ArticlePDF Available

Is Long-Term Love More than a Rare Phenomenon? If So, What are Its Correlates


Abstract and Figures

Some individuals in long-term marriages report intensities of romantic love comparable to individuals newly in love. How common is this? Are correlates of long-term romantic love consistent with theoretical models of love? In a random sample of 274 U.S. married individuals, 40% of those married over 10 years reported being “Very intensely in love.” Importantly, correlates of long-term intense love, as predicted by theory, were thinking positively about the partner and thinking about the partner when apart, affectionate behaviors and sexual intercourse, shared novel and challenging activities, and general life happiness. Wanting to know where the partner is at all times correlated significantly with intense love for men but not women. For women, but not men, passion about nonrelationship factors significantly correlated with intense love. In a random New York (NY) sample of 322 individuals married over 10 years, 29% reported being very intensely in love and our predicted correlates cross validated.
Content may be subject to copyright.
Social Psychological and Personality Science
The online version of this article can be found at:
DOI: 10.1177/1948550611417015
2012 3: 241 originally published online 5 August 2011Social Psychological and Personality Science
K. Daniel O'Leary, Bianca P. Acevedo, Arthur Aron, Leonie Huddy and Debra Mashek
Is Long-Term Love More Than A Rare Phenomenon? If So, What Are Its Correlates?
Published by:
On behalf of:
Society for Personality and Social Psychology
Association for Research in Personality
European Association of Social Psychology
Society of Experimental and Social Psychology
can be found at:Social Psychological and Personality ScienceAdditional services and information for Alerts:
What is This?
- Aug 5, 2011 OnlineFirst Version of Record
- Feb 1, 2012Version of Record >>
by guest on May 2, 2012spp.sagepub.comDownloaded from
Is Long-Term Love More Than A Rare
Phenomenon? If So, What Are Its
K. Daniel O’Leary
, Bianca P. Acevedo
, Arthur Aron
Leonie Huddy
, and Debra Mashek
Some individuals in long-term marriages report intensities of romantic love comparable to individuals newly in love. How common
is this? Are correlates of long-term romantic love consistent with theoretical models of love? In a random sample of 274 U.S.
married individuals, 40% of those married over 10 years reported being ‘‘Very intensely in love.’’ Importantly, correlates of
long-term intense love, as predicted by theory, were thinking positively about the partner and thinking about the partner when
apart, affectionate behaviors and sexual intercourse, shared novel and challenging activities, and general life happiness. Wanting to
know where the partner is at all times correlated significantly with intense love for men but not women. For women, but not men,
passion about nonrelationship factors significantly correlated with intense love. In a random New York (NY) sample of 322 indi-
viduals married over 10 years, 29% reported being very intensely in love and our predicted correlates cross validated.
culture and cognition, impression formation, person perception, social cognition, social judgment
It is commonly assumed that intense romantic love occurs in
the early stages of a romantic relationship, but decreases dras-
tically across time. Some theorists have proposed that romantic
love is uncommon in marriage (e.g., Sternberg, 1986) or has lit-
tle use after the child-rearing years (e.g., Buss, 1989). Others
suggest that given the right circumstances it may evolve into
companionate love—low in intensity and generally devoid of
attraction and sexual desire (e.g., Berscheid & Hatfield,
1969). More recently, some theorists proposed adaptive rea-
sons for romantic love to endure. For example, Buss (2006)
proposed that love emerges in the context of long-term mating
and functions to signal long-term commitment, ensuring indi-
viduals will stay with their partners. Fisher (2006) posited that
romantic love generally fades over time, but that some cou-
ples manage to maintain it because it enhances physical and
mental vitality and provides companionship and optimism for
older individuals.
Despite arguments that intense love may exist in some long-
term relationships, there are minimal data to address this issue.
Cuber and Haroff (1965) interviewed a convenience sample of
500 Americans in marriages of 10 years or more, and they dis-
tinguished between ‘‘intrinsic’’ couples (20%) who continued
to enjoy deep, intimate, and affectionate connections and ‘‘uti-
litarian’’ couples (80%) who maintained bonds for other rea-
sons than to experience deep involvement with their spouse.
Tennov (1979) reported descriptions of happy marriages
among older couples who reported being in love and who
talked about shared interests, leisure activities, ability to work
together, pleasurable sexual experiences, and general content-
ment. However, they did not report continuous and unwanted
intrusive thinking common among those experiencing infatua-
tion. Acevedo and Aron (2009) found that in a New York (NY)
convenience sample married an average of 8.39 years, 13%
reported the highest ratings on nonobsessive type items on the
Passionate Love Scale (PLS; Hatfield & Sprecher, 1986). Thus,
based on prior research, we expected that at least 10–15%of
long-term married individuals would report intense love.
Although research with convenience samples suggests
romantic love can last in long-term relationships, it remains
unknown if it is merely a rare phenomenon. As Hatfield, Pille-
mer, O’Brien, and Le (2008) noted, we know little about love
and gender differences in love in long-term marriage. Thus, the
present study assessed, for the first time, the prevalence and
theoretically predicted correlates of intense love in two repre-
sentative samples of long-term married individuals.
Psychology Department, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY, USA
Political Science Department, Stony Brook University, NY, USA
Psychology Department, Harvey Mudd College, Claremont, CA, USA
Corresponding Author:
K. Daniel O’Leary, Psychology Department, Stony Brook University, Stony
Brook, NY 11794, USA
Email: K.D.O’
Social Psychological and
Personality Science
3(2) 241-249
ªThe Author(s) 2012
Reprints and permission:
DOI: 10.1177/1948550611417015
by guest on May 2, 2012spp.sagepub.comDownloaded from
We predicted that some key variables would be linked with
intense love, even controlling for general relationship satisfac-
tion, based on (a) the conceptualization of intense romantic love
involving intensity, physical desire, and engagement, but not
involving obsession (Acevedo & Aron, 2009), (b) the self-
expansion model which posits that love is enhanced by engaging
in joint activities that are novel and challenging (Aron & Aron,
1986), and (c) findings from functional magnetic resonance ima-
ging (fMRI) studies of romantic love, which have found signif-
icant reward system activations (Acevedo, Aron, Fisher, &
Brown, 2011; Ortigue, Bianchi-Demicheli, Patel, Frum, &
Lewis, 2010). The focal variables we examined were physical
desire (sex and affection), engagement (thinking positively
about and doing things with the partner), and obsession. We also
examined general life happiness, which we expected to show a
unique relation to love over and above relationship satisfaction,
and general life passion, an exploratory variable.
Physical Desire
Survey studies provide some support for sex and intense love
being significantly correlated in long-term relationships. In
an online study, women reported ‘‘love’’ as among the top 3
of 13 reasons for engaging in sexual intercourse (Meston,
Hamilton, & Harte, 2009). In a study of older Greek adults,
‘still being in-love with a partner’’ significantly correlated
with sexual interest and behaviors (Papaharitou et al., 2008).
However, these studies were not representative and they did not
assess love directly.
