The Difference Between Passionate Love and Companionate Love

Romantic love is widely misunderstood, especially if you’re younger than 40.

This is because children are typically raised believing in very idealistic views of romance, always searching for “the one.” And if, and when, we find “the one” we assume that we will marry in bliss and live happily ever after.

We go through life clinging to many false ideas about love and marriage, but reality doesn’t always coincide with these beliefs. Pain, Irritation, and loss contrast with the usual romantic notions we all have of love.

To understand love we have to first understand that there are two types of love: Passionate and Companionate.

Passionate love is the love you quickly fall into.

Love researchers Ellen Berscheid and Elaine Walster define passionate love as a “wildly emotional state in which tender and sexual feelings, elation and pain, anxiety and relief, altruism and jealousy coexist in a confusion of feelings.”

Companionate love, on the other hand, is the love that grows slowly over time as two people begin to care for and trust one another.

Bersheid and Walster define companionate love as “the affection we feel for those with whom our lives are deeply intertwined with.”

Companioate love is less exciting than passionate love, but it’s longer lasting.

In many universities around the world, professors will actually tell you that love is a social construction, but the inherent need to be with someone is part of our genetic makeup.

Being with someone special is so important that the brain even has its own mechanism for forming and regulating relationships called the attachment system.

Our attachment system is trying to make sure we remain close to our loved ones by inducing us to feel certain emotions and by making us behave in certain ways.

When your partner stays out late and doesn’t check in, you may begin to feel anxious. This is your attachment system trying to reestablish contact with your partner by inducing you to feel anxious.

Your partner’s actions may also make you feel jealous, worried, and maybe obsessive, but when you begin consistently feeling like this, you start equating the anxiety, the preoccupation, and the bursts of joy with love.

However, what you’re really doing is mistaking an activated attachment system with passion.

People will reason to themselves that this must be what love is, “I feel jealous when my partner stays out late at night, so that must mean I’m in love with this person,” but this is NOT true love.

In order to thrive and develop as human beings, we need a secure base to derive strength and comfort from. We have to feel calm in our relationship because true love really means peace of mind.

As the old saying goes,

“Still waters run deep.”

This is companionate love.

If you’re someone who defines true love as eternal passion, then you will never find it because this is biologically impossible.

Anything that you do that you find pleasurable releases dopamine in your brain. So when you take drugs for example, you get huge surges of dopamine, but your brain will naturally build a tolerance to it. As a result, you have to take more drugs to stay elated.

Love works the same way.

Passionate love is a drug, meaning it has to wear off eventually because nobody can stay high forever.

If passionate love runs its course, there will be a day when it weakens. Usually one person in the relationship will feel the change first. This is where break ups tend to happen.

Love is, without question, life’s greatest experience. True love exists, but it is not passion that lasts forever.

True love, the love that under grids strong marriages, is simply strong companionate love, with some added passion, between two people who choose to be committed to each other and who choose to love one another each and every single day when they wake up and when they go to sleep.

In the long run passionate love is fleeting, while companionate love can last a lifetime.


23 thoughts on “The Difference Between Passionate Love and Companionate Love

    1. I’m glad you liked it, I appreciate that a lot!:) And I do actually. So companionate love and passionate love are two very distinct processes that happen separately from one another. Companionate love never grows into passionate love, but companionate love can grow out of passionate love. Typically when couples come to the end of their passionate love cycle, aka the honeymoon phase, they break up because they think their love for each other has faded away, but if they would’ve pushed through that and given companionate love a chance to grow then maybe they could’ve had a healthy relationship with each other still. This is hard for some people to do though. Thank you again:) I’m really glad you liked it:)

      Liked by 1 person

  1. This was an interesting post. You know that phase that they call a ‘honeymoon phase’in the relationship? I think that’s the phase you are referring to as passionate love. When you are constantly trying to look good for the other, you are trying to impress the other with the way you speak to the way you cook. But I agree that it eventually wears off! How long can you hide behind layers of makeup? You have to show your true self at some point and that may not be as good-looking or charming…but it is way more practical at that stage. Relationships that are made of both people who are comfortable with the practical self of the other probably stand the test of time..

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Great post, Vincent Carlos! Thanks so much for sharing this. Your posts lately call out to me. 🙂

    I had not come across Companionate love until today and thanks to Google, I found the Triangular Theory of Love. I always felt that I was the only strange one who believes in “that true love”, although not my whole life as I was young and naive once.

    Marriage in youth, more often than not (I think), ends in divorce, and in the midst of my divorce over 15 years ago, I turned to my Catholic Church (despite not getting married in church). Our priest explained the concept of committed love (or true commitment), which is the love that “bears it out to the edge of doom” as per Shakespeare. The gist of it is your companionate love – every morning when you wake, whatever mood you are in, whatever quarrel exists or ensues, no matter how frustrating or irritating your spouse is, you commit to continue to love your partner and stay in that relationship. My (2nd) husband thinks it cannot be love as there is no passion in it but it has worked for me in all my relationships following my divorce from my 1st husband.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. hey Anne! I have a few comments on this. So actually according to research, the happiest and best marriages are actually those who marry young. The best marriages in fact are those when the couple were childhood friends. Even if you look at millionaires, the majority of millionaires marry when they’re young, way before they’re even a millionaire.

