A Review of ? ?I Love You More Today Than Yesterday?: Romantic Partner?s Perceptions of Changes in Love and Related Affect Over Time?As intimate relationships grow over time, the romantic partners? feelings toward each other will most likely change. In this four year, five wave, longitudinal study intimate couples provided reports on their perceived changes of their level of love, satisfaction, and commitment along with contemporaneous scales on the same attributes at the end of each stage. All the couples were dating at the beginning of this study which makes this study unique because there have been very few studies made on the ?temporal course of love? (Sprecher). The results of this investigation were based upon the contemporaneous, actual, changes and the perceived changes throughout the relationship and the relationship between both the perceived and actual changes.
In the past theories said that love and related phenomena increase early in the relation ship, but then level off and decrease over time. This is backed by Huesmann?s principal of learning theory which states that over time a partner?s behaviors and presence become less important. As time passes the level of love lowers because the relationship prohibits the ability of self-expansion (Aron and Aron, 1986). On the contrast Murstien?s 1987 stage model of relationships says that as relationships progress over time, the love and intimacy should increase also. Most studies show that there is very little change in feeling throughout a dating relationship, and an increase in positive feelings as the couples got married. These longitudinal studies have been short-term studies over relationships and their change in feelings.
This study was conducted to examine three aspects of relationships. The first aspect of the investigation was an examination of the perceived positive change in a romantic relationship. The researcher?s first hypothesis said that the perceived change in positive feelings would increase over time, and that the perceived changes would be greater than the actual changes in the relationships. Sprecher also wanted to examine the perceptions of change in feelings with couples that broke up during the study, so that she could provide a comparison to the couples that stayed together. Her second hypothesis stated that the couples that breakup will report that there was a decline in love and accompanying feelings leading up to the breakup because the of negative changes in the relationship. The researcher?s third goal was to determine the relationship between individual beliefs about the romantic relationship, and their effects on the relationship. The third hypothesis was that positive perceptions about the couples increase in love, and accompanying feelings would greatly increase the chance of positive perceptions of their love in the future; also causing a greater chance that the couple would remain together in future.
The study consisted of 101 heterosexual romantically involved couples attending an unnamed university. The sample was chosen from couples that responded to ads in the school paper, posters, and classroom announcements. Of the 101 couples 98% were white, and 87% came from middle class families. The couples were given an introductory questionnaire in the fall of 1988 (Time 1), and follow-ups were given in the spring of 1989 (Time 2), the spring summer of 1990 (Time 3), 1991 (Time 4), and 1992 (Time5). After couples broke up they were given a final questionnaire and removed from the survey. By the studies ending 59% of the sample had broken up, and of the 41% left 71% were married.
As stated each of the couples were given a self-administered questionnaire at Time 1. The questionnaires were given separately at the university campus; the follow-ups were either mailed out to couples or taken on the campus by students still attending the university. The response rate to the investigation was very high even though the highest rate of nonresponse came from couples that had broken up (14%).
The questionnaire for Time 2 and each of the following time periods contained questions that would measure each of the couples? perceived changes in their relationship (ex. ?How do you think the following has changed ?if at all- in the past year? [Sprecher]). The items that the researcher focused on were: love, commitment, and satisfaction; each of these were graded on a seven point scale with a one meaning a decrease, a seven meaning an increase, and a four meaning no change. An index of perceived change was created using the mean response to the three items (Time 2 alpha coefficient .93 for men and .84 for women). The index was also separated by gender, and the higher the score on the index meant that the couples had felt that their feelings toward each other had increased. The researchers also used the Braiker and Kelly love scale and a seven-point response scale for each item (Time 1 alpha .85 for men and .81 for women). They also used items from the Lund commitment scale along with a seven-point scale for each item (Time 1 alpha .89 for men and .71 for women). The Hendrick Relationship scale was also used to measure each couples perceived satisfaction; this was accompanied by a five-point scale for each item (Time1 alpha .81 for men and .75 for women).
The contemporaneous, or actual, index was created by using the one item from each of the perception scales that best referred to a specific affect. The three items used were: ?To what extent do you love _____ at this stage?; ?How committed are you to your partner?; and ?In general, how satisfied are you with your partner?. The last question was graded on a five-point scale and multiplied by 1.4 to make it equal the seven point scale the other two items used.
The results of Time 2 showed that all the intact couples (84%) had an increase in love and accompanied feelings on the perceived indexed (mean scores 5.22 for the men and 5.62 for the women). This held true for intact couples of Times 3, 4, and 5. In every wave the mean scores were higher than the midpoint, four. Women?s scores also tended to be higher than men?s throughout the study. Sprecher, however, found that love and its associated feelings did not vary much on the perceived index, and with each stable couple, couples that remained together throughout the study, a consistent positive change occurred after each time period. Also the study showed that men had an actual increase in love throughout the course of the investigation, while women tended not to change much during the survey.
The investigation also proved that couples who broke up during the investigation tended to have a decrease in perceived feelings (mean scores 3.32 for men and 3.44 for women). It also showed that the satisfaction and commitment scores dropped, while the love scores tended to stay at about midpoint. Since the couples did not finish the contemporaneous scale, Sprecher assumes that the couples had a decrease in the actual scales leading up to the breakup.
In the final examinations the researcher looked at the relationship between the perceived and actual indexes. In her first analysis Sprecher found that there was a correlation between the indexes. In her second analysis she used lagged regressions to determine that contemporaneous feelings at Time N and N-1 could predict the perceived feelings at N. The data showed that the perceived index was based on the actual change of N and N-1. In Sprecher?s third analysis she discovered that the index of perceived change N-1 did not predict the index of contemporaneous change in N. This means that positive beliefs do not insure positive change.
The finding did help to prove that Hypothesis 1was corrected. Love and its related feelings increase over time, and the increase was higher than the actual increase. However Sprecher points that the couples? definitions of love may have changed throughout the study. There was a small amount of evidence that suggested that the contemporaneous index increased over time; however it changed very little.
The data also supported Hypothesis 2, partially. The levels of commitment and satisfaction decreased prior to the breakup while levels of love stayed about the same. This suggests that the couples broke up because of discontentment and dissatisfaction, but they still had feelings of love for each other.
The analyzed data sent mixed messages about the validity of Hypothesis 3. It did prove that there was a definite association and between positive perceptions and beliefs and the contemporaneous index. It was also found that positive perceptions often lead to higher levels of love, satisfaction, and commitment. This could however be due to Ross?s theory of emotions, which states that a person in a current state of happiness will likely report an increase in positive feelings. The results could also mean that couples really understand and perceive what they are going through.
Despite the extensive research and effort put into this study it have some problems. One of the main problems was the sample group. The sample group consisted of only heterosexual relationships and did not deal with homosexual relationships or friendships. The sample was also predominantly white and from the middleclass; this excludes upper and lower class citizens along with minorities. The study also tested over extremely long periods of time (at the shortest six months); this may have caused clouded information into the study.
This unique long-term study of relationships has shown that in a stable couple love, satisfaction, and commitment will increase in perception as well as reality. The study also showed that there was a definite connection between the perception of love and the actuality of it. This investigation also brought an insight into couples whom breakup. This investigation is the first long-term study that delves into the perceived and actual changes in people?s romantic relationship.