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Passionate And Companionate Love

Ellen Berscheid and Elaine Walster (1969, 1978) proposed the distinction between love as passion and love as friendly companionship. These authors construed passionate love as a state of total absorption between two lovers, including mood swings, intense emotions (pleasurable and aversive), and obsessive thinking. Companionate love was construed as the affection two people feel for each other when their lives are deeply intertwined. According to Elaine and G. William Walster (1978), most passionate love affairs end in breakups. But if a couple is lucky, passion can change into the mild glow of companionate love. In essence, passion becomes friendship.

This early scientific theory of romantic love tended toward an either/or view, either passion or companionship, but not both at once. This view may well have had cultural validity during much of the twentieth century. However, Elaine Hatfield (formerly Elaine Walster) noted that people are capable of both types of love and may experience them intermittently during their lives (Hatfield 1988).

People appear to want both types of romantic love. Passion is pleasurable, but its associated strong emotion creates the potential for relationship instability. Lovers want stability and often desire friendship. Several recent studies show that romance and friendship are often combined in today's Western cultural milieu. Susan and Clyde Hendrick (1993) collected written accounts of love, and found that friendship with the lover was the most frequently desired characteristic. Susan Sprecher and Pamela Regan (1998) also found that both passion and companionship were related to relationship satisfaction and commitment. Pat Noller (1996) concluded that a mix of passionate and companionate love best supports the continuity of marriage and family. But passion is important; erotic love is one important predictor of relationship satisfaction, regardless of length of the relationship (Hendrick and Hendrick 2000). Passion alone may not be enough, however; perhaps we must be friends with the one we love in order for love to last. The recent research and theorizing on passionate and friendship love is consistent with the prototype theory of love developed by Fehr.

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Marriage and Family EncyclopediaOther Marriage & Family TopicsLove - Passionate And Companionate Love, Prototypes Of Love, Triangular Theory Of Love, Attachment Theory And The Evolution Of Love - Conclusion