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Triangular Theory Of Love

For Sternberg, the three components of love—intimacy, passion, and commitment—can be viewed as three points on a triangle and occur in people in different proportions (present or absent) to create eight different types of love. These eight TABLE 1

Triangular theory of love
  Three components of love(present or absent)
Type of love Intimacy Passion Commitment
SOURCE:Based on Sternberg. (1986). "A Triangular Theory of Love." Psychology Review 93: 119-135.
1. Consummate Present Present Present
2. Companionate Present Absent Present
3. Romantic Present Present Absent
4. Fatuous Absent Present Present
5. Infatuated Absent Present Absent
6. Empty Absent Absent Present
7. Liking Present Absent Absent
8. Nonlove Absent Absent Absent

types may be most easily visualized in table form (see Table 1).

This theory is elegant in its simplicity, yet consistent with everyday notions of love. Moreover, the theory is relevant to the development of relationships over time. For example, before meeting another person the three components of love would be absent (nonlove). After meeting, liking may develop (intimacy). Perhaps some degree of commitment develops also, suggesting companionate love. If passion develops as well, then full consummate love has flowered. Other developmental trajectories are possible. A sudden burst of passion and commitment may develop from an initial meeting. Fatuous love seems an appropriate name for such instant, committed attraction. Perhaps a full consummate relationship loses its passion and intimacy, but retains strong commitment. The concept of empty love captures this situation well.

More recently, Sternberg (1998) shifted his theorizing to focus on the narrative, developmental aspects of love. In fact, the progression of a love relationship is a kind of story, one commonly celebrated in novels and films. In Love Is a Story, Sternberg (1998) explicitly recognized the story-like nature of love, and described twenty-five love stories, each representing one kind of theme or metaphor of love. If people can understand their own love stories, perhaps they will be able to manage future outcomes of those stories more successfully.

The ubiquity of romantic love in human life may suggest that it is part of our genetic heritage for mating, a possibility noted by several theorists.

Additional topics

Marriage and Family EncyclopediaOther Marriage & Family TopicsLove - Passionate And Companionate Love, Prototypes Of Love, Triangular Theory Of Love, Attachment Theory And The Evolution Of Love - Conclusion