Romantic Love is Possible in Long-Term Relationships

It is a popular belief in Western culture that the intensity of romantic love decreases with an increase in the duration of a relationship. The current review shows that this belief is a myth and that romantic love does exist in long-term relationships. This love is associated with high levels of satisfaction in life and with high self-esteem.

There is a famous quote from Oscar Wilde that says, “One should always be in love, this is the reason one should never marry.”  Media reports on high divorce rates, domestic violence and infidelity also highlight the dark side of love and marriage. Thus, people tend to harbor doubts on whether it is smart to commit to a long-term relationship. Therefore, it is important to understand the basic principles and evolutionary foundations of relationships, and to investigate whether romantic love lasts over a long time. The present study is a meta-analysis of previous research conducted on both long- and short-term relationships. The results of this study may inspire couples to make changes that will enhance the quality of their relationships. This will also reduce the tendency of seeking out alternative partners or terminating a relationship. In this study, the authors argue that romantic love, replete with “intensity, engagement, and sexual interest,” is long lasting in long-term relationships.

This study is a meta-analysis of 25 previously published studies. Of these, 15 studies were on short-term relationships, eight were on long-term relationships, and two were on both short- and long-term relationships. The short-term relationships included those in which the average relationship length was less than four years and the partners were aged between 18 to 23 years. The long-term relationships included those in which the couples were married for more than 10 years and were middle-aged. The study categorized love into four different types, namely, romantic love (intense love, sexual attraction, and engagement), companionate (less-intense love, devoid of attraction and sexual interest), passionate love (romantic love with obsession), and mania (obsessive love full of insecurity, doubt and turbulence in the relationship).

Data/Results/Key findings
* There was a strong association between romantic love and satisfaction in both short- and long-term relationships.
* There was a moderate association between companionate love and satisfaction. The magnitude of association was significantly larger in long-term relationships than in short-term relationships.
* The association between passionate love and satisfaction was more in short-term than in long-term relationships.
* The association between obsessive love and satisfaction was small but positive in short-term relationships and small but negative in long-term relationships.
* Romantic love in a long-term relationship was associated with general well-being.
* High self-confidence and self-esteem were found to facilitate the smooth functioning of a relationship and in the promotion of romantic love.

Next steps/Shortcomings
The measurement of romantic love in a long-term relationship was not carried out in many of the studies taken up for analysis. Studies in which measurements were carried out were only cross-sectional (observation of the population at a definite time). More longitudinal studies (observation of the same population over a long period) should be the future course of action. Future research should be done on culturally diverse samples.

A popular belief in the western population is that romantic love diminishes with time and therefore, romance and long-term relationships cannot coexist. However, the present study proves contrary to popular belief and reveals that romantic love, without the obsession that is usually seen in new relationships, is realistic and definitely possible. In addition, romantic love in long-term relationships yields other benefits such as marital satisfaction, good mental and physical health, and overall well-being. In addition, it also acts a “buffer to stressful life events”. The authors of this study conclude, “A long-term marriage does not necessarily kill the romance in one’s relationship”.

For More Information:
Does a Long-Term Relationship Kill Romantic Love?
Publication Journal: Review of General Psychology, 2009
By Bianca P Acevedo; Arthur Aron; Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, New York

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