The Hollywood-esque, romanticized picture of passionate love may just be a cheap imitation of the real thing according to new study published in the March 2009 issue of the Review of General Psychology, as reported in the Los Angeles Times health blog.

The accepted thinking has been that passion happens early on in a relationship, but eventually dies out, to be replaced by something that falls somewhere between dead feelings and comfortable co-existence.

The paper, an analysis of 25 studies on relationship satisfaction, shows that couples can maintain the “intensity, engagement and sexual chemistry” for the long run in their relationships. The most interesting conclusion reached by researchers is that the passionate Hollywood version of relationships has some of the characteristics of romantic love, but falls short of the real deal.

“Romantic love has the intensity, engagement and sexual chemistry that passionate love has, minus the obsessive component,” the lead author of the paper, Bianca P. Acevedo, said in a news release. “Passionate or obsessive love includes feelings of uncertainty and anxiety. This kind of love helps drive the shorter relationships but not the longer ones.”

Researchers looked at 10 studies of couples married a decade or more and more than 15 studies of younger adults in short-term relationships. They surmised that people’s assumption that romantic love and passion are the same thing is a faulty one.

The impact of such assumptions have worked against couples in two ways. The belief that time kills romantic love has dissuaded many couples from marrying. At the same time, many seasoned married couples have assumed that the “warm afterglow” type of relationship is the best they can expect after a number of years together. But researchers found that the romantic couples reported greater relationship satisfaction than those with a companionship type marriage.

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So rather than an “either-or” approach to romance and marriage, couples might do better to work toward a “both-and” attitude.

“Couples should strive for love with all the trimmings,” she said. “And couples who’ve been together a long time and wish to get back their romantic edge should know it is an attainable goal that, like most good things in life, requires energy and devotion.”

As someone about to begin his 25th year of marriage, I admit that it’s easy to fall into the comfortable companionship form of matrimony. Sharing life with someone day-after-day for countless thousands of days can lull romance to sleep. You have to be both expectant and intentional if you’re going to create those feelings of excitement that characterized the early phase of your marriage. My wife and I have found a series of resources that have have helped reignite romance and passion into our relationship through the years.

Whether you want to just do something romantic for your spouse or turn up the heat on your relationship, FamilyLife’s Simply Romantic® products are full of great ideas. Tips to Romance Your Husband and Tips to Romance Your Wife give you ideas for everyday, and Simply Romantic Dates on a Dime helps you plan simple dates while staying under budget.

Marriage should be more than just peaceable coexistence. It should be filled with all the love, romance, passion, intimacy and commitment God designed it to have. Don’t settle for less than God’s best.

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