Understanding the Triangular Theory of Love

Understanding the Triangular Theory of Love


Maslow posits that basic needs in life are safety and physiological needs, with love and belonging following closely behind. Love is unquestionably the product of some chemical interaction in the brain, but this does not change the fact that love does play a role in the ecosystem’s survival by promoting cooperation that grows communities, individual support for one another, and reproduction for the survival of species.

Love can be found in all of these relationships: the bond between parents and their kids, the bond between peers, the romantic relationship between two people, or the bond formed when people form close, lifelong social connections. Like the scientists have investigated the biological foundation of love and poets have defined it with their poetic mastery; psychologists too have proposed numerous theories in an attempt to explain love Sternberg’s theory is among the most widely accepted of them.

What is the Love Triangle Theory?

Robert Sternberg created the triangular theory of love, which he applied to interpersonal relationships.

The Three Areas of Love

According to Stenberg’s triangular theory of love, love is based on three domains:

1 Passion (physical allure)

The drives that result in romance, physical attraction, sexual consummation, and other related phenomena in romantic relationships are referred to as the passion component. Therefore, the sources of motivation and other types of arousal that result in the experience of passion in a romantic relationship are included in the scope of the passion component.

2. Emotional closeness, or intimacy

It is the feeling of being close and connected in a romantic relationship. It encompasses the emotions that lead to the warmth of any relationship.

3. Commitment (the choice to remain in a relationship or the dedication to do so).

Commitment, or the choice to stay in a relationship, is a decision to keep that relationship going. It can be stated that it is a decision to maintain love. Sternberg (1986) argues that the three fundamental elements of love are Intimacy, Passion, and Commitment. These three elements interact in different ways to create different types of love.

Also Read: How to Start a Mental Health Conversation for your loved ones

Eight Kinds of Love

These three fundamental elements (intimacy, passion, and commitment) interact in different ways to create eight different types of love:

1. Nonlove
  • The first type of love is nonlove. It is seen when a relationship does not include any of the three fundamental elements of love: intimacy, passion or commitment.
  • Sternberg (1986) argues that casual interactions in our day-to-day lives are examples of nonlove. Typically, people would never express love for a brief interaction.
2. Intimacy (=emotional connection)
  • The intimacy element of love is present in a relationship, but the passion and decision/commitment elements are absent, which is the second type of love that Sternberg describes as liking.
  • When one is emotionally connected without the feelings of intense passion or long-term commitment, is what Sternberg defines as liking.
  • For example, friendships.

Also Read: The Five Love Languages: How People Express and Receive Love

3. Infatuation (=passion)
  • Sternberg presents infatuated love as the third type of love, characterized by the presence of only passion in a relationship, but the absence of intimacy and decision/commitment components.
  • It’s a sensation that arises when someone sees their crush, meaning that they are only physically drawn to each other.
  • This kind develops very quickly, without time for any intimate feelings to grow or for a commitment to be made.
4. Empty Love (=commitment)
  • All that’s left in empty relationships is commitment—the choice to love someone and the will to keep loving them.
  • Devoid of intimacy or passion, commitment is the hallmark of empty love. Strong loves can occasionally turn into hollow loves. The opposite could also happen. An arranged marriage, for example, might begin empty and eventually blossom into something else entirely.
  • While a stronger bond may even weaken into an empty love, the bond can sometimes start at this point. For instance, arranged unions.
  • The decision/commitment aspect of love is present in a relationship, but the intimacy and passion aspects are absent, which is the fourth type of love that Sternberg describes.
5. Romantic Love (=intimacy + passion)
  • A romantic relationship is one in which there is no long-term commitment, but shares an emotional and physical passion.
  • Deep talks between partners in this kind of relationship enable them to learn personal information about one another. They take pleasure in passionate and loving sex. These couples might be in a situation where they are unsure about their long-term commitment or their future goals.
  • Before the parties have committed to a long-term relationship, romantic love can also be found in the early stages of some long-term relationships.

Also Read: The Real Meaning of Self-Love

6. Companionate Love (=intimacy+ commitment)
  • When people are emotionally invested and devoted.
  • Intimate but committed love together is known as companionate love. This kind of relationship is having little to no sexual desire, it is stronger than friendship.
  • For instance, the relationship between close friends and family.
  • This kind of love can also be found in unions where the couple still has a close bond or intense affection even though the passion and spark have faded.
7. Fatuous Love (=commitment+passion)
  • Intimacy or liking is absent from this kind of love, but commitment and passion are present. For instance, when someone enters a marriage or engagement with great passion but no emotional closeness.
  • Sternberg defines fatuous love as the type of love that we sometimes identify with Hollywood or wild courtships, where a couple meets on Day X, proposes two weeks later, and marries the following month; in other words, a commitment is made based solely on passion without the balancing factor of close intimacy.
  • Relationships lacking the intimate element of love are more likely to fail because the intimate component of love takes time to develop.

Also Read: One-Sided Love and Its Impact on Mental Health

8. Consummate Love (=intimacy+ passion+ commitment)
  • It is the complete form of love, encompassing all the aspects of intimacy, commitment, and passion. Most people visualize marriage or a spouse relationship as their ideal. The strongest and longest-lasting kind, according to Stenberg, is an uncommon kind of love.
  • People who are truly in love are unable to imagine their lives without their partners. Together, they are able to overcome their differences and deal with stressors.
  • Aside from romantic relationships, parents’ unconditional love for their children is a common illustration of consummate love.

A Study on Sternberg’s Triangular Theory of Love

A study was conducted to test predictions made from Sternberg’s (1986) Triangular Theory of Love. Two hundred and four adults (eleven females and ninety-three males) from St. Petersburg, Florida, who were in heterosexual romantic relationships, answered questionnaires measuring a number of constructs, including intimacy, passion, and commitment—the three main elements of the theory. Three times, participants answered the items assessing the components of the Triangular Theory: once to reflect their own feelings (self), once to reflect their perceptions of their partners’ feelings (perceived other), and once to indicate how they would like their ideal partner to feel (ideal other). The Triangular Theory received mixed reviews, according to the results. When comparing respondents in married versus single relationships, those in more serious relationships self-reported higher levels of commitment.

Only in females did the predicted decline in passion over time materialize, and in longer-term relationships, intimacy levels did not generally show the predicted decline. The strongest and most reliable indicator of relationship satisfaction, particularly in the longest-lasting partnerships, was commitment. To sum up, love is a collection of attitudes, actions, and feelings connected to intense feelings of intimacy, passion, and commitment. When one element of a relationship is neglected or overextended—for example, romantic love when commitment is lacking or companionate love when passion is absent-it can throw the relationship out of balance. The idea states that when all three elements are met, “true” love—that is, consummate love-is attained.

The purpose of writing this article is to give the readers useful and engaging information.

You can read some interesting books on love:

Leave feedback about this

  • Rating