Positive cognitions. Individuals in new relationships develop
idealized images of their partners, exaggerating their strengths
and downplaying their flaws (Murray, Holmes, & Griffin,
1996). In nonrepresentative samples, positive illusions were
associated with love and relationship satisfaction in new mar-
riages and dating couples (Miller, Caughlin, & Huston, 2003;
Murray & Holmes, 1997). Weiss (1980) described a phenom-
enon called ‘‘sentiment override’’ to help explain why individ-
uals in highly satisfactory relationships appear to recall more
positive events than may have actually occurred. Indeed, in
an experiment, individuals in dating relationships described
as satisfying, compared to individuals in less satisfactory rela-
tionships, were more likely to recall positive descriptors of
their partner they had seen presented (Jose, Rajaram, O’Leary,
& Williams, 2010). Similarly, dissatisfied (vs. happily) married
partners were more likely to recall negative words describing
their partner (Whisman & Delinsky, 2002).
Shared activities. It has long been known that individuals who
spend time together engaging in activities such as cooking,
sports, and intellectual pursuits tend to report they are happy
in their marriage. In fact, engaging in outside activities together
and working together on a project are items on Spanier’s (1976)
Dyadic Adjustment Scale. Further, the Marital Satisfaction
Inventory (MSI; Snyder, 1997) contains a Time Together
Scale. In a large community sample, this scale correlated .64
with MSI Global Satisfaction, and highly differentiated com-
munity couples from couples in therapy.
According to the self-expansion model, love is enhanced
when couples engage in shared novel and challenging
activities. Indeed, laboratory (Aron, Norman, Aron, McKenna,
& Heyman, 2000) and field experiments (Reissman, Aron,
& Bergen, 1993) with convenience samples show that enga-
ging in such shared activities caused significant increases in
both love and marital quality.
Some studies with nonrepresentative samples suggest that one
important distinction between early-stage and long-term
romantic love is less obsession and anxiety in long-term love
(Acevedo & Aron, 2009; Tennov, 1979). However, the level
of obsession about a partner may be underestimated in long-
term relationships because the measures used for it were devel-
oped for new relationships, and thus did not assess the kind of
obsession that might exist in long-term relationships. Thus, we
aimed to examine this issue in representative samples using
measures appropriate for long-term marriages.
General Life Happiness and Passion
Several studies suggest that love is an important predictor of
happiness, positive emotions, and life satisfaction (e.g., Diener
& Lucas, 2000; Kim & Hatfield, 2004). For example, Aron and
Henkemeyer (1995), using a convenience sample of long-term
couples, found significant positive correlations of love with
global happiness. However, because previous studies have used
nonrepresentative samples, individuals experiencing low rela-
tionship satisfaction or low general happiness, but intense love,
may have been underrepresented, and the pattern could be quite
different in a representative sample.
We also examined for the first time in a representative sample
the association of intense love [for spouse] with passion (getting
‘fired up’’) for life matters (e.g., politics, career, sports, environ-
ment). The fMRI research examining both passion for a partner
and general passion (e.g., for hobbies) suggests the two share
some common reward circuitry (Ortigue, Bianchi-Demicheli,
Hamilton, & Grafton, 2007)
Summary of Study Goals
In sum, the present research examined for the first time the
prevalence and key theoretically relevant correlates of intense
romantic love in representative samples of long-term married
individuals. Study 1, a nationally representative U.S. sample,
assessed the prevalence and key correlates of intense love. In
addition, we conducted partial correlations to evaluate the
extent to which key predictors of intense love remained signif-
icant after controlling for relationship happiness. Finally, we
conducted two specific exploratory analyses of interest: (a) A
moderation testing whether the association of intense love with
242 Social Psychological and Personality Science 3(2)
by guest on May 2, 2012spp.sagepub.comDownloaded from
physical affection and sexual intercourse would be stronger for
couples with low levels of relationship satisfaction (because the
physical aspect of the relationship would be especially salient)
and (b) conditional probability analyses of the percentage of
individuals reporting intense love but reporting no physical
Study 2, with NY State residents, replicated and extended
Study 1, employing the love and general relationship happiness
items from Study 1, plus 3 items assessing physical desire,
engagement, and obsession that were behavior-focused to
minimize opportunities for memory distortions or other
response biases and which had been used in previous love
research. Study 2 also provided the opportunity to counterba-
lance the order of response options to the intense love item
to assess whether answers were biased by positive response
options appearing first in Study 1.
Study 1: Nationally Representative Sample
A random-digit dialing (RDD) survey was conducted (August
5, 2007 to September 9, 2007) to contact individuals 18 years
and older, across the United States. Only married individuals
are included in the analyses.
Participants. Out of those with whom we spoke, approxi-
mately 40%agreed to participate. Of the 529 respondents who
started the interview, 500 completed the survey. Of these, 274
(119 women) were married and completed the marriage sec-
tion. Average length of completed surveys was 10 min. There
were no monetary incentives for participation. Demographic
factors were as follows: Women’s mean relationship length,
21.40 years (range 1–62); men, 20.23 (1–62); mean age:
women ¼46.06 years; range 20–84; men ¼48.47, 22–93;
modal family income: women ¼$35,000–59,999, range:
<$20,000 to >$150,000; men ¼$80,000–99,999, range
<$20,000 to >$150,000); education/highest grade obtained:
women: modal: high school graduate; range ninth grade to
master’s degree; men: modal: high school graduate; range
fourth grade to master’s degree; ethnicity: women: White
90%, Black 3%, Hispanic 3%, Asian 4%, and Other 0%; Men’s
respective origins: 73%,9%,3%,9%,4%, and 2%.
Procedure. Respondents were told ‘‘We are conducting a sur-
vey of Americans regarding their views on retirement issues
and people’s relationships. To be sure we obtain an accurate
cross section of local residents, we need to speak to the person
in your household who is 18 years of age or older, and had the
most recent birthday. Is that you?’’ Once selected, respondents
were told that the survey was funded by the State University of
New York at Stony Brook, that their telephone was dialed by a
random process, and that all answers would be kept
The questions were read to the respondents and they were to
answer each only after all options for that question were given,
with most questions having several options. For example, the
central question about intense love was as follows:
How in love are you with your partner?
1. Very intensely in love
2. Intensely in love
3. Very in love
4. In love
5. Somewhat in love
6. A little in love
7. Not at all in love
We employed a global item for intense love for two reasons.
First, and most important, existing widely used measures of
romantic love (e.g., PLS, Love Attitudes Scale) are based on
theoretical conceptualizations of newly in-love individuals.
Second, it is specifically the subjective sense of being intensely
in love that was our focus, not the prevalence or correlates of a
set of hypothetically underlying variables that might or might
not correspond to what people experience as intense love and
might or might not overlap with other related constructs.
The sample was weighted to conform to the 2007 American
Community Survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau. Fol-
lowing standard procedures, weighting was conducted by a rak-
ing procedure on the basis of gender, age, race, and education,
and thus the weighted sample closely matches the demo-
graphics of the United States.
