Triangular Theory of Love

Background of the Triangular Theory of Love

The Triangular Theory of Love was developed by Robert Sternberg, an American psychologist.  It deals with interpersonal relationships, and the three components of interpersonal relationships: passion, commitment, and intimacy.  Passion can be defined as encompassing sexual attraction to a potential mate.  Commitment is the decision to stay with a potential mate.  Intimacy is the feeling of closeness and feeling bonded.  From this theory seven different types of love emerged.

Different Types of Love

The first, liking, contains intimacy, and two people feeling bonded, but there is no passion or commitment. The second, infatuated love, is compared to “love at first sight.” (See Survey Question 8)  There is passion in the relationship, but it is lacking commitment or intimacy.  The third, empty love, only encompasses commitment.  Sometimes a strong love fades into empty love, but the couple stays together because of the years they have been together and the commitment they have formed.  The fourth, romantic love, is when the lovers are intimate and there is passion in the relationship, but they lack long term commitment.  The fifth, companionate love, is often found in marriage relationships that are no longer passionate, but the couple is committed and bonded.  This type of love lacks a sexual relationship, but has deep affection and commitment.  The sixth, fatuous love, is composed of passion and commitment without intimacy.  A quick courtship and whirlwind marriage where there is passion and commitment motivated by passion, without the stabilizing intimacy, is often defined as fatuous love.  The seventh love, consummate love, is the complete form of love composed of intimacy, passion, and commitment.  It is the ideal form of love, but it is not permanent.  Couples can fall from consummate love to another type of love.  Robert Sternberg felt maintaining consummate love was harder than reaching it (Shimp 1988).


Differences in Passion, Intimacy, and Commitment

The article, “Perceptions of Love across the Lifespan:  Differences in Passion, Intimacy, and Commitment,” stated that passion, intimacy, and commitment were motivational components of love.  The article said each component was different, in general, between males and females.(See Survey Question 13) Passion drives adolescent individuals and changes over a lifetime and young adults ranked the highest in passion.  Men ranked higher in passion than women.  Intimacy develops in adolescence, and studies show it to be highest in young adulthood.   Women rank higher in intimacy levels than men did.  Commitment develops in adolescence, and the ability to commit strengthens over adulthood.  There was no difference found between genders regarding commitment (Sumter 2013).

Works Cited:

Shimp, Terrence A., and Thomas J. Madden. “Consumer-Object Relations: A Conceptual Framework Based Analogously on Sternberg’s Triangular Theory of Love.” Advance in Consumer Research 15.1 (1988):163-168.  Business Source Premier. Web. 2 November 2013.

Sumter, Sindy R., Patti M. Valkenburg, and Jochen Peter. “Perceptions of Love across the Lifespan: Differences in Passion, Intimacy, and Commitment.” International Journal Of Behavioral Development 37.5 (2013): 417- 427. PsycINFO. Web. 31 October 2013.