By Margarita Nahapetyan
Romance does not necessarily have to fade away in the long-term relationships and transform into a friendship-type love, according to a new study. Romantic love can last a lifetime and lead to even happier, stronger and healthier relationships.
The study's lead researcher, Bianca P. Acevedo, PhD, from the University of California, Santa Barbara, said that many people identify romantic love as passionate love, which, in her opinion, is not true. The scientist explained that romantic love has the same intensity, involvement and sexual chemistry, that has the passionate love, with the exception of an obsession. Obsessive love is always accompanied by feelings such as anxiety and uncertainty, and never survives for a long time.
To come up with this conclusion, Dr. Acevedo and co-author Arthur Aron, PhD, analyzed 25 studies with more than 6,000 individuals that were engaged in the short-term and long-term relationships. The researchers planned to figure out if romantic love was associated with more satisfaction in a relationship. In several studies, the relationships were classified as romantic, passionate/obsessive, or friendship-like love, and categorized as the short- or long-term.
The first study involved 17 short-term relationships of single, dating or married college students with the ages between 18 and 23, whose relationships lasted less than 4 years. The second study analyzed 10 long-term relationships of middle-aged couples, with the marriage experience of 10 years or more. And, finally, two other studies included both the long- and short-term relationships in which it was pretty much possible to distinguish the two samples.
The results revealed that those individuals who said that they had a great romantic love, were much more satisfied in both the short- and long-term relationships. Participants from both the short- and long-term relationships, who reported that their love was mostly based on friendship, only moderately associated their relationship with complete satisfaction, and those who reported passionate love in their relationships, were more likely to be satisfied for the short period of time, rather than the long term. Also, couples who expressed the most satisfaction with their partner, turned out to be much happier and had higher self-esteem.
According to Dr. Acevedo, when partners feel and know that they are there for each other, it always creates a strong bond between them, and leads to a good relationship, which, in turn, contributes to stronger feelings of romantic love. On the contrary, when people start feeling insecure and jealous, they start also experiencing less satisfaction, which in many cases leads to misunderstandings and conflicts in the relationships. All this can point to the signs of an obsessive love, she said.
This new findings may change people's perceptions and expectations of what they really want in long-term relationships. The scientists wrote that companionship, or friendship-type love, which is what people usually see and expect as the natural transformation of any happy relationship, may be an unnecessary compromise. Partners should fight for their love with all the possible means, Acevedo said. And couples who have been together for many years and wish to rekindle their romantic feelings, should remember that this is an attainable goal that, like most good things in life, requires patience, energy and devotion, she concluded.
The new findings are reported in the latest issue of the journal Review of General Psychology, which is published by the American Psychological Association.