Prevalence of very intense love. Unexpectedly, when asked
how in love they are with their partner, the most frequent
response was ‘‘Very Intensely in Love;’’ Women 46.3%; Men:
49.0%. Since the gender differences were not significant, per-
centages are combined in Table 1. Notably, even for the very
longest marriages (30 years), 40%of women and 35%of
men reported being very intensely in love. When relationship
length was divided into four groups (<10 years, 10–19 years,
20–29 years, 30þyears), there were differences across the
groups, F(3, 249) ¼3.81, p¼.011. Bonferroni comparisons
showed that marriages <10 years had higher levels of love than
marriages of 10–19 years (p¼.015), but mean levels were not
different across the other groups (see Figure 1).
Zero-order general correlations
Thinking about the partner in positive ways and how often they
thought about the partner when not together were two of the
strongest predictors of intense love (See Table 2). Affection
(hugging, kissing), frequency of intercourse, doing novel things
together, and general life happiness were also significantly
related to reports of intense love. Wanting to know where-
abouts of the partner was significantly associated with intense
love for men but not women; getting ‘‘fired up’’ about issues
with intense love, for women but not men.
O’Leary et al. 243
by guest on May 2, 2012spp.sagepub.comDownloaded from
Two demographic variables had small but significant asso-
ciations with intense love, age (0.19) and relationship length
(0.15). Education and income were not significantly corre-
lated with intense love.
Love and general relationship happiness were very strongly,
but far from perfectly correlated (r¼.80 for women; r¼.50
for men; difference: Z¼4.30, p< .001).
Partial correlations. Since relationship happiness had a stron-
ger association with intense love for wives, correlations of
intense love controlling for relationship happiness are pre-
sented separately for wives and husbands. As seen in Table 3,
there were fewer significant associations for wives, not surpris-
ingly given that relationship happiness and intense love had
stronger associations for women. Two of the seven first-order
significant correlations for men no longer remained significant
controlling for relationship happiness—happiness with life in
general and intercourse frequency. One nonsignificant correla-
tion became negatively significant controlling for relationship
happiness—getting fired up about issues. For women, three of
the seven significant first-order correlations were not significant
controlling for relationship happiness—doing novel things with
partner, intercourse frequency, and getting fired up about issues.
Interaction of association of intense love and physical desire by
level of relationship satisfaction. Standard scores were obtained
for a combined measure of affection and sexual intercourse
which in turn were related to marital satisfaction. This measure
of affection and intercourse (physical desire) was positively
associated with intense love at both low and high levels of mar-
ital satisfaction but the association was strongest under condi-
tion of low satisfaction (interaction b¼234; p< .025). In
short, physical desire and love are most clearly associated when
marital satisfaction is low.
Conditional probability analyses. No intercourse but intense
love? There were 25 individuals (9%of the total sample) who
reported not having any intercourse in the past month. Of these
25, 6 (24%) reported being very intensely in love; these 6 ran-
ged in age from 48 to 84 (Mean ¼64.16).
No hugs, intense love?. Only 10 individuals (4%of the total
sample) reported that there was no physical affection (hugging,
kissing, holding hands). Of these 10, not a single individual
reported being very intensely in love.
Study 2: NY State Sample
To replicate and extend Study 1, we surveyed a sample of NY
residents (October 14, 2009 to November 24, 2009) using a list-
assisted RDD method, employing the selection procedures
used in Study 1. A total of 807 interviews were conducted in
the general population of NY. Of these, 396 were married and
included in the analyses reported below. Results were weighted
on gender, age, educational attainment, race, ethnicity, and
living location in NY state.
To address the issue of question order, a random half of the
married respondents were asked the question about intensity of
love with the first option being ‘‘Very intensely in love,’’ and
Table 1. Weighted Percentage of Responses to ‘‘How in Love are you With Your Partner?’’ in Two Representative Samples
US(%) US > 10 Years (%) NY (%) NY > 10 Years (%)
Very intensely in love 47.8 40.3 33.3 29.1
Intensely in love 13.4 14.5 15.5 15.9
Very in love 26.2 29.2 28.5 27.3
In love 6.5 8.7 16.1 20.0
Somewhat in love 2.6 3.8 4.0 5.1
A little in love 2.4 3.0 2.0 2.0
Not at all in love 1.1 0.6 0.5 0.7
NY ¼New York; US ¼United States.
Mean of United States 5.86 (SD ¼1.37); n¼255.
Mean of New York 5.50 (SD ¼1.35); n¼322.
t¼3.63; p<.001; NY means are lower.
Mean of U.S. sample married more than or equal to 10 years ¼5.67; SD ¼1.39; n¼174.
Mean of NY sample married more than or equal to 10 years ¼5.35; SD ¼1.38; n¼254.
Figure 1. Intensity of being in love on a scale of 1 (Not at all in love)to
7(Very intensely in love) with one’s spouse by relationship length (Study
1, representative U.S. sample).
244 Social Psychological and Personality Science 3(2)
by guest on May 2, 2012spp.sagepub.comDownloaded from
the last option, ‘‘Not at all in love’’; the other random half had
the first option ‘‘Not at all in love,’’ and the last option, ‘‘Very
intensely in love.’
There were nosignificant ornear significant differences between
mean ratings of intensity of love related to the question order.
Overall, 33.3%of respondents indicated that they were inten-
sely in love. Means were lower in the NY sample (Mean ¼5.50;
SD ¼1.37) than in the national sample (5.86; 1.35), t¼3.16; p<
.001. Thus, using our national sample, we compared respondents
from the Northeast with three other U.S. regions (South,
Midwest, and West). As expected based on previous studies of
general happiness ratings of NY and other Northeast states com-
pared to other areas of the country (Oswald & Wu, 2010), in our
data, ratings of intense love were lower in the Northeast than in
the remaining regions, t(253) ¼1.74, p¼.04.
In our NY sample, as in Study 1, relationship length had
a small negative correlation with love intensity (r¼.11;
p¼.034), but age was not significant (r¼.09). Replicating
Study 1, in the NY sample, there was also a significant differ-
ence in love intensity when relationship length was divided into
four decade groups, F(3, 317) ¼5.08; p¼.002. Bonferroni
comparisons showed that individuals married <10 years had
higher levels of love than those in the other three relationship
groups (ps < .05), but mean levels of love were not different
across the other groups. Also as was true for the U.S. sample,
the marital happiness with love-intensity correlation was
stronger for women (r¼.77) than men (r¼.48), Z¼4.35,
p< .001.
To assess the extent to which engaging in three types of beha-
vior measuring our three key theoretical variables were related
to ratings of intensity of love, respondents were asked to indicate
‘how true each of the following statements is:’’ (using a 6-point
Likert-type scale from Definitely true to Not at all true).
1. I spend time almost every day with my partner in pleasant
activities like cooking together, watching TV, or walking
Table 2. Predictors of Being Intensely in Love With One’s Spouse in Two Representative Samples
Predictor U.S. Women U.S. Men NY Women NY Men
Thinking positively about partner .55*** .47***
Thinking about partner, when apart .41*** .48***
Difficulty concentrating/thoughts of partner .30** .27**
Novel and challenging activities .47*** .29**
Time in joint activities .42* .15*
Affection .64*** .43***
Body responses to partner .43** .38**
Sexual intercourse .45*** .24***
General life happiness .45*** .24**
Get fired up about issues .21* .07
Obsessive thinking about partner .10 ns .07 ns
Wanting to know whereabouts of partner .08 .30***
NY ¼New York; US ¼United States.
