Elizabeth A. Schoenfeld and Carrie A. Bredow, both graduate students; and Ted L. Huston, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin, said women in Western societies are often considered more adept than men at expressing love in romantic relationships.
Although scholars have argued this view of love gives short shrift to men's ways of showing love, the widely embraced premise that men and women "love differently" has rarely been examined empirically, the researchers said.
The researchers used data collected at four time points during 13 years of marriage. The authors examined whether love was associated with different behaviors for husbands and wives.
Multilevel analyses revealed, counter to theoretical expectations, both genders were equally likely to show love through affection.
However, the study, scheduled to be published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, found whereas wives expressed love by engaging in fewer negative or antagonistic behaviors, husbands showed love by initiating sex, sharing leisure activities and doing household work together with their wives.
Overall, the findings indicate men and women show their love in more nuanced ways than cultural stereotypes suggest, the researchers said.