Changes in older couples’ compassionate love over a year: The roles of gender, health, and attachment avoidance

Allen K. Sabey*, Amy J. Rauer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Although compassionate love has been identified as a key characteristic of healthy relationships, it is unknown how it changes over time. Thus, both self- and spouse-reported compassionate love toward a spouse were assessed from a sample of 64 older married couples to begin to understand the course of compassionate love and to identify predictors of potential changes over a 1-year period. In contrast to prior theoretical and cross-sectional work, results indicated that compassionate love modestly declined over two waves spaced approximately 17 months apart. Although health was largely unrelated to compassionate love, wives’ attachment avoidance emerged as a consistent, negative predictor of compassionate love for both husbands and wives. These preliminary findings raise some concern for older spouses as they transition into more caregiving roles, as the need for compassionate love is theorized to be greater later in life. Future research should focus on replicating these findings in more diverse samples of older adults to capture how compassionate love develops amid the unique challenges associated with aging.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1139-1158
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Social and Personal Relationships
Issue number8
StatePublished - Sep 1 2018


  • Attachment theory
  • compassionate love
  • marriage
  • older adults

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Communication
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science

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