*p< .05. **p< .01. ***p< .001.
Table 3. Predictors of Being Intensely in Love With One’s Spouse in Two Representative Samples, Controlling for General Relationship
Predictor U.S. Women U.S. Men NY Women NY Men
Thinking positively about partner .24* .44***
Thinking about partner, when apart .28** .46***
Difficulty concentrating/thoughts of partner .07 .14*
Novel and challenging activities .12 ns .22**
Time in joint activities .12 .27**
Affection .37*** .32***
Body responses to partner .16* .24**
Sexual intercourse .19 ns .15 ns
General life happiness .21* .15 ns
Getting fired-up about things .13 ns .18*
Obsessive thinking about partner .18*** .05 ns
Wanting to know whereabouts of partner .07 ns .21**
NY ¼New York.
*p< .05. **p< .01. ***p<.001.
O’Leary et al. 245
by guest on May 2, 2012spp.sagepub.comDownloaded from
2. I sense my body responding when my partner touches me.
3. I sometimes find it difficult to concentrate because
thoughts of my partner occupy my mind.
As seen in Table 2, all three types of behavior significantly cor-
related with ratings of intensity of love both for women and
men. As reflected in Table 3, when relationship happiness was
controlled, the correlations dropped markedly for women,
given the very strong correlation between relationship happi-
ness and intense love. Only body responses remained signifi-
cant for women whereas all three types of behavior remained
significantly correlated for men.
A substantially larger percentage of married individuals
reported being intensely in love with their partners than pre-
dicted. In the national sample, even among those in marriages
of 30 years or more, 40%of wives and 35%of husbands
reported very intense love for their partner. In the NY sample
married 30 years or more, 19%of wives and 29%of husbands
reported being very intensely in love. The NY sample’s lower
percentage is consistent with research on general happiness in
the United States, showing that NY and Northeastern states dis-
proportionately report the lowest happiness ratings (Oswald &
Wu, 2010).
The higher than expected prevalence of intense love may
have been due in part to a social desirability response set and
a belief that one should be intensely in love with a partner.
However, controlling for social desirability in reports of con-
structs like marital satisfaction is debatable, as has long been
noted by Murstein and Beck (1972) who found that social
desirability corrections did not influence the pattern of results
they obtained regarding person perception and marital adjust-
ment. Further, there are a number of studies showing that social
desirability and marital satisfaction have small correlations as
exemplified by Hansen (1981) who reported correlations of
.24 for men and .22 for women. With correlations of that mag-
nitude, statistical adjustments for social desirability will be
minor. Indeed, Aron and Henkemeyer (1995) in a convenience
sample of 100 married individuals found that the associations
of passionate love with items like relationship excitement,
kissing, shared activities remained significant after control-
ling for social desirability, and the changes in effect size were
negligible. Finally, Study 2 showed that question order did not
affect the ratings of intense love, suggesting that the high inci-
dence was not due to a response bias due to which option was
presented first.
The percentages of individuals who reported being intensely
in love raise concerns that self-reported intense love is inflated
because of the presence of an interviewer (Aquilino 1994; Cur-
rivan, Nyman, Turner, & Biener, 2004; Villarroel et al., 2006).
While there may be a modest increase in self-reported estimates
of intense love due to having a phone interviewer, that possible
increase seems far less of a problem than estimates regarding
prevalence of intense love based on convenience samples.
Further, our national sample had ratings of marital happiness that
were similar but even lower than in another national sample. In a
National Survey of Families and Households, Donnelly (1993)
found that the mean 1–7 rating of marital satisfaction was 5.90
for women (SD ¼1.35) and 5.95 for men (SD ¼1.31). The mean
7-point rating of marital happiness in our national study was 5.68
for women and 5.73 for men.
There was a stronger association for women than men of
marital happiness intensity of love in both the national and the
NY sample, and the absolute magnitude of the associations was
almost identical across the two samples. This greater associa-
tion for women may be due to women’s well demonstrated
typically greater life centrality of relationships. Such differen-
tial associations provide some rationale for the greater reduc-
tions in the association of intense love and other variables for
women. Nonetheless, even for women, intense love reflects
more than overall happiness in a relationship. The ratings of
intense love had valid and predicted associations with reports
of thoughts and behaviors in two randomly recruited samples.
Further, the patterns across the two samples showed consis-
tency in that affection in the form of hugs (national sample) and
physical responding (NY sample) had moderate to strong cor-
relations with intense love; range 0.43–0.63). In addition, the
cognitive variables regarding thoughts about the partner also
were significantly associated with intense love in both the
national and NY sample range 0.28–0.55. Finally, engaging
in novel and challenging activities together (national sample)
or joint activities (NY sample) was more strongly associated
with being intensely in love for women than men in both sam-
ples. More specifically, the correlation of intense love with
engaging in joint activities in the NY sample for women was
.42 and for men it was .15, Z¼2.63, p< .01. The correlation
of intense love and engaging in novel activities in the national
sample was .47 for women and .29 for men, Z¼1.64, p¼.05.
As shown above, the use of a single Likert-type scale in-love
item with seven options read to the respondents in phone sur-
veys showed consistent patterns across two samples. Further,
we assessed the extent to which an almost identical single-
item in-love measure [‘‘On a scale from 0 (not at all)to10
(extremely), how in love are you with your partner?] related
to the 15-item short form of Hatfield and Sprecher’s (1986)
PLS, the most widely used measure of romantic love, in a
sample of undergraduates from one of our labs of whom 63
were in committed relationships of 12 months or longer. A little
less than half (45%) gave a rating of 10. Five PLS items had
correlations with the single in-love item of .60 or greater (all
p< .0001): ‘‘I will love <> forever’’ (r¼.85); ‘‘<> can make
me feel effervescent and bubbly’’ (.77);’’ I possess a powerful
attraction for <>’’ (.64); ‘‘I have an endless appetite for
affection from <>’’ (.62); and ‘‘An existence without <> would
be dark and dismal’’ (.60). Further, the 1-item Likert-type scale
in-love assessment had an overall correlation with the 15-item
PLS of .75, p< .000001.
A major strength of the present research is the random
sampling of U.S. and NY respondents, including individuals
with a wide range of family incomes, educational backgrounds,
246 Social Psychological and Personality Science 3(2)
by guest on May 2, 2012spp.sagepub.comDownloaded from
and ethnicities. The national sample herein included married
individuals from ages 20 to 93, and we were able to examine
for the first time whether intense love was reported in individ-
uals who do not report any intercourse in the past year. That
was the case for 24%of that group, and, as expected, the aver-
age age of those individuals was over 60 years. Of the individ-
uals who reported no physical affection, not a single individual
reported being intensely in love. Thus, some individuals, espe-
cially older individuals can feel intensely in love without inter-
course in the past month, but a sine qua non for intense love to
exist appears to be frequent affection.
