This is why women experience nosedive in romantic love while men don't

Woman with small child doing housekeeping while man sitting in couch
A study suggests that women tend to lose feelings of romantic love towards their male partners earlier due to certain distractions. (Getty Images)

As Shakespeare once wrote in a Midsummer’s Night Dream, “The course of true love never did run smooth”. Now, research shows that the course is a truly bumpy ride, particularly for women in long-term, heterosexual relationships.

A study conducted by Dr Saurabh Bhargava, a professor of economics at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, suggests that women see a dip in feelings of romantic love much earlier in a relationship than men.

The study, published in the journal of the Association for Psychological Science, tracked the emotions of nearly 3,900 adults who ranged from the recently engaged to others who had been married for many years.

Participants were asked to report how they felt, who they were with and what they were doing every 30 minutes for 10 days through their phone.

The findings revealed how women and men experience degrees of romantic love differently over the course of a relationship, with men experiencing a “less pronounced reduction in partner love across cohorts”.

Bhagarva then divided the data into two groups to compare them. One group comprised participants who had been engaged or married for under two years and the other for at least three years.

He found that, amongst wives who have been in longer-term relationships, the frequency at which they experience feelings of romantic love falls by nearly 60% compared to women in newer relationships.

Couple working from home together - Italy, Lombardy, Milan - lockdown, smartwoking, smart business concept
Women see a sharp decline in feelings of romantic love the longer they stay in a relationship, while men don't experience such a significant dip at all. (Getty Images)

In stark contrast, men don’t experience a similarly significant dip in romantic love, with the frequency of the emotion falling only by 0.4%.

The study also measured degrees of ‘passion’, dubbed ‘excited love’, and found that the pattern repeated itself. Women in longer relationships found these feelings falling by nearly 80% compared to those in the earlier stages of their romance, while it fell by a much smaller 30% among men.

This may be attributed to the end of the honeymoon period. Last year, research by ITVX found that the feeling of giddiness that often accompanies falling in love tends to come to an end after around nine months of being together.

But why do women experience such a sharp fall in these specific feelings, which are often considered to be crucial to fan the flames of a relationship? While there are no definitive answers, the study does suggest that certain things in women’s lives could be diverting their feelings, while men don’t appear to have the same distractions.

Despite unequal household labour receiving lots of attention in recent years, women are still shouldering much of the burden when it comes to chores and cooking as relationships mature, while men “spend increasingly more time relaxing and napping”, reports The Times.

Childcare may also contribute to women’s feelings of love being channelled elsewhere. Bhagarva told the publication that, when children are added into a relationship, it may change how women experience love.

Watch: Meet the couple who tackle house clean in unison in oddly satisfying time-lapses

The fact that women take on a bigger share of invisible labour - also known as a mental load - was further proven through data published by Starling Bank last year, which found that 72% of British women think they do the majority of household chores.

Other studies have found that the mental load affects women disproportionately, particularly mothers, which suggests men should play an active role in sharing the burden so that both partners can enjoy a more balanced relationship.

While the data may initially paint a pessimistic picture for women who want to stay in long term relationships, Bhagarva said that the decline in feelings of love is not necessarily cause for concern.

The study found that, in the early parts of a relationship, women are much more likely than men to report feeling moments of love.

And it seems that seven years is the sweet spot, as this is when both wives and husbands were equally likely to report feeling love while spending time with one another.

Bhagarva added: “I think there is an optimistic interpretation of the data - even though romantic passion and romantic love decline, they do persist.”

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