Greta and I — and the kids — had fun watching the movie Bride and Prejudice, which told the story of Jane Austen’s renowned novel Pride and Prejudice, only Bollywood style: the “Elizabeth Bennet” character’s angstings about her parent’s plans to arrange her marriage with an intolerably dull cousin were punctuated with colorful Indian-pop dance numbers. As in the 1813 novel, her parents wanted her to marry for long-term companionship and security, not flash-in-the pan romantic love. While arranged marriages seem a quaint relic in twenty-first century America, they are still quite common in much of the world.
So, do people from regions which prefer arranged marriages “love” differently than people from places where individuals choose their own mates?
Psychologists since Freud have attempted to classify the differences between the stable, practical “love” of arranged marriages and the passionate, intense “love” of teenage flings and grown-up affairs. In 1986, Sternberg created a scale to measure the concept of companionante love (“a warm feeling of affection and tenderness that people feel for those with whom their lives are deeply connected”). In 1993, Hatfield and Rapson developed the Passionate Love Scale, measuring “a hot intense emotion that is characterized as a state of intense longing for union with another.”
Since arranged marriages and the values that surround them are still common in Korea, Jungsik Kim and Elaine Hatfield decided to survey American and Korean students about their attitudes about these two types of love and their relative levels of happiness. Like love, happiness can be divided into two types: life satisfaction (long-term), and positive emotions (short-term). Kim and Hatfield predicted that survey respondents who had high levels of companionate love would also have high life satisfaction, and those with high passionate love would have more positive emotions. Further, they predicted that Koreans would have larger correlations between companionate love and life satisfaction than Americans, while Americans would have larger correlations between passionate love and positive emotions than Koreans.
Two hundred and seventeen students in the U.S. and 182 students in Korea completed the survey, which measured not only the levels of passionate and companionate love, but also life satisfaction and positive and negative affect.
As they predicted, Kim and Hatfield found a significant positive correlation between level of companionate love and life satisfaction (β=.34), while there was no correlation between passionate love and life satisfaction. Similarly, while both passionate love and companionate love were positively correlated with positive affect, the correlation between passionate love and positive affect (β=.21) was significantly larger than the correlation between companionate love and positive affect (β=.12). So passionate lovers tended to be happier on an immediate emotional level, while companionate lovers tended to be happier on a long-term, life satisfaction level.
But Kim and Hatfield found no significant differences between the cultures in the relationship between love and happiness. Koreans didn’t appear to favor companionate love, and Americans didn’t seem to favor passionate love. In fact, the only such relationship they did find was with gender: women had a larger correlation between companionate love and life satisfaction than men did, across cultures, while men had a larger correlation between passionate love and positive affect than women, again, across cultures.
Kim and Hatfield believe that the lack of a difference between the U.S. and Korea might be due to the rapid Westernization of Korea, or to the young adults in their sample. Perhaps if this study had been conducted a few decades earlier, the results would have been different.
Kim, J., & Hatfield, E. (2004). Love types and subjective well-being: A cross-cultural study. Social Behavior and Personality, 32(2), 173-182.