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Love Across The Life Span

Love, in its romantic expression, is often thought to belong to the "young," just as sexuality is thought to belong to the young (and often the beautiful). Yet love spans all of human life. Nancy K. Grote and Irene Hanson Frieze (1994) have given particular attention to love and other relationship characteristics in middle-aged married couples. They found that game-playing love was a negative predictor of marital satisfaction, whereas friendshipbased and passionate love were positive predictors of satisfaction. These findings were similar to those for younger couples. In another study with largely the same married sample, Grote and Frieze (1998) asked people to recall their love for their partner when the relationship was beginning, as well as assess their current love for their partner. Passionate love, though perceived as somewhat lower than it had been many years before, was still "moderately strong" (p. 104). Love based on friendship was perceived to be about the same as it had been when the relationship began. Interestingly, husbands perceived that their altruistic love for their wives had grown over the years.

Love across the life span was also explored by Marilyn J. Montgomery and Gwen T. Sorell (1997), who studied relationship characteristics and love styles in four different groups: (1) college-age adults who had never been married; (2) married adults under age 30 without children; (3) married adults (ages 24–50) with children in the home; and (4) married adults (ages 50–70) with no children in the home. The greatest differences between the groups were not based on age, but rather the presence or absence of the marital bond. The young, unmarried people reported less altruistic love and greater game-playing and manic love than the other three groups. Neither passionate love (often thought to be the property of the young) or friendship-oriented love (often thought to be the hallmark of older couples) differed across the groups. The authors noted that "individuals throughout the life-stages of marriage consistently endorse the love attitudes involving passion, romance, friendship, and self-giving love" (p. 61).

Additional topics

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