1. Education

Compassionate and Passionate Love

By

Psychologist Elaine Hatfield has described two different types of love: compassionate love and passionate love. Compassionate love involves feelings of mutual respect, trust and affection, while passionate love involves intense feelings and sexual attraction.

Hatfield defined passionate love as:

"A state of intense longing for union with another. Passionate love is a complex functional whole including appraisals or appreciations, subjective feelings, expressions, patterned physiological processes, action tendencies, and instrumental behaviors. Reciprocated love (union with the other) is associated with fulfillment and ecstasy. Unrequited love (separation) with emptiness, anxiety, or despair".

Factors Influencing Passionate and Compassionate Love

Some of the factors associated with passionate love include:

  • Timing: Being "ready" to be in love with another person is essential.

  • Early attachment styles: Securely attached individuals tend to form deeper, longer lasting love, while those who are anxiously attached tend to fall in and out of love quickly.

  • Similarity: Hatfield and Rapson note that we tend to fall passionately in love with people who are relatively good looking, personable, affectionate and similar to ourselves.

While passionate love is intense, it is generally very fleeting. Researchers have looked at how relationships progress among new couples, newlyweds and those married for a longer time and found that while passionate love is more intense at the beginning of relationships, it tends to give way to compassionate love that is focused on intimacy and commitment.

Passionate love may be quick to fade, but compassionate love endures.

Final Thoughts

While research on love has flourished over the past 20 years, Hatfield’s early research on this topic was not without critics. During the 1970s, U.S. Senator William Proxmire railed against researchers who were studying love and derided the work as a waste of taxpayer dollars. Other defended Hafield's and other researchers important work, noting that if psychologists could understand patterns of human love, then perhaps they could also understand divorce and failed relationships.

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

More Psychology Definitions: The Psychology Dictionary

Browse the Psychology Dictionary

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z |

References

Hatfield, E., & Rapson, R. L. (1993). Love, sex, and intimacy: Their psychology, biology, and history. New York: HarperCollins.

Hatfield, E., & Rapson, R. L. (1994). Love and intimacy. Encyclopedia of Mental Health, 2. New York: Academic Press

Hatfield. E. (2001) In A. N. O'Connell (Ed.). Elaine Hatfield. Models of achievement: Reflections of eminent women in psychology, 3, 136-147.

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.