Though most have experienced it in their lives, defining love is challenging. Few researchers have put forth a viable theory on the concept of love. One exception is Sternberg's triangular theory of love, developed in the late 1980s by psychologist Robert Sternberg.
This theory suggests that people can have varying degrees of intimacy, passion, and commitment at any one moment in time. Research has emerged to confirm the value of Sternberg's theory. A 2021 study offered empirical support for the universality of the triangular theory of love.
This article discusses the three components of love that Sternberg described. It also covers the seven different types of love and the components of each type.
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Sternberg’s 3 Components of Love
In Sternberg's theory, the concept of love is a triangle that is made up of three components. Some of these types of love are focused on the love between two people in a romantic or sexual relationship, but these types of love also apply to other forms of interpersonal relationships.
The three components are:
- Intimacy, which involves feelings of closeness, connectedness, and bondedness
- Passion, which involves feelings and desires that lead to physical attraction, romance, and sexual consummation
- Decision/commitment, which involves feelings that lead a person to remain with someone and move toward shared goals
Finding a balance between the physiological need for sex and the need for love is essential, and the complete absence of all three components is categorized as non-love.
A love triangle is not the same thing as the triangular theory of love. In a love triangle, three people may either be involved in a polyamorous relationship or two people may compete for the love of a third person.
Sternberg's 7 Types of Love
The three components of love interact in a systemic manner.The presence of one component or a combination of two or more components create seven kinds of love experiences.
These types of love may vary over the course of a relationship as well. For example, a relationship could begin as passionate love, progress into romantic love, and then eventually reach a state of companionate love.
This type of love is when the intimacy or liking component is present, but feelings of passion or commitment in the romantic sense are missing. Friendship love can be the root of other forms of love.
Infatuation is characterized by feelings of lust and physical passion without liking and commitment. There has not been enough time for a deeper sense of intimacy, romantic love, or consummate love to develop. These may eventually arise after the infatuation phase. The initial infatuation is often very powerful.
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Empty love is characterized by commitment without passion or intimacy.At times, a strong love deteriorates into empty love. The reverse may occur as well.For instance, an arranged marriage may start out empty but flourish into another form of love over time.
Components: Intimacy and Passion
Romantic love bonds people emotionally through intimacy and physical passion.Partners in this type of relationship have deep conversations that help them know intimate details about each other. They enjoy sexual passion and affection. These couples may be at the point where long-term commitment or future plans are still undecided.
Components: Liking and Intimacy
Companionate love is an intimate, but non-passionate sort of love. It includes the intimacy or liking component and the commitment component of the triangle. It is stronger than friendship, because there is a long-term commitment, but there is minimal or no sexual desire.
This type of love is often found in marriages where the passion has died, but the couple continues to have deep affection or a strong bond. This may also be viewed as the love between very close friends and family members.
Components: Commitment and Passion
In this type of love, commitment and passion are presentwhile intimacy or liking is absent. Fatuous love is typified by a whirlwind courtship in which passion motivates a commitment without the stabilizing influence of intimacy.
Often, witnessing this leaves others confused about how the couple could be so impulsive. Unfortunately, such marriages often don't work out. When they do, many chalk the success up to luck.
Components: Intimacy, Passion, and Commitment
Consummate love is made up of all three components and is the total form of love. It represents an ideal relationship. Couples who experience this kind of love have great sex several years into their relationship.They cannot imagine themselves with anyone else. They also cannot see themselves truly happy without their partners.They manage to overcome differences and face stressors together.
Love Is a Verb
According to Sternberg, consummate love may be harder to maintain than it is to achieve, as the components of love must be put into action. Without behavior and expression, passion is lost and love may revert back to the companionate type.
Why Is Sternberg's Triangular Theory of Love Important?
According to Sternberg, the importance of each component of love may differ from person to person and couple to couple. All three components are required for the ideal romantic relationship, but the amount of each component required will differ from one relationship to another, or even over time within a relationship.
Knowing how the components interact may help highlight areas that may need improvement. For example, recognizing that the passion has gone out of your relationship can help you look for ways to rekindle the spark.
Frequently Asked Questions
Based on Sternberg’s triangular theory of love, who is most likely to have a companionate marriage?
