The difference between compassionate love and passionate love

Anyone who has lived and loved can attest that not all types of love are the same. In the early days of a relationship, your love for your partner may be very different from the love you feel after many years in the relationship.

Psychologist Elaine Hatfield described two different types of romantic love: compassionate (also called partner) and passion. Compassionate love involves feelings of mutual respect, trust, and affection, while passionate love involves strong affection and sexual attraction.

What is passionate love?

Hatfield defined passionate love as “a state of a strong desire to bond with others.” This type of love tends to be more common at the beginning of the relationship. People in this state of love tend to have strong feelings for each other. They need to be close to another person, may constantly think about the other person, and experience extreme pain when separated.

Passionate love also has two different forms.

When two people share each other’s attraction and affection for each other, love in return occurs. On the other hand, unrequited love occurs when only one person feels passionate love, or prevents the two from being together for some reason.

Falling in love causes two people to establish a relationship and stay together, while unrequited love leads to despair, anxiety and loneliness.

Some of the key cognitive, emotional, and behavioral characteristics of passionate love include:

  • Intrusive thoughts about partners: People often have almost constant thoughts about their loved ones. Not only do these thoughts persist, but they can invade almost at any time of the day or night.
  • Idealization of other people or relationships: Passionate people tend to believe that the objects they love can’t go wrong. They also tend to believe that their relationship has no flaws, is destined to be, or is a “perfect match.”
  • Strong desire to know and be understood: Passionate people want to know everything about their partner. They also want their partners to know everything about them.
  • Strong emotions towards each other: This loving person feels good when things are going well, but may feel frustrated when things go wrong.
  • Need to maintain physical intimacy: In addition to being strongly attracted to each other, people in love also try to maintain physical closeness.


Passionate love is characterized by its intensity, while compassionate love is characterized by its intimacy. Compassionate love, also called partner love, is about intimacy, trust, commitment, and affection. In a long-term relationship, passionate love usually gradually turns into compassionate love within one to two years.

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People in compassionate love are still passionate about each other, but the intensity is usually not overwhelming and urgency. This kind of love involves deeply caring for another person, truly understanding the other person, and paying for each other in good times and bad times.

Even if there is a disagreement, those who share compassionate love still love and give to each other.

Some of the key cognitive, emotional, and behavioral characteristics of compassionate (accompanying) love include:

  • Long-term commitment: Companionship love is characterized by a lasting and lasting commitment to each other.
  • Deep intimacy: People who share compassionate love can share all aspects of themselves with each other. Sharing feelings and concerns with each other is a sign of this love.
  • Trust: The sign of compassionate love is a deep trust in another person.

Influencing factors

So what determines whether people will fall into passionate love or compassionate love in the end? According to Hatfield, some of the factors associated with passionate love include:

  • Timing: “Being ready” to fall in love with another person is essential. If you are at a certain stage in your life and you are not sure whether you want to establish a relationship, then your chances of falling in love will also decrease.
  • Early attachment style: People with secure attachment tend to form deeper and longer-lasting love, while people with anxious attachment tend to fall in love and lose love quickly. Those who are securely attached may still experience passionate love, but this love is also more likely to eventually grow into compassionate/accompanying love. Those who are insecure are more likely to experience intense, passionate love, which will gradually disappear rather than develop into a more intimate and lasting love.
  • Similarity: Hatfield and Rapson pointed out that we tend to fall passionately in love with people who are relatively good-looking, personable, affectionate, and similar to us. Compatibility is also an important factor in helping passionate love grow into compassionate love. Although the opposite sex can sometimes be attractive, if people have something in common, they are usually more likely to stay in love.

One important thing to remember about these two types of love is that passionate love is usually short-lived, while compassionate love may stand the test of time. Passionate love is strong, but usually very short-lived.

Researchers have studied how the relationship between newlyweds, newlyweds, and people who have been married for a long time develops and found that although passionate love is stronger at the beginning of the relationship, it often gives way to a compassionate focus on intimacy and commitment Love.

Passionate love may fade quickly, but compassionate love will last.

For a long time, researchers have believed that passionate love is often the type of love that is most likely to fade. Interestingly, recent research by Hatfield and her colleagues showed that time has the same detrimental effect on passionate love and partner love.

A study comparing the passion and partner love between newlyweds and long-term marriages also found that newly married men and women tend to feel the same degree of passion. However, the researchers also found that newly married women are more likely to love their partners compassionately to a greater extent than the rewards expressed by their partners.

Passionate love scale

Hatfield and Sprecher developed the Passionate Love Scale, which has been used worldwide by people of all ages. It asks questions based on cognitive components (how you feel about your partner and how often), behavioral components (your loyalty and what you do for others), and emotional components (how you feel about your partner).

Respondents were asked to think about their favorite objects and then answer questions similar to the following:

  • Ever since interacting with this person, do you feel that your emotions are like a roller coaster ride?
  • Would you feel very hopeless if they left you?
  • Do you think you can’t stop thinking about this person?
  • Do you think you prefer to be with this person than with anyone else?
  • Do you like to study this person’s body or movements?
  • Do you have a strong attraction to this person?
  • Do you feel frustrated when your relationship with this person is not going well?

If your answer to some or most of these questions is yes, then this may indicate that you are experiencing passionate love.

Impact on relationship

Although it is the same thing to understand what these two kinds of love are conceptually, how do these concepts play a role in your real-world relationship?

In fact, in the early stages of a new relationship, you may be more likely to experience passionate love. As your fascination with the other person grows deeper, your enthusiasm for the other person may build up and eventually reach its peak. As your relationship continues, this enthusiasm may eventually be eased and grow into a more compassionate/partnered love.

Companion love is not necessarily characterized by the wild passion, excitement, or obsessive thoughts seen in passionate love. However, this compassionate love does include feelings of tenderness, strong bonds, friendship, and enjoyment of each other’s company.

Once you have established a more compassionate love, it does not mean that you will not experience great passion from time to time. In fact, some studies have shown that romantic love marked by intensity, participation, and sexual interest (but not the compulsive components common in the early stages of the relationship) is related to higher self-esteem, increased happiness, and improved marriage relationships. satisfy.

Studies have shown that the strongest and most lasting relationships may be those in which people can find a balance between partner love and passionate love.

So, even if you are in a long-term relationship where the flames of a relationship have long since faded, what can you do to rekindle the feeling of romantic love? Find a way to get rid of stereotypes.

Take time to do new things or seek new adventures together. Taking a dance or cooking class together, traveling to a new place, or even going on an outdoor adventure together are all ways to cultivate trust, intimacy and even romantic passion.

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Although research on love has flourished in the past 20 years, Hatfield’s early research on this topic is not without criticism. In the 1970s, U.S. Senator William Proxmire criticized researchers who study love and mocked this work as a waste of taxpayers’ money.

Others defended the important work of Hatfield and other researchers, stating that if psychologists can understand the patterns of human love, then they may also understand the relationship between divorce and failure.

Despite the constant debate, the work of Hatfield and her colleagues has contributed immensely to our understanding of love and inspired further research on attraction, attachment, and interpersonal relationships.