Companionate Love Definition
Companionate love refers to a variety of love that is durable, fairly slow to develop, and characterized by interdependence and feelings of affection, intimacy, and commitment. Companionate love is also known as affectionate love, friendship-based love, or attachment. Because it requires time to develop fully, this kind of love is often seen between very close friends or romantic partners who have been together for a long time.
Companionate Love Measurement
Researchers typically measure companionate love using self-report methods, which involve asking people to respond to questions about their feelings for a specific other person (e.g., a friend, dating partner, or spouse). People might simply rate their level of companionate love for the other person: “How much warm, caring, affectionate love do you feel for your partner?”
Alternately, people might report how much they experience of the various components of companion-ate love (affection, intimacy, commitment, etc.); in this case, the researcher would add up their responses and calculate a total love score.
Companionate Love Research
Research provides evidence that companionate love is primarily a positive experience for both men and women. For example, when people are asked to think about companionate love and identify its important features, they uniformly specify positive feelings like “trust,” “caring,” “respect,” “tolerance,” “loyalty,” and “friendship.” Similarly, research conducted with dating couples reveals that positive emotions are strongly associated with the amount of companionate love that the couples experience. Specifically, the greater the amount of companionate love that partners feel for each other, the more they report liking and trusting one another and the more satisfying they find their relationship.
Scientists also have found evidence that companion-ate love is strong and durable. Not only do companion-ate lovers report feeling extremely committed to each other and desirous of maintaining their relationships, but levels of companionate love tend to remain stable over time within dating couples. Companionate love may even grow stronger over time because it is based on intimacy processes (such as caring and attachment) that require time to develop fully. The ability to withstand— and perhaps grow stronger over—the passage of time is one feature that distinguishes companionate love from other, more fragile varieties of love, including passion-ate or romantic love.
Current Directions in Companionate Love Research
Researchers have begun to explore the biochemistry of companionate love. Two peptide hormones have come under scrutiny—oxytocin and vasopressin. Because these hormones are associated with caregiving behavior in nonhuman mammals, some scientists have hypothesized that they are involved in the ability to form attachments and experience companionate love. As of yet, this supposition remains speculative.
- Regan, P. C. (2000). Love relationships. In L. T. Szuchman & F. Muscarella (Eds.), Psychological perspectives on human sexuality (pp. 232-282). New York: Wiley.
- Sprecher, S., & Regan, P. C. (1998). Passionate and companionate love in courting and young married couples. Sociological Inquiry, 68, 163-185.