Contrary to widely held beliefs, romantic love can last a lifetime and lead to happier, healthier relationships, a new study has found.
"Many believe that romantic love is the same as passionate love," said lead researcher Bianca P. Acevedo, PhD, 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," Acevedo added.
The researchers reviewed 25 studies with 6,070 individuals in short- and long-term relationships to find out whether romantic love is associated with more satisfaction.
To determine this, they classified the relationships in each of the studies as romantic, passionate (romantic with obsession) or friendship-like love and categorized them as long- or short-term.
The researchers examined 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.
The researchers found that those who reported greater romantic love were more satisfied in both the short- and long-term relationships. Companion-like love was only moderately associated with satisfaction in both short- and long-term relationships. And those who reported greater passionate love in their relationships were more satisfied in the short term compared to the long term.
Couples who reported more satisfaction in their relationships also reported being happier and having higher self-esteem.
Acevedo said that feeling that a partner is 'there for you' makes for a good relationship and facilitates feelings of romantic love.
These findings appear in the March issue of Review of General Psychology, published by the American Psychological Association.