be a "we" before he got addicted to his pain medication and left me. I so miss the person I married. I still love him passionately, even though I can't be with him, can't trust a word he's saying. When he's using he's just too dangerous to me.

In the movies passion and infatuation are set up to be better than real love. Relationships in movies are traditionally filmed at the very start of a relationship, how the couple meets, how sparks fly. In the last movie I saw, Avatar, the couple were attracted from the start. They play act at being annoyed with each other. Very little actually stands in the way for them to end up together. There is a flimsy side story about the girl being betrothed to someone else. No evidence is shown that she actually cared about the rival. The two men fight to impress the one woman, although the audience never has a doubt who she will pick. One wonders why. We don't get to see any character development. They just spend a lot of time together.

I like to think you could feed passion by being kind. I like to think people would want to be treated well. I like to think that if you made home a pleasant place to be, then your mate would want to be there and not stray.