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Online Dating Magazine > Columns > Editorials > November 2009

Editorial:
We Need Your Help with the Modern Love Study

by James Houran, Ph.D.

(November 2009) The Problem with Love…

What could be more simple and straightforward than being in love?  Romance novels, love songs and Hollywood movies make it seem so easy to understand... “boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love and boy and girl live happily ever after.” That’s the fantasy version of love. The reality behind love is still a bit of a mystery.

Although the word “compatible” means “well-matched,” social scientists have long struggled with precisely defining the idea of romantic compatibility. The four major theories of love [i.e., Rubin’s (1970) “Love” and “Liking;” Hatfield and Walster’s (1978) “Passionate Love” and “Companionate Love;” Lee’s (1973) “Eros” and “Storge” love attitudes; and Sternberg’s (1986) Triangular Theory with “Intimacy,” “Passion,” and “Decision/Commitment components] all conceptualize compatibility in terms of the interplay of at least two types of love: Erotic Love — love closely associated with sexual desire for a partner; and Companionate Love — which represents friendship-type platonic love towards a partner. A relatively recent examination of the academic studies on love questionnaires based on these four theories supported the existence of Erotic Love versus Companionate Love, although Companionate Love appeared to be a more ambiguous construct than Erotic Love. However, the ambiguity really does not end there.

 

The problem with the bulk of the academic research to date has been that the mathematical foundations of the questionnaires used to study these theories of love often fail to meet professional testing standards. Moreover, there seems to be a trend to separate these theories of love from the idea of relationship quality (satisfaction). In other words, these concepts are seen to be distinct rather than inherently part of the same overall experience of a romantic relationship. I think this trend makes no sense. From my studies of relationships, committed, romantic relationships involve both the experience of love (erotic and companionate types) and the psychological and emotional elements that define strong satisfaction. That is, it is my view that theories of love must include elements that speak to relationship satisfaction and vice versa.

 Advancing a Scientific Understanding of Loving Relationships…
To help resolve some of the issues and ambiguities above, my team -- supported by Online Dating Magazine -- has launched a new study of the factors that determine relationship and satisfaction. We also want to explore whether couples who meet online have the same or better quality of relationship as compared to couples who meet through more traditional methods. It comes as no surprise that the media is increasingly challenging the claims of dating websites that online matching methods produce high quality relationships for singles. In fact, the debate continues around the world as to whether online dating is really effective at creating successful long-term relationships. Therefore, this study will measure different aspects of committed, romantic relationships in both heterosexual and homosexual relationships and then determine whether relationship satisfaction and stability is different for couples who meet online compared to couples who meet using traditional methods.

It may all seem elementary, but the harsh reality is that this type of study has never been conducted before. Plus, a major goal of the research is to create the most comprehensive and valid questionnaire of relationship quality in the academic field. The academic study of long-term compatibility is still in its infancy, but this project aims to bring cutting edge analysis to the question of what really defines a successful relationship, regardless of sexual orientation or how couples meet. The results will help science refine current theories of love and attachment, create more precise matching algorithms for online dating sites and inform clinicians on how to better help distressed couples.

How You Can Help…
A great thing about this new study is that YOU can help!  Anyone who is currently in a committed relationship, or who has been in a committed relationship in the recent past, is eligible to participate in the study. Participants are asked to respond to a series of questions about their current or most recent serious relationship. The study will run through November 2009, and the basic results will be released shortly thereafter. The survey has approximately 130 questions, but it takes on average only about 12 minutes to complete. We never asked your name, and your specific responses will remain completely confidential. Please help us in this important study and encourage your friends and family members to take part as well.

The survey may be accessed via the link below:

Begin survey:  http://lovestudy.yolasite.com/

 


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