October 22, 2017 | Louisa Fowler | 157 Comments Myth: A relationship’s level of romance remains consistent over time- you will never feel more or less passionate love for your partner than you do right now. Fact: Although many people believe that their passionate feelings toward their partner are static, the reality is, the longer a relationship lasts, the more likely individuals are to experience both increases and decreases in their feelings of romance toward their partners. In a study published in The New York Academic Press, researchers found that romantic love decreases in committed relationships over time. 953 couples, who were either dating, newly married, or in marriages longer than 30 years, were asked in interviews to express their love for their partner as “very little”, “some”, “a great deal”, or “tremendous”. While majority of daters and newlyweds expressed “a great deal” of passionate love for their partner, majority of older interviewees who had been married for 30 years or more, expressed “some” passionate love (Hatfield&Traupman,1981). Never fear! If you are currently in an exciting, passionate relationship, it is not necessarily doomed to fizzle and die. In a 2014 study by Virgil L. Sheet, 854 registered voters in Indiana participated in a phone interview in which they were supposed to respond to a series of questions with a numerical rating (1 indicating that the statement did not apply to them and 5 indicating that it absolutely did.) about their relationship. The statements functioned to indicated passionate love, mania love, storage love, and self-expansion within the relationship. The study’s results indicated that in long-term relationships: passionate love decreases during the first 20 years, but typically increases again within the next 20 years. However, the study also found that self-expansion, which occurs when an individual takes on the qualities of their partner, increases romantic love, but also decreases over time in a relationship (Sheets, 2014). Therefore, it can be deduced that although self-expansion does lead to greater feelings of romance within a relationship, it is not the only way to keep the spark alive. For instance, Sheets argues that perhaps as you and your spouse grow older and retire, you can enjoy each other’s company without the excitement and challenge of self-expansion. Or, you can find passionate love and attraction to your special someone when they support you in an endeavour of self-expansion that is more individual. Psychologist Robert J. Sternberg, PHD, offers another explanation: individuals who share a similar narrative of how romantic relationships should be are more likely to have long lasting relationships. In 2001 he published a study based off of interviews asking individuals to describe love in a story (ie. “I think taking a relationship too seriously can spoil it”.), which concluded that having a similar philosophy on love keeps the spark alive for longer (Sternberg,et al. 2001). In conclusion, however much passionate love you feel towards your partner right now, probably won’t stay the same throughout your relationship. In fact, if the romance is newer, you will probably experience a dip in passion as you begin to include them in your sense of self, resulting in a decline in self-expansion from your partner. However, despite Hatfield’s claim, this is not an indication of a total termination of your love. If you feel that your passionate romance has declined, there are several ways to bring back the spark: be patient and wait for the increase of well-being and positive affect of old age, try to engage in novel and exciting activities together that increase self-expansion through your partner, or have an open dialogue about what each other’s ideal narrative about what a successful romantic relationship looks like. References: Virgil L. Sheets (2014). Passion for life: Self-expansion and passionate love across the life span. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 31, 959-974. Hatfield, E. & Rapson, R.L. (1981). “Love, sex and intimacy: Their psychology, biology and history.” New York: Harper Collins. Sternberg, R.J. (1998). “Love is a story.” New York: Oxford University Press.