What is love? Apparently, the answer isn’t that simple. What you feel at the beginning of a relationship can be very different from years later into it. Broadly speaking, there are two different types of romantic love: passionate and compassionate love. The former is characterized by intense feelings and sexual desire, while feelings of trust, mutual respect, and affection are more typical of the latter.
Defining the different types of love
Intensely longing to be with the other person is a typical sign of passionate love. You might even obsess about them. When apart, you might feel extreme distress.
These intense emotions have given way to trust, intimacy, affection, and commitment with compassionate love. Typically, passionate love gives way to compassionate love after being in a relationship for a year or two.
Features of passionate love
The main behavioral, emotional, and cognitive features of passionate love include idealizing your partner, an incessant need to be close to them, invasive thoughts about them, and a strong desire to know more about them. There is a thin line between passionate love and obsessive jealousy. Wanting to know where you are all the time and calling you 10 times a day or more crosses the line.
Another characteristic of passionate love is that they can do no wrong. You might idealize your partner to the extent that you are sure they’re incapable of wrongdoing. Again, this is different from the conviction that they are perfect one year or more into the relationship, especially if you’ve moved in together. If you’re ignoring obvious faults, it’s a sign of delusion.
Apart from having a strong attraction to them, you want to be close all the time. As in, extremely physically close. It might even get annoying to the other person.
You find yourself thinking about them all the time. These thoughts are persistent, relentless, and invasive. They can happen any time of the day or night. You might wake up in the middle of the night, for instance, and start wondering where they are and what they’re doing at that moment.
Those who passionately love each other want to know everything about each other. They feel ecstatic when things are going well, but it’s nothing short of a disaster when all is not well.
Features of compassionate love (vs. passionate)
Being in compassionate love does not mean you’re not as intensely in love. Instead, it’s a different kind of love. Typically, compassionate love feels less urgent and overwhelming than the passionate kind. It involves genuinely knowing the other person, caring deeply for them, and standing by their side no matter what.
Couples who share compassionate love support each other in the face of adversity. The main features of compassionate love include deep intimacy, long-term commitment, and trust.
These couples can share everything about themselves, and it’s a mutual process. Their companionship has an enduring, long-lasting mutual commitment. You trust one other deeply.
Exceptions to the rule
In some cases, passionate love does not give way to compassionate love. It dissipates, and people usually break up. If they don’t, they find themselves in a constant break-up-make-up cycle, characterized by fights, scandals, shouting, and a lot of drama. After that, the making-up part is equally dramatic, with frequent sexual contact and outbursts of love. You might go on holiday together, and it will feel just as exciting as the first time you did it. Of course, it’ll cloud up real quick.
In other cases, passionate love is never there, even in the beginning. That might happen if you marry your childhood best friend, neighbor, or high school sweetheart. The feeling is you were meant to be together, and this person has always been if not your best friend, then definitely one of them. You don’t need to express love verbally – compassionate love exists in your relationship.
To maintain passion, doing new things is key. Take a new class together, go on an outdoor adventure, or take a trip. Definitely add something new to your bedroom routine. Try giving each other erotic massages using sensual massage oil or ignite intimacy using something as simple as a realistic lubricant that feels natural.
Attachment style as a factor
People who are at peace with themselves form secure attachments and longer-lasting love. Anxious people are more likely to experience passionate love that does not grow into anything more lasting. While the securely attached can love passionately, this love is more likely to grow into compassionate love.
We are likelier to experience passionate love for someone affectionate, communicative, attractive, and similar to ourselves. On the other hand, shared traits and interests tend to bring about compassionate love. People who have things in common are likelier to stay in love.
Time as a variable in compassionate and passionate love
The effect of time can be detrimental to both types of love. Being “ready” to fall or be in love will make it likelier. With time, though, you’re less willing to be in any kind of love.
In a study published in Interpersona, an International Journal on Personal Relationships, researchers found newlyweds and long-term couples were more or less equally passionate about each other. Another interesting finding was that newlywed women were likelier to love their male spouses compassionately than vice versa.
The love type questionnaire
Researchers developed the so-called Passionate Love Scale to determine what type of love you’re in. It consists of just seven questions along the following lines:
- Since you became involved, have your emotions been running wild?
- If they left you, would you feel terrible?
- Does it seem like you cannot stop thinking about them?
- Are you strongly attracted to them?
- Do you want to be with them more than with anyone else in the world?
- Do you like exploring their movements or body?
- When things aren’t working between you, do you feel depressed?
You’re passionately in love if you answered “yes” to four or more of these. If you can only answer affirmatively to three or fewer, on the other hand, you’re experiencing compassionate love. You might want to rekindle the romance, especially if you’ve been together a long time and the flames of passion have become glowing embers.