Outside the marital relationship, general life happiness was
predictive of reports of being intensely in love for both women
and men in the national sample. This is consistent with research
showing strong links between marital quality and well-being
(e.g., Coan, Schaefer, & Davidson, 2006; Kiecolt-Glaser
et al., 2005). Similarly, low-quality marital bonds are associ-
ated with depression (Beach & O’Leary, 1993), poor health
outcomes (Kiecolt-Glaser & Newton, 2001), and marital disso-
lution (e.g., Huston, Niehuis, & Smith, 2001).
Physical desire/affection interacted with level of marital
satisfaction in that there was a stronger association of physical
desire/affection and reports of intense love for individuals with
lower levels of marital satisfaction. In our experience, couples
with marital problems sometimes report excellent sexual inter-
actions and strong feelings of love but at the same time they
may have very significant problems in other areas of their mar-
riage (differences over child discipline, money, and how they
each spend individual time). Thus, their overall level of marital
satisfaction would not be particularly high. However, the phys-
ical desire/affection can be a key factor on which they can
focus and have strong positive feelings.
The generalizability of the present findings beyond the
United States would seem to be a clearly important direction
for future research. Studies of convenience samples in diverse
cultures have found differences in the relation of love with
other variables (e.g., Kim & Hatfield, 2004), so that it is possi-
ble that the incidence and correlates of long-term intense love
when studied with representative samples may well differ in
important ways across cultures.
Nevertheless, the present study is the first research endeavor
to formally and randomly sample individuals in any cultural
context to assess the prevalence and correlates of intense love.
Further, at least in the U.S. context, this knowledge may be
helpful to practitioners in guiding them to set expectations
about the possibility of intense love in long-term marriages.
However, as has been shown by Huston (2009) in a longitudi-
nal study of marriage across the first 14 years, couples can
have long-lasting marriages without being deeply in love. The
data herein also show that about half the couples married more
than 10 years or more do not rate themselves as being ‘‘very
intensely in love’’ or ‘‘intensely in love.’’ Nonetheless, our
findings provide a scientific basis for the development of a
conceptualization of long-term intense love by showing fac-
tors associated with love, such as thinking about one’s partner
in positive ways, engaging in novel and challenging activities
together, and engaging in affectionate behaviors and sexual
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to
the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for
the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This
research was supported in part by a Provost’s Research Award at
Stony Brook University.
Acevedo, B., & Aron, A. (2009). Does a long-term relationship kill
romantic love? Review of General Psychology,13, 59-65.
Acevedo, B., Aron, A., Fisher, H., & Brown, L. (2011). Neural corre-
lates of long-term intense romantic love. Social Cognition and
Affective Neuroscience Advance online publication. doi:
Aquilino, W. S. (1994). Interview mode effects in surveys of drug and
alcohol use: A field experiment. Public Opinion Quarterly,58,
Aron, A., & Aron, E. (1986). Love and the expansion of self: Under-
standing attraction and satisfaction. New York, NY: Hemisphere.
Aron, A., & Henkemeyer, L. (1995). Marital satisfaction and passio-
nate love. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships,12,
Aron, A., Norman, C. C., Aron, E., McKenna, C., & Heyman, R. E.
(2000). Couples’ shared participation in novel and arousing activ-
ities and experienced relationship quality. Journal of Personality
and Social Psychology,78, 273-284.
Beach, S. R., & O’Leary, K. D. (1993). Dysphoria and marital discord:
Are dysphoric individuals at risk for marital maladjustment? Jour-
nal of Marital & Family Therapy,19, 355-368.
Berscheid, E., & Hatfield [Walster], E. H (l969). Interpersonal attrac-
tion. New York, NY: Addison-Wesley.
Buss, D. M. (1989). Conflict between the sexes: Strategic interference
and the evocation of anger and upset. Journal of Personality and
Social Psychology,56, 735-747.
Buss, D. M. (2006). The evolution of love. In R. Sternberg & K. Weis
(Eds.), The new psychology of love (pp. 65-86). New Haven, CT:
Yale University Press.
Coan, J. A., Schaefer, H. S., & Davidson, R. J. (2006). Lending a hand:
Social regulation of the neural response to threat. Psychological
Science,17, 1032-1039.
Cuber, J. F., & Haroff, P. B. (1965). The significant Americans. New
York, NY: Appleton-Century.
Currivan, D. B., Nyman, A. L., Turner, C. F., & Biener, L. (2004).
Does telephone audio computer-assisted self-interviewing improve
the accuracy of prevalence estimates of youth smoking? Evidence
from the UMass Tobacco Study. Public Opinion Quarterly,68,
Diener, E., & Lucas, R. E. (2000). Explaining differences in societal
levels of happiness: Relative standards, need fulfillment, culture
and evaluation theory. Journal of Happiness Studies,1, 41-78.
O’Leary et al. 247
by guest on May 2, 2012spp.sagepub.comDownloaded from
Donnelly, D. A. (1993). Sexually inactive marriages. Journal of Sex
Research,30, 171-179.
Fisher, H. E. (2006). The drive to love. In R. Sternberg & K. Weis
(Eds.), The new psychology of love (pp. 87-115). New Haven,
CT: Yale University Press.
Hansen, G. L. (1981). Marital adjustment and conventionalization:
A re-examination. Journal of Marriage and the Family,43,
Hatfield, E., Pillemer, J. T., O’Brien, M. U., & Le, Y. L. (2008). The
endurance of love: Passionate and companionate love in newlywed
and long-term marriages. Interpersona,2, 35-64.
Hatfield, E., & Sprecher, S. (1986). Measuring passionate love in inti-
mate relations. Journal of Adolescence,9, 383-410.
Huston, T. (2009). What’s love got to do with it? Why some marriages
succeed and others fail. Personal Relations,16, 301-327.
Huston, T. L., Niehuis, S., & Smith, S. E. (2001). The early marital
roots of conjugal distress and divorce. Current Directions in Psy-
chological Science,10, 116-119.
Jose, A., Rajaram, S., O’Leary, K. D., & Williams, M. C. (2010).
Memory for partner related stimuli: Free recall and frequency
estimation. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships,27,
Kiecolt-Glaser, J. K., Loving, T. J., Stowell, J. R., Malarkey, W.
B., Lemeshow, S., Dickinson, S. L., & Glaser, R. (2005). Hos-
tile marital interactions, proinflammatory cytokine production
and wound healing. Archives of General Psychiatry,62,
Kiecolt-Glaser, J. K., & Newton, T. L. (2001). Marriage and health:
His and hers. Psychological Bulletin,127, 472-503.
Kim, J., & Hatfield, E. (2004). Love types and subjective well-
being: A cross cultural study. Social Behavior and Personality,
Meston, C. M., Hamilton, L. D., & Harte, C. B. (2009). Sexual moti-
vation in women as a function of age. Journal of Sexual Medicine,
6, 3305-3319.
Miller, P. J. E., Caughlin, J. P., & Huston, T. L. (2003). Trait expressive-
ness and marital satisfaction: The role of idealization processes.
Journal of Marriage and Family,65,978-995.
Murray, S. L., & Holmes, J. G. (1997). A leap of faith? Positive illu-
sions in romantic relationships. Personality and Social Psychology
Bulletin,23, 586-604.
