The temporal course of love : the developmental trajectories of passionate and companionate love and their connections to relationship dissolution




Schoenfeld, Elizabeth Austin

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



It has long been believed that passionate love wanes over time, whereas companionate love grows stronger with time. Using a sample of individuals in dating relationships who reported on their feelings of love for their partners up to 20 times over the course of several months, I tested whether passionate love and companionate love develop across the early months of romantic involvement in a manner consistent with theory. Additionally, I investigated whether certain developmental trajectories of both varieties of love are more predictive of relationship dissolution than others. To do this, I first examined the average trajectories of passionate and companionate love for those who stayed together with their partners and those who experienced a breakup, paying special attention to extraneous factors that were expected to influence the manner in which both varieties of love changed over time. The amount of time individuals knew their partners prior to becoming romantically involved, their feelings of the opposing variety of love, the extent to which individuals wanted to break up with their partners, their perceptions of their partners’ desire to break up, and gender all informed the ways in which love changed over time. Because it was expected that passionate love and companionate love would show substantial heterogeneity in their temporal trajectories, I then identified the prototypical patterns of development for passionate and companionate love. The results for passionate love revealed eight distinct linear trajectories, and six unique linear trajectories were identified for companionate love. For passionate love, individuals who experienced stable or declining levels of love were more likely to experience a breakup, but the connection between companionate love and relationship dissolution was less straightforward. Perhaps most importantly, passionate and companionate love interacted to predict the likelihood of dissolution, such that, to the extent that individuals who reported higher levels of passionate love also reported stronger feelings of companionate love, the lower their odds of dissolution. The current findings both complement and extend prior theoretical and empirical work on the developmental trajectories of passionate and companionate love and their connections to relationship dissolution.



LCSH Subject Headings