The subjective experience of partnership love: a Q methodological study

Simon Watts, Paul Stenner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The social scientific literature seems increasingly to accept that defining partnership or `romantic' love in a singular and timeless fashion might not be a realisable task (Fehr, 1988). One clearly discernible response to this situation takes the form of a turn towards studying the subjective experience of partnership love. The work of Marston, Hecht, Manke, McDaniel, and Reeder (1998) and Sternberg (1995, 1996, 1998) are highlighted as theoretical and methodological exemplars in this regard. Each successfully abstracts a range of cultural conceptions of partnership love from the subjective experiences of their participants. It is argued, however, that the subjective experiences of the participants themselves, and particularly the holistic or Gestalt nature of those experiences, are left behind in the process of abstraction. This new research seeks to rectify that situation. An alternative (but nonetheless related) approach to the study of partnership love is duly outlined and an illustrative Q-Methodological study is reported which reveals eight distinct subjective experiences of partnership love at work amongst our participants (N=50). Each of these holistic experiences is presented in the form of a narrative account. These accounts are then discussed and situated in relation to existing academic, cultural and historical conceptions of partnership love.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)85-107
Number of pages23
JournalBritish Journal of Social Psychology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2005


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