      I just want to clarify committed love also. I don’t believe that you should stick through a marriage just because you committed to it at some point in your life. If the person is the wrong person and it’s clear that you shouldn’t be with that person then you should move on. I don’t think that you should stay with someone just because you committed to that person. You shouldn’t leave right away obviously. You should try to work it out, but if you can’t get along after doing everything that you can do, then maybe it’s time to move on.

      just my thoughts of course. Let me know what you think?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi Vincent. Thanks for your response.

        I think childhood friends work. However, if you marry young, out of a whirlwind romance and based on physical attraction and chemical reaction in response to raging hormones, it can be different. The thing with youth, as a generalization of course, is they’re not grown up enough to know for sure what they want. But, about the millionaires, I am convinced that a millionaire’s or future millionaire’s brain is wired differently otherwise, those of us who work hard will all be millionaires. This different wiring must be the same reason why marrying young will work. I’m only hypothesizing. Maybe we need to look at the marriages from a young age more widely. We see more the successful millionaires’ marriages because they are known and when they speak about it, it is addressed basically to the world at large. What about the hundreds or thousands of unknown people who married young and divorced? There are many other aspects that affect marriages. I guess it’s safe to say that with so many factors, although we may generalize, it will be difficult unless there’s a study involving all ages, all nationalities, all religions, education, upbringing, etc.

        By the way, I didn’t know most millionaires marry young. I must check that out. Maybe I can get tips for my 2 grown up children. This is a very interesting point you’ve shared. Thank you.

        Regarding the commitment, apologies, I didn’t expound clearly. I mean being committed as opposed to taking the easy way out offered by divorce. If I’m not so misinformed, in South Africa, if there is no money and there are no assets to fight over, couples can get divorced in a wink of an eye, for a fraction of what a pair of Manolo Blahnik shoes will cost? It’s sad. I am first to say get divorced if there is even a slight sign of possible abuse – physical, emotional, psychological or mental. I even contemplate on leaving a man if he has an attitude while he earns half of what I earn. No. I’m a feminist even if I don’t want to admit it. I will fight anyone who even implies that women are 2nd class citizen or can be treated differently in a negative way just because the husband does the treating. My commitment is staying even if he’s starting to have a little beer belly, or get wrinkles, or fart a bit more, or remain the stay at home husband instead of being the breadwinner because he is a good father, or he’s not as hot as some other guys, or even if some people in my circle believe that I can do better because surely there’s someone out there who’s smart, rich, handsome and kind, like Brendan Fraser’s character in Blast from the Past, and he’s waiting for me. It sounds superficial of me, I acknowledge that, but that’s how shallow some of the reasons for divorce are. We must be committed against that. We must only let go of what we have to put up with contradict/s our own fundamental values. I always say that life is a trade off. We can’t have everything but we must never sacrifice what’s important. Sometimes, we don’t have to have both money and good looks, provided a good heart and brilliant mind exist.

        Thank you so much for allowing me to give my opinion here. I am very much open to hearing more. I’m one of those older people whose thirst for new knowledge or varying opinions must be quenched… 😊 Even when I pursue a debate in my quest to be heard, I like to hear the other side, too.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I agree with you that many young people marry “in the heat of the moment” or that they marry too soon and as a result end in divorce because they made a hasty decision. I just wanted to share the idea that typically the couples who marry young and stick it out generally do better than couples who marry later in life. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t some couples who married later who aren’t happier than most couples who married early obviously.

        I agree with your view on commitment. Marriage really is about trade offs and what you’re willing to give up. You can’t get everything you want in your partner so leaving for the shallow reasons you mentioned isn’t the right idea, but leaving as a result of some kind of abuse is certainly okay.

        and being feminist isn’t a bad thing so you shouldn’t be scared to call yourself one:)

        I appreciate the thought out comment you wrote as well as our discussion Anne:) thank you:)

        Liked by 1 person

  3. passionate love is not always about sex either. Passion starts in the head and the rest of you follows. From the standpoint of this 71 year old there will always be passion in a long term relationship. Not on a daily basis but it’s still there. Companionate love is the glue that keeps you together once life has happened 30 years down the road and you’ve both grown in mind, body and spirit but the respect and love is still there. The common goal is still there and the mutual respect and admiration for your partner is still there. You will find these feelings especially with couples where and illness or something else makes physical sex impossible and your commitment is even stronger but your minds lets you remember those special passionate times that you share as memories and still smile and laugh when you talk about them and find yourself reaching out to physically touch your partner. Nothing is life is wasted unless you chose to waste it. Even the hard times make every thing special and bonding..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. passionate love isn’t defined by sex. that wasn’t the definition of it.

      the last two lines you said are very true though. I agree that tackling difficult times with your significant other can be a great way to become emotionally closer to your partner so I like that:)


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