Murray, S. L., Holmes, J. G., & Griffin, D. W. (1996). The benefits of
positive illusions: Idealization and construction of satisfaction in
close relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,
70, 79-98.
Murstein, B. I., & Beck, G. D. (1972). Person perception, marriage
adjustment, and social desirability. Journal of Consulting and
Clinical Psychology,39, 396-403.
Ortigue, S., Bianchi-Demicheli, F., Hamilton, A. F., & Grafton, S. T.
(2007). The neural basis of love as a subliminal prime: An
event-related fMRI study. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience,
19, 1218-1230.
Ortigue, S., Bianchi-Demicheli, F., Patel, N., Frum, C., & Lewis, J. W.
(2010). Neuroimaging of love: fMRI meta-analysis evidence
toward new perspective in sexual medicine. Journal of Sexual
Medicine,7, 3541-3552.
Oswald, A., & Wu, S. (2010). Objective confirmation of subjective
measures of human well being: Evidence from the US. Science,
327, 576-579.
Papaharitou, S., Nakopoulou, E., Kirana, P., Giaglas, G., Moraitou,
M., & Hatzichristou, D. (2008). Factors associated with sexuality
in later life: An exploratory study in a group of Greek married older
adults. Arch Gerontol Geriatr, 46, 191-201.
Reissman, C., Aron, A., & Bergen, M. R. (1993). Shared activities and
marital satisfaction: Causal direction and self-expansion versus
boredom [Special Issue: Relational maintenance]. Journal of
Social and Personal Relationships,10, 243-254.
Snyder,D.N.(1997).Marital Satisfaction Inventory, Revised (MSI-R).
Los Angeles, CA: Western Psychological Services.
Spanier, G. B. (1976). Measuring dyadic adjustment: New scales for
assessing the quality of marriage and similar dyads. Journal of
Marriage & Family,38, 15-28.
Sternberg, R. J. (1986). A triangular theory of love. Psychological
Review,93, 119-135.
Tennov, D. (1979). Love and limerence: The experience of being in
love. New York, NY: Stein & Day.
Villarroel, M. A., Turner, C. F., Eggleston, E., Al-Tayyib, A., Rogers, S.
M., Roman, A., ... Gordek, H. (2006). Same-gender sex in the
United States: Impacts of T-ACASI on prevalence estimates. Public
Opinion Quarterly,70, 166-196.
Weiss, R. L. (1980). Strategic behavior marital therapy: Toward a
model for assessment and intervention. In J. P. Vincent (Ed.),
Advances in family intervention, assessment, and theory (Vol. 1,
pp. 229-271). Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.
Whisman, M. A., & Delinsky, S. S. (2002). Marital satisfaction and an
information-processing measure of partner-schemas. Cognitive
Therapy and Research,26, 617-627.
K. Daniel O’Leary is a distinguished professor of psychology and a
past chair of the Stony Brook Psychology Department. His research
has several foci, namely, the intersection of marital discord and clin-
ical depression; etiology, prevention, and treatment of intimate partner
aggression; and treatment of coexisting depression and marital discord
through dyadic treatment. His most recent books are psychological
and physical aggression in couples (APA, 2009) with Woodin and
couples therapy treatment planner (Wiley, 2011) with Heyman and
Bianca Acevedo is a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Public
Health at Weill Cornell Medical College. She received her PhD in
Social/Health Psychology from Stony Brook University. Her research
in social neuroscience focuses on the neurobiological underpinnings
of love and attachment, and their many facets and applications. Her
work on intense long-term romantic love has been disseminated in
news around the world.
Arthur Aron is a professor of psychology at the State University of
New York at Stony Brook. His research centers on the self-
expansion model of motivation cognition in personal relationships,
including the neural underpinnings and real-world applications of the
model to marriage, family, and intergroup relations. He was the 2006
248 Social Psychological and Personality Science 3(2)
by guest on May 2, 2012spp.sagepub.comDownloaded from
recipient of the distinguished research Career Award for the Interna-
tional Association for Relationship Research.
Leonie Huddy is a professor of political science and Director of the
Center for Survey Research at Stony Brook University. Her research
focuses on psychological approaches to public opinion and she has
published numerous journal articles and book chapters on the emo-
tional responses to the threat of terrorism, the dynamics of gender and
race-related political attitudes, and the study of political identities. She
is the coeditor of the award winning Oxford Handbook of Political
Psychology, former coeditor of the journal Political Psychology, and
current (2010–2011) president of the International Society for Politi-
cal Psychology.
Debra Mashek is an associate professor of psychology at Harvey
Mudd College. Her research examines individual’s feelings of connec-
tion with intimate partners and community. She has edited two
volumes: Handbook of Closeness and Intimacy with Arthur Aron and
Empirical Research in Teaching and Learning with Elizabeth Yost
O’Leary et al. 249
by guest on May 2, 2012spp.sagepub.comDownloaded from
... Despite an overall trend for desire to decline over time, some people describe feeling high desire for their partner decades into their relationship (Acevedo & Aron, 2009;O'Leary et al., 2012). Given the link between desire and individual and relational wellbeing, a growing body of research has focused on understanding the protective factors that might buffer against desire waning (e.g., Birnbaum, et al., 2016;Impett et al., 2008;Muise et al., 2013). ...
... Clinicians and sex researchers have often noted this paradox; as relationships become more secure and familiar, the novelty that often sparks desire begins to fade (Perel et al., 2007;Schnarch, 1991;Sims & Meana, 2010). Yet some people can maintain high desire for their partner decades into their relationship (Acevedo & Aron, 2009;O'Leary et al., 2012). Self-expansion theory offers a compelling explanation for these processes (Aron & Aron, 1986, 1996; self-expansion tends to be highest in the early stages of a relationship, but declines over time, like desire. ...
Full-text available
Sexual desire is associated with romantic relationship satisfaction and maintenance, yet desire for a partner often declines over time. Self-expansion (new experiences that facilitate growth) with a partner boosts desire, but how this occurs is not well-understood. Across three studies—a 21-day daily experience study, a one-month weekly experience study, and an experimental study—we tested whether closeness, and a new construct otherness (seeing a partner in a new light), accounted for the association between self-expansion and desire. Across studies, self-expansion was associated with higher closeness and otherness, and, in turn, higher sexual desire (indirect effect through otherness significant in Studies 1 and 3). The findings provide evidence for the importance of fostering closeness, as well as otherness, in the maintenance of desire.
... The data sets collected within this report represented a negatively skewed and leptokurtic distribution, which is not uncommon within marriage research and assessment validation (Schumm et al., 1983); yet the propensity of a social desirability response-set bias for self-report measures of romantic love in marriage could be a topic for further research. Research has identified less bias with measures of marital satisfaction constructs (Murstein & Beck, 1972); however, the construct of romantic love could have more bias as spouses may believe that one should be in love with a spouse (O'Leary et al., 2012). Although this study attempted to mitigate response-set bias with a private, online platform and assurances of confidentiality, future research could incorporate social-desirability measures to determine if the participants were responding with bias due to the nature of the construct and suggest ways to further mitigate the bias. ...
