Most people would say that passion is a key part of any romantic relationship — but why? A study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships explores passionate love’s role in making a romantic relationship successful.
Passionate love involves being affectionate and connected to a romantic partner. It is a key factor through all phases of relationships, spanning from the initial desire to invest emotionally in a prospective partner, to continuing communication and resolving conflict later in the relationship.
Many people have a positivity bias about their partner, where they write off their flaws, and this is associated with happier and longer-lasting relationships. This study aimed to better understand how positivity bias functions in tandem with passionate love to make for relationship maintenance.
Lead author Moran Mizrahi and her colleagues utilized a sample of 203 couples from Maryland to serve as the sample in Study 1. Participants went to the laboratory session in person and then kept a daily diary for the next two weeks. They completed measures on passionate love, commitment, daily prorelationship behavior, daily perception of partner, and daily self-perception.
In Study 2, Mizrahi and colleagues utilized 175 North American newlywed couples as their sample. Couples completed surveys online and completed daily diaries for two weeks as well. They completed measures on passionate love, commitment, daily prorelationship behavior, daily perception of partner, and daily self-perception.
Results showed that in couples from both studies, people who felt higher levels of passionate love were more likely to engage in prorelationship behaviors for their partners. Higher levels of passionate love were associated with seeing their partners in a positive light, which was a predictor of providing benefits to said partner. Relationship commitment, though associated with positivity biases as well, did not predict these prorelationship behavior when passionate love was controlled for.
“The desire to be close to a romantic partner promotes favorable perceptions of this partner’s qualities and good deeds — to color them with idealized views,” the researchers said. “Positivity biases may then help intimates to ‘view the glass as half full,’ and pay less attention to potentially disappointing attributes or experiences. Keeping a positive perspective might encourage romantic partners to sacrifice for their relationship without experiencing a cognitive dissonance, and display their love in prorelationship acts.”
Though this study took strides into better understanding how passion makes for a successful relationship, it has some limitations to note. One such limitation is that the couples in this study were all in relatively early relationship stages, where passionate love is often high.
Future research should include people who have been in established, long-term relationships. Additionally, both samples were North American and contained majority of Caucasian participants. Future research could try to diversify the sample and see if results hold.
“These limitations notwithstanding, our findings contribute novel insights about the operation of [passionate love] in relationship development. [Passionate love], associated with idealized perceptions, may encourage romantic intimates to express their love spontaneously in everyday prorelationship acts. These “small” gestures, when aggregated over time, may signify a partner’s emotional investment and responsiveness in an ongoing manner and thus indirectly support long-term relationship maintenance. Although [passionate love] is usually thought of as an early-stage emotion, in this way, it may help build a longer-lasting foundation for enduring relationships.”
The study, “Seeds of love: Positivity bias mediates between passionate love and prorelationship behavior in romantic couples“, was authored by Moran Mizrahi, Edward P. Lemay, Jr., Michael R. Maniaci, and Harry T. Reis.