Sternberg’s Triangular Love theory – Intimacy, Commitment and Passion

Love is an intense feeling of deep, interpersonal affection. It is a strong, positive emotional and mental state. What one person calls love is may not be same for another person.

British researcher Robert Sternberg proposed the modern theory of love that is the triangular theory of love. This theory has three interrelated components of Intimacy, Passion, and Commitment. Sternberg proposed this theory after the identification of passionate and companionate love. He added Intimate love as a corner of the triangle.

·      Intimacy:  Emotional bonding, a feeling of closeness, attachment and ease with one another. We express intimacy in multiple ways, it may be during the moments of sharing the inner thoughts with a loved one, trusting, feeling safe on them when in the time of needs.

·      Passion: Feeling of enthusiasm, excitement, strongly sexual, or romantic feeling for someone. Sexual fulfilment is not the only absolute part of the passion. Passion is also the feeling of could not live without that other person, exited when think and fantasizing about another person.

·      Commitment: This is not a feeling. This is the loyal and conscious decision to be with someone. The decision to move towards shared goals with someone. The level of satisfaction that a partner derives from the relationship determines the commitment.

 The combination of two or more components creates eight kinds of love experiences.

  1. Non-love

 The complete absence of intimacy, passion, and commitment. There is no connection, and act indifferent to the relationships. We do not consider this as an actual type of love. Example of this non-love is a “relationship with acquaintances.”

2. Liking

This love has a component of intimacy without passion or commitment. Feeling of warmth, closeness, and bonding without passion and commitment. Example of this category is friendships.

3. Infatuated love

 Infatuated love has a component of passion without intimacy or commitment. A chemical component of a neurotransmitter, phenylethylamine is increased in passionate love. This may last for about a year. As intimacy develops over time and this infatuated love may become romantic love. This love may disappear quick if intimacy or commitment has not developed.

 This passionate love also called crush, that can’t stop thinking about someone. This is most common in the early stages of a relationship.

4. Empty love

 Empty love has a component of commitment without intimacy or passion. Stronger love may turn into empty love, in that only commitment remains. The reverse also can occur. For example in arranged marriage love may start as empty love, in a later date, it may transform into another form of love.

5. Romantic love

 This love has passion and intimacy, but it has no component of commitment. Partners in this relationship have a deep understanding of intimate details about each other. They enjoy sexual passion and affection. These couples may be at the point where long-term commitment or plans are still undecided.

6. Companionate love

 This is an intimate, long term, and non-passionate type of love. This is also known as affectionate love, and this is stronger than friendship. This love may come in a later stage in a relationship. This love is important for the survival of the relationship. This love shared between family members and close friends. This has minimal or no sexual desire.

7. Fatuous love

 This has a component of passion and commitment but without intimacy. An example of fatuous love is whirlwind courtship and marriage. This love blossoms quick and moves fast. For example, engagement and marriage that happens within two weeks of the bride and groom meet.

8. Consummate love

 Consummate love has all three components. This love is an ideal and total form of love. They cannot be happy without each other. They overcome differences and face stressors together.

 According to Dr. Sternberg, consummate love may be harder to maintain than it is to achieve. If they don’t work on the component of love with behaviour and expression, passion may lose and love may revert to the companionate type.

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