Passion Paradox

Passion Paradox is a theory about romantic relationships created by Dean Delis in his book "Passion Paradox". According to Delis, one partner is more in love - or emotionally invested in the relationship - than the other. The more love the loving partner wants from the other, the less the other feels like giving.

The more in love partner is in the one-down position, whilst the less in love partner occupies the one-up position. Men and women can occupy both positions at various times.

The Relationship Balance

"The author affirms that virtually everyone experiences love's two sides in the same way (pleasure and pain). It does not matter whether your past experiences moulded you to be a particular person - no one, even the emotionally healthy person, is exempted from the pain of love when it tips out of balance. In this context, love relationships would produce a paradox: 'one-downs' try harder as they feel insecure and want to get back in control. They attempt to enhance their attraction power. The goal of such effort is to gain emotional control over the relationship as to avoid the nightmare of rejection (that means winning his or her love). But the catch is: if you prove too appealing to the one you want - to the point where the other person is clearly more in love with you - the relationship will fall out of balance.

When such event occurs, you have become the 'one-up' or, if you are frightened by your partner's distance, you have become the 'one-down'. It would seem that the very urge to attract someone, to bring another person under emotional control, contains the potential for upsetting the balance of the relationship. This is due to the fact that the feeling of being in love is biochemically linked to the feeling of being out of control. Once you feel completely in control or sure of another person's love, your feelings of passion begin to fade: vanishing the challenge or excitement of the relationship."


"The passion paradox is one of the most familiar experiences in working with couples. One person wants more sex, more time talking, and more commitment than the other. A study of male-female relationships done at Yale University found that in 19% of relationships both partners were "equally involved" in the relationship in general.

In 36% of partnerships the woman was "less involved" and in 45% of partnerships the man was "less involved". This imbalance is partially due to a personality difference between people who enjoy connecting and people who enjoy being separate. The research shows that there are slightly more men who enjoy being more separate, but the difference is not huge. Whichever way the paradox runs, the result is often quite painful for both partners."

1Gondim, P (2006) Inside Love. AIPC Article Library.

2NLP Weekly. Creating Life Long Relationships. NLP Weekly Magazine Website.

The paradox of relationships has also been researched by existential psychotherapists together with the other paradoxes of life. See for instance: Emmy van Deurzen, (1998) Paradox and Passion, Chichester: Wiley.

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