Passionate Love and Companionate Love

Passionate Love and Companionate Love

Define and elaborate passionate love and companionate love. Also make a comparison between these two types of love.

Yes we’ve all experienced it. It is the most universal emotion and the most powerful. It shapes, gives meaning to, and destroys lives. How much of us do we give when we love? Can one define and measure love? We have ways to measure aggression, prejudice, and attraction – but how do we measure love?

Passionate Love

Elizabeth Barrett Browning posed a similar question: How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. Psychologist Robert Sternberg (1998) views love as a triangle, whose sides of varying lengths are passion, intimacy, and commitment. Sociologist John Alan Lee (1988) and psychologists Clyde and Susan Hendrick (1993) identify three primary love styles – eros (self-disclosing passion), ludus (uncommitted game playing), and storge (friendship) – which like primary colors, combine to form secondary love styles. Some love styles, notably eros and storge, predict high relationship satisfaction; others such as ludus, predict low satisfaction. (Meyers, 2002).

Passionate love is love most people can identify with. It is the most intense and the most exciting. If our love is reciprocated, we would feel ecstatic. But if not, it would devastate us. We are never so defenseless against suffering as when we love – stated Freud. And it couldn’t be any truer. Passionate love preoccupies the lover with thoughts of the other – a habit we are all guilty of and sometimes affects our appetite and sleep patterns. Passionate love is what you feel when you not only love someone, you are in love with that person. It also has a lot to do with being sexually attracted to that person.

Falling passionately in love is an initation rite to a fulfilled life. It teaches us a lot of significant things and molds us into a mature individual. Only through loving someone and belonging in a passionate relationship can we feel the longest range of emotions: happiness, despair, satisfaction, jealousy, desire, hurt, betrayal, and so much more.


Companionate Love

Although passionate love reaches high temperatures, it eventually cools down. The longer a relationship endures, the fewer its emotional ups and downs (Berscheid, 1989). This may be observed among married couples who have reached their 10th year anniversary. The novelty wears off and the thrill of the romance inevitably fades over the years. Spouses don’t feel the need to express affection as often as before. Some begin to feel dissatisfaction and look for that passionate love once again outside the marriage. Some couples divorce. The ones that endure will settle to a loyal, steady, affectionate kind of love which is the companionate love.

It may not be as wild as passionate love, but it is more comfortable. It is the feeling that you know you always have your spouse to depend on. No high lasts forever. With constancy and repetition, tolerance and familiarity develops. You can’t be head over heels crazy in love with someone even after years of seeing the person everyday. The common mistake most people make is they assume romantic love should be the driving force to make a marriage last. In my opinion, it should be friendship, because it is more reliable relationship and truly stands the test of time.

It is fitting to end this article with a quote from Mark Twain: No man or woman really knows what love is until they have been married a quarter of a century.

Psychologist Elaine Hatfield has described two different types of love: compassionate love and passionate love. Compassionate love involves feelings of mutual respect, trust and affection, while passionate love involves intense feelings and sexual attraction.

Hatfield defined passionate love as:

“A state of intense longing for union with another. Passionate love is a complex functional whole including appraisals or appreciations, subjective feelings, expressions, patterned physiological processes, action tendencies, and instrumental behaviors. Reciprocated love (union with the other) is associated with fulfillment and ecstasy. Unrequited love (separation) with emptiness, anxiety, or despair”.

“All I Can See”, I was interested in the love relationship between the strange gray bird and the beautiful fragile butterfly, which the author portrayed at the end of the story. How this relationship was progressing and how long it was going to continue, would determine, to some extent, whether or not and how long the beautiful fragile butterfly will stay with the gray bird.

The behaviors of the bird and butterfly in their relationship could be used to define their love. Here I want to discuss the love relationship. And I define the love as companionate love compared with passionate love.

According to The Handbook of Social Psychology (1998), the two types of love are defined as follows:

“Passionate love: a state of intense longing for union with another. Passionate lovers are absorbed in one another, feel ecstatic at attaining their partner’s love, and are disconsolate on losing it.”(p.448)

“Companionate love: the affection we felt for those with whom our lives are deeply intertwined.”(p.450)

“Although passionate love burns hot, it inevitably simmers down. The longer a relationship endures, the fewer its emotional ups and downs (Berscheid & others,1989). The high of romance may be sustained for a few months, even a couple of years. But as we noted in the discussion of adaptation (Chapter 10), no high lasts forever. The novelty, the intense absorption in the other, the thrill of the romance, the giddy “floating on a cloud” feeling, fades. After two years of marriage, spouses express affection about half as often as when they were newlyweds (Huston & Chorost, 1994). About four years after marriage, the divorce rate peaks in cultures worldwide (Fisher, 1994). If a close relationship is to endure, it will settle to a steadier but still warm afterglow that Hatfield calls companionate love.”(p.450)

We could learn from the book that when the beautiful fragile butterfly met the gray bird at the very beginning, she was frightened by his hideous song. She didn’t love him at the first sight and thought he was a strange gray bird. But when she could understand the gray bird’s language and became accustom to his accompany, she became happy when he was happy. She fell in love with the strange gray bird and this love should be a companionate love. According to the handbook of social psychology, this love would continue longer so this is why I expect that the beautiful fragile butterfly would stay with the gray bird in a considerable longer time.

  Factors Influencing Passionate and Compassionate Love

Some of the factors associated with passionate love include:

Timing: Being “ready” to be in love with another person is essential.

Early attachment styles: Securely attached individuals tend to form deeper, longer lasting love, while those who are anxiously attached tend to fall in and out of love quickly.

Similarity: Hatfield and Rapson note that we tend to fall passionately in love with people who are relatively good looking, personable, affectionate and similar to ourselves.

While passionate love is intense, it is generally very fleeting. Researchers have looked at how relationships progress among new couples, newlyweds and those married for a longer time and found that while passionate love is more intense at the beginning of relationships, it tends to give way to compassionate love that is focused on intimacy and commitment.

Passionate love may be quick to fade, but compassionate love endures.


Final Thoughts

While research on love has flourished over the past 20 years, Hatfield’s early research on this topic was not without critics. During the 1970s, U.S. Senator William Proxmire railed against researchers who were studying love and derided the work as a waste of taxpayer dollars. Other defended Hafield’s and other researchers important work, noting that if psychologists could understand patterns of human love, then perhaps they could also understand divorce and failed relationships.

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