Similarities and differences of how we define romantic love: A cross-cultural analysis

Cross-Cultural Analysis of Models of Romantic Love Among U.S. Residents, Russians, and Lithuanians

From Cross-Cultural Research

This study examines how men and women define romantic love.  It uses surveys to find some commonalities and differences among residents in the US, Lithuania and Russia. Researchers found that residents of all three countries listed “being together” as their top requirement of romantic love. From there, the notion of romantic love seemed to diverge with the US respondents having different views than Lithuanian and Russian counterparts. The importance of friendship in romantic love and the time it takes to perceive falling in love are two key differences in how people see romantic love. The idea that romantic love was temporary and inconsequential was frequently cited by Lithuanian and Russian respondents unlike the Americans. Expressions of ‘comfort/love’ and ‘friendship’ were frequently cited by the U.S. informants and seldom to never by the Eastern European informants. Results suggested it takes Americans longer fall in love.


Our goal was to detect and describe a common “core” structure of romantic love and to also discover and explain variations due to cultural or gender differences between three national cultures: the United States, Russia, and Lithuania. Our sample consisted of 262 American males, 362 American females, 166 Russian males, 130 females, 102 Lithuanian males, and 135 Lithuanian females—a total of 1,157 people. Our analysis was derived from (a) a 14-item questionnaire; (b) freelist responses to the question “What do you associate with romantic love?” and (c) interview and focus group data. The questionnaire was devised by employing well-known quotations about romantic love that cover a range of feelings and perceptions of love. Our results showed that there is no overall consensus but there was cross-cultural consensus on five variables: intrusive thinking, happiness; passion; altruism; and improve well-being of partner. In the freelist portion, we also found some significant similarities—particularly the desire to be together was ranked first across all three cultures. However key cultural differences were found. Friendship and comfort love were critical features of romantic love for the U.S. sample, but nonexistent for the Lithuanian and Russian samples. Conversely, the latter two samples saw love as “unreal,” “temporary,” and “a fairytale.” These cultural differences were explored through interviews and shown to serve as different cultural frames used to interpret similar emotional complexes. We suggest that the differences do not affect the evolutionary functions of romantic love and are adaptations to different types of social organizations. The etic-emic approach used in this cross-cultural research provides for a more nuanced, ethnographically sound, and cross-culturally valid description and analysis of the form and function of romantic love cross culturally than does either approach by itself.

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Article details
de Munck, V., Korotayev, A., de Munck, J., & Khaltourina, D. (2011). Cross-Cultural Analysis of Models of Romantic Love Among U.S. Residents, Russians, and Lithuanians Cross-Cultural Research, 45 (2), 128-154 DOI: 10.1177/1069397110393313

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