Theories of love – Part 2

Sternberg’s Triangular Theory of Love

This is perhaps one of my favorite theory of love. 

Psychologist Robert Sternberg proposed a triangular theory of love that suggests that there are three components of love: intimacy, passion, and commitment.

The three components, pictorially labeled on the vertices of a triangle, interact with each other and with the actions they produce and with the actions that produce them so as to form seven different kinds of love experiences (nonlove is not represented). The size of the triangle functions to represent the “amount” of love – the bigger the triangle the greater the love. The shape of the triangle functions to represent the “type” of love, which may vary over the course of the relationship:

Different combinations of these three components result in different types of love.   According to Sternberg, relationships built on two or more elements are more enduring that those based upon a single component.

The different combinations are listed below :

    * Nonlove is the absence of all three of Sternberg’s components of love.

    * Liking/friendship in this case is not used in a trivial sense. Sternberg says that this intimate liking characterizes true friendships, in which a person feels a bondedness, a warmth, and a closeness with another but not intense passion or long-term commitment.

    * Infatuated love is pure passion. Romantic relationships often start out as infatuated love and become romantic love as intimacy develops over time. However, without developing intimacy or commitment, infatuated love may disappear suddenly.

    * Empty love is characterized by commitment without intimacy or passion. Sometimes, a stronger love deteriorates into empty love. In cultures in which arranged marriages are common, relationships often begin as empty love and develop into one of the other forms with the passing of time.

    * Romantic love bonds individuals emotionally through intimacy and physically through passionate arousal.

    * Companionate love is an intimate, non-passionate type of love that is stronger than friendship because of the element of long-term commitment. Sexual desire is not an element of companionate love. This type of love is often found in marriages in which the passion has gone out of the relationship but a deep affection and commitment remain. The love ideally shared between family members is a form of companionate love, as is the love between close friends who have a platonic but strong friendship.

    * Fatuous love can be exemplified by a whirlwind courtship and marriage in which a commitment is motivated largely by passion without the stabilizing influence of intimacy. A relationship, however, whereby an individual party agrees to sexual favors purely out of commitment issues, or is pressured/forced into sexual acts does not comprise Fatuous love, and instead tends more to Empty love.

    * Consummate love is the complete form of love, representing an ideal relationship toward which people strive. Of the seven varieties of love, consummate love is theorized to be that love associated with the “perfect couple”. According to Sternberg, such couples will continue to have great sex fifteen years or more into the relationship, they can not imagine themselves happy over the long-term with anyone else, they overcome their few difficulties gracefully, and each delight in the relationship with one other.  However, Sternberg cautions that maintaining a consummate love may be even harder than achieving it. He stresses the importance of translating the components of love into action.  Thus, consummate love may not be permanent. If passion is lost over time, it may change into compassionate love.

Perhaps it’s time to examine your love combination?  Don’t forget to follow us on http://twitter.com/dailymotiva

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