Europeans Fall in Love More Quickly Than Americans, Study Finds

a happy couple smiling
Americans frequently cited "friendship" and "comfort/love" as requirements for romantic love, but Lithuanian and Russian participants either seldom or never mentioned these requirements, the study shows. (Image credit: stock.xchng)

Americans take longer to fall in love than their Eastern European counterparts, according to a new study. The findings also showed that Americans frequently cited friendship as a key part of romantic love, while Russians and Lithuanians rarely mentioned it.

The study found that about 90 percent of Lithuanians reported falling in love within a month of meeting one another, with 39 percent falling in love within a matter of days. By comparison, 58 percent of American participants indicated they fell in love within two months to a year.

To see how different cultures view and practice romantic love, the researchers surveyed 1,157 adults from the United States, Russia and Lithuania. Participants were given a 14-item questionnaire meant to gauge how they perceived romantic love, and also asked to write a freelist answering the question, "What do you associate with romantic love?" Group interviews were also conducted.

The list responses showed that most of the Eastern European participants viewed romantic love as fleeting, but this was not the case for Americans. [See top 10 lists from all three cultures]

"The idea that romantic love was temporary and inconsequential was frequently cited by Lithuanian and Russian informants, but not by U.S. informants," the researchers write in the journal Cross-Cultural Research. The Eastern Europe participants also referred to romantic love as "a stage," "unreal" and a "fairytale."

Furthermore, while Americans frequently cited "friendship" and "comfort/love" as requirements for romantic love, other participants either seldom or never mentioned these requirements. In fact, the word "friendship" is absent from the more than 500 terms elicited from the Eastern European samples.

"Friendship speaks of a real and substantive relationship; friends are not temporary," the researchers write. "Thus it seems to reason that with friendship come other qualities that are missing or infrequently cited in the Eastern European sample, but are frequently cited in the U.S. sample  — 'honesty,' 'content' and 'comfort.'"

There were some similarities among the American, Russian and Lithuanian responses. All three groups rated "being together," "sexual passion" and "a state of emotional arousal-happiness/joy" as features of romantic love. "Equality" and "sex" were also two main features mentioned by the groups.

The study was carried out by scientists at the State University of New York at New Paltz and Russia's Moscow State University for the Humanities.

You can follow LiveScience writer Remy Melina on Twitter @remymelina. Follow LiveScience for the latest in science news and discoveries on Twitter @livescience  and on Facebook.

Remy Melina was a staff writer for Live Science from 2010 to 2012. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Communication from Hofstra University where she graduated with honors.