Contrary to popular opinion, it appears that romance doesn’t have to die a natural death in a long-term relationship. In a meta-analysis review of 25 studies with 6,070 individuals in short- and long-term relationships published last week, researchers set out to find out whether romantic love is associated with greater relationship satisfaction.
The researchers found that those who reported greater romantic love were more satisfied in both the short- and long-term relationships.
“Many believe that romantic love is the same as passionate love,” said lead researcher Bianca P. Acevedo, Ph.D, then at Stony Brook University (currently at University of California, Santa Barbara).“It isn’t. Romantic love has the intensity, engagement and sexual chemistry that passionate love has, minus the obsessive component. Passionate or obsessive love includes feelings of uncertainty and anxiety. This kind of love helps drive the shorter relationships but not the longer ones.”
These findings appear in the March issue of Review of General Psychology, published by the American Psychological Association
Perhaps not surprising, those who reported greater passionate love in their relationships were more satisfied in the short term compared to the long term. Companion-like love, on the other hand, was only moderately associated with satisfaction in both short- and long-term relationships.
The researchers looked at 17 short-term relationship studies, which included 18- to 23-year-old college students who were single, dating or married, with the average relationship lasting less than four years.
They also looked at 10 long-term relationship studies comprising middle-aged couples who were typically married 10 years or more. Two of the studies included both long- and short-term relationships in which it was possible to distinguish the two samples.
What’s the secret?
“These people are often very relationship focused,” Acevedo told LiveScience. “Their relationship is something that is very central to their lives, something they spend time on, work on, really care about. They seem to resolve conflicts relatively efficiently and smoothly.”
Other studies on building strong, romantic relationships also suggest the following may help:
- Continue exploring and engaging in new activities and opportunities with one another.
- Resolve conflicts as they occur, respectfully; don’t let conflicts simmer and build into something bigger over time.
- Find something challenging to do together; a shared challenge can help bring you closer together if you work as a team.
- Feeling that your partner is “there for you” is invaluable for a good relationship.
- Guard against insecurity, as it can lead to spark relationship problems that otherwise wouldn’t exist.
Romance doesn’t have to turn into pure friendship over time, nor does it have to die a natural death in long-term relationships. Strive to keep the romance alive in your long-term relationship — it’s not as impossible as it may seem.