Full-text available
The purpose of this research was to thoroughly study the psychometric properties of the Love Bank Inventory (LBI) with married participants. The LBI is a 21-item Likert-type English survey developed to measure romantic love for a partner. Two studies were conducted with independent data sets (Study 1: n = 143; Study 2: n = 142) that represented 22- to 62-year-old heterosexual, nondyadic married respondents with multicultural citizenship. The results of the two studies provide support for (a) a single-factor model, (b) convergent validity with a positive correlation with the statement about romantic love (rs = .67 - .68) and construct criterion validity with a positive correlation with the Locke-Wallace Marital Adjustment Test (r = .76 - .80), (c) internal consistency of LBI statements (? = .95 - .96,), and (d) test-retest reliability (r = .88). These two studies provide support for the use of the LBI as a free tool to assess romantic love in marriage education development and applied settings.
... The mental processes in the early stage were also driven by the intensively motivational system such as reinforcement learning. This consideration is in line with the previous studies concerning long-term romantic love relationships (Acevedo and Aron, 2009;O'Leary et al., 2012). Acevedo and Aron (2009) demonstrated that romantic love did not decay in long-term relationships similar to the pattern observed in the relationships during the early stage. ...
Full-text available
Brand love is a relationship between brands and consumers. Managing the relationship is an important issue for marketing strategy since it changes according to temporal flow. Brand love theories, including their dynamics, have been developed based on interpersonal romantic love theories. Although many brand love studies have provided useful findings, the neural mechanism of brand love remains unclear. Especially, its dynamics have not been considered from a neuroscience perspective. The present study addressed the commonalities and differentiations of activated brain regions between brand love and interpersonal romantic love relationships using a quantitative neuroimaging meta-analytic approach, from the view of brain connectivity. Regarding the mental processes of each love relationship related to these activated brain regions, decoding analysis was conducted using the NeuroQuery platform to prevent reverse inference. The results revealed that different neural mechanisms and mental processes were distinctively involved in the dynamics of each love relationship, although the anterior insula overlapped across all stages and the reinforcement learning system was driven between both love relationships in the early stage. Remarkably, regarding the distinctive mental processes, although prosocial aspects were involved in the mental processes of interpersonal romantic love relationships across all stages, they were not involved in the mental processes of brand love relationships. Conclusively, although common brain regions and mental processes between both love relationships were observed, neural mechanisms and mental processes in brand love relationship dynamics might be innately different from those in the interpersonal romantic love relationship dynamics. As this finding indicates essential distinctiveness between both these relationships, theories concerning interpersonal romantic love should be applied cautiously when investigating brand love relationship dynamics.
... Research shows that sexual pleasure entails engaging in healthy sexual activities that are linked to positive outcomes such as a stronger immune system, less emotional and mental distress, and more stable relationships (Meltzer et al., 2017;Sprecher & Cate, 2004). People who reported experiencing sexual pleasure through high levels of sexual satisfaction were more likely to be happier and satisfied in their relationships and have a better sense of well-being (Gadassi et al., 2016;O'Leary et al., 2012). It is also positively linked to feelings of love (Yela, 2000), commitment, and stability (Sprecher, 2002). ...
The Philippines is considered to have one of the highest rates of heterosexual women who have difficulty in experiencing sexual pleasure. However, very few studies have tackled this concern due to the conservative culture of the country. To address this, the present study aimed to build a theory of sexual pleasure for the Filipino women using a constructivist grounded theory approach. The theory is constructed out of two models: the Identity Model of Sexual Pleasure and the Sexual Event Model of Sexual Pleasure. Results of the study can be used to aid in future interventions for sex and relationship therapy in the country.
Full-text available
Este estudio explora las actividades sexuales a través de internet y analiza la relación entre estas actividades y la satisfacción sexual. Un total de 236 estudiantes universitarios completaron self-reported scales. Los resultados indicaron que las actividades sexuales online más realizadas fue la búsqueda de temas sexuales, ligar a través de chats y consultar videos eróticos o pornográficos. Con respecto a la relación entre las actividades sexuales online y la satisfacción sexual, se encontró que los participantes que manifestaron no buscar información sexual así como no utilizar chats para conversaciones sexuales, obtuvieron una mayor puntuación en satisfacción sexual. En conclusión, aunque la realización de actividades a través de internet con fines sexuales tiene una alta prevalencia, no queda acreditada de manera suficiente su influencia en la obtención de una mayor satisfacción sexual. This study explores online sexual activities and analyzes the relationship between these activities and sexual satisfaction. A total of 236 university students completed self-reported scales. The results indicated that the most frequent online sexual activities were: searching for sexual issues, flirting via chat rooms and viewing erotic or pornographic videos. With regards to the relationship between online sexual activities and sexual satisfaction, it was found that participants who reported not seeking sexual information as well as not using chatrooms for sexual conversations, obtained a higher score in sexual satisfaction. In conclusion, although engaging in activities online for sexual purposes has a high prevalence, its influence on obtaining greater sexual satisfaction is not sufficiently proven.
How can we get the most out of our close relationships? Research in the area of personal relationships continues to grow, but most prior work has emphasized how to overcome negative aspects. This volume demonstrates that a good relationship is more than simply the absence of a bad relationship, and that establishing and maintaining optimal relationships entails enacting a set of processes that are distinct from merely avoiding negative or harmful behaviors. Drawing on recent relationship science to explore issues such as intimacy, attachment, passion, sacrifice, and compassionate goals, the essays in this volume emphasize the positive features that allow relationships to flourish. In doing so, they integrate several theoretical perspectives, concepts, and mechanisms that produce optimal relationships. The volume also includes a section on intensive and abbreviated interventions that have been empirically validated to be effective in promoting the positive features of close relationships.
For almost 25 years, the predominate evolutionary theory of romantic love has been Fisher’s theory of independent emotion systems. That theory suggests that sex drive, romantic attraction (romantic love), and attachment are associated with distinct neurobiological and endocrinological systems which evolved independently of each other. Psychological and neurobiological evidence, however, suggest that a complementary theory requires attention. A theory of co-opting mother-infant bonding sometime in the recent evolutionary history of humans may partially account for the evolution of romantic love. I present a case for this theory and a new approach to the science of romantic love drawing on human psychological, neurobiological, and (neuro)endocrinological studies as well as some animal studies. The hope is that this theoretical review, along with other publications, will generate debate in the literature about the merits of the theory of co-opting mother-infant bonding and a new evolutionary approach to the science of romantic love.
In this paper we review the self-expansion model in the context of close relationships, focusing primarily on work in the last 20 years, considering throughout variation in our samples across cultures and other demographics—both in existing studies and in potential implications for future research. The self-expansion model has two key principles. The first half of the paper focuses on the motivational principle: The model theorizes that people have a fundamental desire to expand the self—that is, to increase their self-efficacy, perspectives, competence, and resources, and this often occurs through relationships in general. The second half of the paper focuses on the inclusion-of-other-in-the-self principle, in that a major means of self-expansion is through close relationships, when one’s partner’s identities, perspectives, skills, and resources become to some extent “included in the self” as also one’s own. For each principle we briefly describe its foundational research support and then explore the extensive, significant work of the last 20 years substantially expanding and deepening the implications of the model. The majority (although with some interesting exceptions) of studies have fallen short of testing the universal breadth of the model. As we review the research, we consider where the studies were conducted and with what kinds of populations. Where there are data from diverse populations, the overall pattern of results are generally similar. However, there were individual differences found within the populations studied, such as in attachment style, that affected the operation of both principles. Since there are well known differences in the distribution of such individual differences across populations of many types, it is quite likely that while the basic patterns may not differ, future research will show different degrees of operation in different populations.