Couples who have been together for a long time are the most likely to have companionate love. While the initial passion may have faded, the relationship is still marked by deep intimacy and long-term commitment to one another.
In Sternberg’s triangular theory of love, what distinguishes liking from compassionate love?
Compassionate love is another term for companionate love. According to Sternberg, liking and intimacy are the two components that make up this type of love. It is the lack of passion that distinguishes companionate love from passionate love.
Learn More:What Is Compassionate Love?
How does Sternberg’s triangular theory of love pertain to dating?
Understanding the seven types of love that Sternberg described can help give people who are dating greater insight into their relationships. Being able to recognize which type of love a person is experiencing can help them decide if the relationship has long-term potential.
What type of love is love at first sight?
Love at first sight would qualify as infatuation in Sternberg's triangular theory of love. It is characterized by an immediate and intense attraction to another person. This type of love includes passion, but it lacks the liking and commitment components of love.
As an enthusiast and expert in the field of psychology, particularly focusing on theories of love and interpersonal relationships, my extensive knowledge is rooted in academic studies, research literature, and practical applications. I have delved into various psychological theories, including Robert Sternberg's triangular theory of love, which has significantly contributed to our understanding of the complex nature of love and relationships.
Sternberg's triangular theory of love, developed in the late 1980s, is a cornerstone in the study of love and has gained empirical support over the years. One compelling piece of evidence validating Sternberg's theory is a 2021 study that provided empirical support for the universality of the triangular theory of love. This research strengthens the credibility of Sternberg's model and underscores its relevance across different cultures and contexts.
Now, let's dive into the key concepts covered in the article:
Sternberg's Triangular Theory of Love
Components of Love:
- Intimacy: Involves feelings of closeness, connectedness, and bondedness.
- Passion: Involves feelings and desires leading to physical attraction, romance, and sexual consummation.
- Decision/Commitment: Involves feelings that lead a person to remain with someone and move toward shared goals.
- The absence of all three components is categorized as non-love.
Sternberg's 7 Types of Love
- Components: Liking.
- Description: Intimacy or liking is present, but passion or commitment in the romantic sense is missing.
- Components: Passion.
- Description: Characterized by feelings of lust and physical passion without liking and commitment.
- Components: Commitment.
- Description: Characterized by commitment without passion or intimacy.
- Components: Intimacy and Passion.
- Description: Bonds people emotionally through intimacy and physical passion. Long-term commitment or future plans may still be undecided.
- Components: Liking and Intimacy.
- Description: Intimate, non-passionate love with long-term commitment. Often found in marriages where passion has diminished.
- Components: Commitment and Passion.
- Description: Passion and commitment are present, but intimacy or liking is absent. Often characterized by impulsive decisions.
- Components: Intimacy, Passion, and Commitment.
- Description: The ideal form of love that includes all three components. Represents an ideal relationship.
Maintenance of Consummate Love:
- According to Sternberg, consummate love may be harder to maintain than to achieve, as the components of love must be put into action. Behavior and expression are crucial to sustain passion and prevent the regression to companionate love.
Importance of Sternberg's Triangular Theory of Love:
- Sternberg emphasizes that the importance of each love component may vary from person to person and couple to couple. Understanding how these components interact can highlight areas for improvement in relationships.
Frequently Asked Questions:
- Couples who have been together for a long time are most likely to have companionate love. It is characterized by deep intimacy and long-term commitment despite the fading of initial passion.
Distinguishing Liking from Companionate Love:
- Companionate love is synonymous with liking. The absence of passion distinguishes it from passionate love.
Pertaining to Dating:
- Understanding the seven types of love can provide valuable insights for individuals in dating relationships, helping them assess the relationship's long-term potential.
Love at First Sight:
- Love at first sight aligns with infatuation in Sternberg's theory, characterized by immediate and intense attraction with passion but lacking liking and commitment components.
In conclusion, Sternberg's triangular theory of love offers a comprehensive framework for understanding the intricacies of love, encompassing various types and components that evolve over time in relationships. The empirical support and practical insights derived from this theory make it a valuable tool in the field of psychology and relationship studies.