Some years back, I wrote an essay on the power of healthy sacrifice in romantic relationships. It appeared in a wonderful book that is now out of print, entitled “Why Do Fools Fall In Love,” edited by Jan Levine and my colleague Howard Markman. Compared to more scientifically focused pieces I have written or presented on sacrifice, this was a purely conceptual argument about the power of positive types of sacrifice. What I present in this post are excerpts from that essay, called Afterglow.
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We live in a culture saturated with constructions of love defined as passion. Passion is dominant because passion is powerful. What person does not either desire it, bask in the glory of it realized, or grieve over the loss of it in life? Passion’s potency arises from the promise, whether obtained or not, of the deep acceptance of one’s soul. Passion hints at the possibility of a soul mate. But there is something more powerful than passion—something that passion is incomplete without.
For most people, passion at its height resembles something like the birth of a fire on dry wood: great fury and heat, crackling flames leaping high. The start of such a fire is magnificent. My focus here is not on the great fire, but on the coals that are begun from it. It is the long burning coals and embers that sustain the promise of heat and fire to come.
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However, what sustains the pile of coals with their promise and warmth? What is the force of the more complete love? There are many answers one could give, but I want to I focus on sacrifice.
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What does passion lack that sacrifice makes up for? Passion lacks the ability to be directed by your will. That’s probably why we are all so deeply affected by passion—it is captivating. Sacrifice comes from the active, choosing part of love based in your will. You can choose to love in this way because you can choose to do loving acts. In an important way, sacrifice balances passion in the hearth of love.