The scientific study of love and intimacy in adult contexts is described. Drawing from various methodological and theoretical perspectives, we discuss the thrill and intense longing of passionate love, the enduring affection of companionate love, and the self-disclosure and understanding that fosters intimacy. Similarities and variations and in love across cultures and gender as well as implications for well-being are reviewed.
Full-text available
Romantic love, our most complex emotion, includes various puzzles that impede the achievement of enduring, profound love. These related puzzles involve two opposing poles on a given continuum, yet both seem necessary for enduring, profound love. I discuss here a few of the major opposing poles, which I gather into three main groups: (a) Temporality: change-familiarity; consummation-perpetuation; (b) Freedom: freedom-bondage; belonging-possessing; (c) The good-fortune of the partner: jealousy-compersion. Coping with these conflicts requires several conceptual distinctions; the key ones discussed here are the distinction between romantic intensity and romantic profundity and the distinction between extrinsically and intrinsically valuable activities. While admitting the presence of the opposing poles, I argue that in profound love, these poles can coexist. Such coexistence has significant consequences for the nature of romantic relationships, for instance, admitting the presence of romantic ambivalence and indifference and acknowledging the value of brief, casual sexual encounters.
Full-text available
Full-text available
The role of partner schema in memory for laboratory-presented stimuli was examined to evaluate the existence of memory bias associated with partner sentiment. Highly dissatisfied (n = 30) or satisfied (n = 35) dating individuals rated, recalled, and estimated the frequency of positive and negative partner trait-relevant words. Word applicability ratings were consistent with relationship schema for all participants. Recall for positive partner-related words was schema consistent, but recall for negative words was unrelated to relationship satisfaction. All participants accurately estimated the proportion of positive and negative words, suggesting that recall is better than frequency estimation for detecting partner schemas in memory. Together, findings suggest a positive sentiment-override in memory for partner-related stimuli in dating relationships.
At every stage of an intimate relationship, couples must deal with difficult and unsettling interpersonal problems. As a consequence, therapists often find themselves dealing with clients when the problems have become too difficult and too unsettling.
Marital adjustment research has been called into question by the claim that its measurements are so contaminated by marital conventionalization as to be of little value. An attempt is made to explain the relationship between adjustment and conventionalization both in terms of idealization of the spouse and in terms of the response format employed in measures of conventionalization. Based upon questionnaire responses from 365 married individuals, these explanations are found to be inadequate. The present analysis leads to the conclusion that conventionalization and adjustment each contaminate the measure of the other, with conventionalization making a genuine contribution to adjustment scores.
Introduction: Women's motivations to engage in sex are likely influenced by their past sexual experiences, the type of relationship in which they are involved in, and numerous lifestyle factors such as career and family demands. The influences of these factors undoubtedly change as women age. Aim: This study aimed to examine potential differences in sexual motivation between three distinct age groups of premenopausal women. Methods: Women aged 18-22 years (N = 137), 23-30 years (N = 103), and 31-45 years (N = 87) completed an online survey that assessed the proportion with which they had engaged in sexual intercourse for each of 140 distinct reasons. Main outcome measures: The YSEX? Questionnaire by Meston and Buss [1] was used to measure sexual motivation. The items of this questionnaire were composed of four primary sexual motivation factors (physical, goal attainment, emotional, insecurity), and 13 subfactors. Results: Women aged 31-45 years reported a higher proportion of engaging in sex compared with one or both of the younger age groups of women for nine of the 13 YSEX? subfactors: stress reduction, physical desirability, experience seeking, resources, social status, revenge, expression, self-esteem boost, and mate guarding. At an item level, the top 25 reasons for having sex were virtually identical across age groups. Conclusion: Women aged 31-45 have more motives for engaging in sex than do women aged 18-30, but the primary reasons for engaging in sex do not differ within this age range. Women aged 18-45 have sex primarily for pleasure, and love and commitment. The implications for diagnosis and treatment of women with sexual dysfunctions were discussed.
This article summarizes research that challenges conventional wisdom about the early roots of marital distress and divorce. We abstract results from a 13-year study that focused on the extent to which long-term marital satisfaction and stability could be forecast from newlywed and early marital data. We explore the usefulness of three models emergent distress, enduring dynamics, and disillusionment designed to explain why some marriages thrive and others fail. The dominant paradigm, the emergent-distress model, sees newlyweds as homogeneously blissful and posits that distress develops as disagreements and negativity escalate, ultimately leading some couples to divorce. The results we summarize run counter to this model and suggest instead that (a) newlyweds differ considerably in the intensity of both their romance and the negativity of their behavior toward one another and, for those who remain married, these early dynamics persist over time; and (b) for couples who divorce, romance seems to deteriorate differently depending on how long the marriage lasts. Soon after their wedding, “early exiters” seem to lose hope of improving an unpromising relationship; “delayed-action divorcers” begin marriage on a particularly high note, yet quickly show signs of disillusionment. These delayed-action divorcers reluctantly give up on the marriage long after the romance has faded.
It is proposed that satisfying, stable relationships reflect intimates' ability to see imperfect relationships in somewhat idealized ways-to make a leap of faith. Both members of dating and married couples completed a measure of relationship illusions, tapping idealized perceptions of the partners' attributes, exaggerated perceptions of control, and unrealistic optimism. Results of concurrent analyses revealed that relationship illusions predicted greater satisfaction, love, and trust, and less conflict and ambivalence in both dating and marital relationships. A longitudinal follow-up of the dating sample revealed that relationships were more likely to persist the stronger individuals' initial illusions. Relationship illusions also predicted increases in later satisfaction but not vice versa. These results suggest that positive illusions capture a prospective sense of conviction or security that is not simply isomorphic with satisfaction.
A sample of 6,029 married persons from the National Survey of Families and Households was analyzed to determine the correlates of sexual inactivity in marriage and to see if sexually inactive marriages were less happy and stable than those with sexual activity. Sixteen percent of the marriages in this sample had been sexually inactive during the month prior to the interview. A logistic regression analysis showed unhappiness with the marital relationship, increased likelihood of separation, lack of shared activity, few arguments over sex, lack of physical violence, increased age, fewer children, the presence of preschoolers, and poor health all to be significant correlates of sexually inactive marriage. Significant differences existed between males and females, such as the presence of relationship violence being associated with sexual activity only for females, and the presence of preschoolers and poor health associated with sexual inactivity only for males. These findings suggest that although sexually inactive marriages are not uncommon, they are not happy, stable marriages in which the partners simply do not have sex. Lack of sexual activity may be a danger signal for many marriages.