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Personality

How the Most Loving Couples Stay That Way

They never lose sight of what brought them together.

Key points

  • Love can be conceptualized as an attitude that governs the way we think, feel, and behave toward a partner.
  • Regarding love styles, Eros contributed to marital satisfaction for both husbands and wives.
  • Enduring, quality relationships involve couples who both love and like each other.
Gpalmisanoadm / Pixabay
Source: Gpalmisanoadm / Pixabay

Divorce statistics are staggering. Yet in light of such documented relational failure, we all know couples who are as much in love today as when they got married 50 years ago. We see it in their eyes, we hear it in their voices as they talk together, and we feel it in the easy way they relate to each other. What is their secret? Research reveals some of the beliefs and behavior behind marital bliss.

Love Styles for Long-lasting Satisfaction

Kamel Gana et al. (2013), in a study of 146 heterosexual couples, examined the effects of different love styles on marital satisfaction.[i] Incorporating previous research (Lee; 1973, 1976), they began with a definition of love as “an attitude, meaning a predisposition to think, feel, and behave toward one's partner.” As a practical matter, couples are no doubt wise to begin by considering how they would each define the concept of love because mismatched definitions could lead to mismanaged expectations.

Of all of the styles examined, Gana et al. found the ends of the spectrum were Eros, which was endorsed the most in their research, and Ludus, which was endorsed the least. They describe an Eros style as “passionate love inspired and carried by the strong physical and emotional attraction to one’s partner,” and a Ludus style as a “game-playing” conception of love. Accordingly, they note that a Ludic lover views love as a fun game, does not feel jealous, and avoids spending too much time with any partner in particular to avoid commitment.

Regarding the impact on long-lasting relationships, Gana et al. found that only Eros contributed to marital satisfaction for both husbands and wives. They also found that wives with an Eros love style had a positive impact on the marital satisfaction of husbands, but not the other way around.

Staying in Love by Continuing to Fall in Love

For many couples, falling in love is easy; staying in love is the challenge. But as has been demonstrated both anecdotally and empirically, keeping the fire burning involves behaving in ways that remind couples of the reasons they fell in love in the first place. Far from a complicated analysis, long-married partners often explain their durable relationship in very simple terms, describing how they both “like” and “love” each other, and appreciating the easygoing personality of their mate. Research corroborates these straightforward observations.

Suzanne Riela et al. (2010) investigated some of the factors that impact the experience of falling in love.[ii] They found that among the many factors involved, reciprocal liking and a partner’s desirable personality appeared to be the most important precursors to falling in love. Assuming both of these factors are durable over time, we can assume they will continue to contribute to relational quality.

Some long-married couples claim their enduring marital enjoyment is effortless. Others admit it takes effort to maintain pleasure in paradise—but it is worth it. Proactive partners ensure they never lose sight of the qualities that brought them together in the first place, and ensure their relational style is matched to a happy, long-lasting marriage.

Facebook image: Maria Markevich/Shutterstock

References

[i] Gana, Kamel, Yaël Saada, and Aurélie Untas. 2013. “Effects of Love Styles on Marital Satisfaction in Heterosexual Couples: A Dyadic Approach.” Marriage & Family Review 49 (8): 754–72. doi:10.1080/01494929.2013.834025.

[ii] Riela, Suzanne, Geraldine Rodriguez, Arthur Aron, Xiaomeng Xu, and Bianca P. Acevedo. 2010. “Experiences of Falling in Love: Investigating Culture, Ethnicity, Gender, and Speed.” Journal of Social and Personal Relationships 27 (4): 473–93. doi:10.1177/0265407510363508.

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