How do I love thee? Psychologists count the ways

Published 05 August 2009

romanticFor millennia, poets, playwrights, and even the odd pop singer have been trying to tie down with words that most elusive of subjects, romantic love. Now psychologists at the University of New England are taking the scientific approach, in a new study that seeks to identify — and name — the underlying characteristics of romantic relationships.

UNE researchers are seeking at least 400 men and women to respond anonymously to a questionnaire asking them to describe their romantic relationships.

The researchers will then use factor analysis to identify groupings of descriptors that might make up the “building blocks” of romantic relationships.

The study would break new ground by focusing on the qualities of the relationship, rather than the individuals in the relationship, according to Dr John Malouff, the psychologist leading the study.

“The key factors that make up romantic relationships are not really something that’s been looked at by psychologists to date,” Dr Malouff said. “We know a lot about personality, and the characteristics that define individuals. What we don’t know much about are the characteristics that define relationships, especially romantic ones. That’s what this study is trying to find out.”

Dr. Malouff said understanding relationships was important, because their success or otherwise had such a big impact on our lives.

“We know that the times in life when we are most upset are often when we’ve had an argument with a spouse or a lover,” Dr. Malouff said.

“Our hope is that by identifying the key characteristics of romantic relationships, we may then be able to help people improve their relationships, make them longer lasting and more satisfying.”

People interested in participating in the study should go to or contact Hans Receveur at

Press contact: Dr John Malouff on (02) 6773 3776 or Leon Braun (UNE public relations) on (02) 6773 3771.