Sternberg’s Triangular Theory of Love and the 8 Types of Love

Sternberg Triangular Theory Love

The subject of the Triangular Theory of Love and its three main components of love has always baffled us since time immemorial. But, what is love made of?

Love encompasses a range of a wide variety of strong emotions.  The answer to why we are attracted to someone and the ingredients of a fruitful relationship had always eluded us.

According to Sigmund Freud love is a search for an “ego ideal”, the image of the person that one wants to become which is patterned after those whom one holds in good respect. Abraham Maslow, the humanistic psychologist, believed love is possible only when one has reached self-actualization. When theories about love moved from being clinically based to being socially and personally based, they become focused on types of love, as opposed to being able to love.

The Triangular Theory of Love or The Love Triad

Sternberg Triangular Theory
Sternberg's Triangular Theory of Love and the 8 Types of Love

Robert Sternberg came up with a new theory of love, called The Triangular Theory of Love which is made up of 3 components:

  • Intimacy
  • Passion and
  • Commitment.

Each component stands as a generic combination of feelings that give rise to different types of love.

Related: A Truth about Intimacy Love and Romance

Although everyone‘s thoughts on what makes them drawn to another person are different. However the attachment that we feel towards another person is common to all.

This attachment that we feel towards another person is based on physical and emotional connection. This connection is difficult to explain since there are a number of factors that may influence it.

Types of Love chart
Sternberg's Triangular Theory of Love and the 8 Types of Love

1. Intimacy

Intimacy refers to feelings of closeness, connectedness, and bondedness in loving relationships. It thus includes within its purview those feelings that give rise, essentially, to the experience of warmth in a loving relationship.

In intimacy there is a sense of high regard for each other. There is a  definite wish to make each other happy, communicate with each other and help each other in need.

Sternberg’s prediction of this love was that it would diminish as the relationship became less interrupted, thus increasing predictability.

2. Passion

Passion refers to the drives that lead to romance, physical attraction, sexual consummation, and related phenomena in loving relationships. This is associated with strong feelings of love and desire for a specific person. This love is full of excitement and newness.

Passionate love is important at the beginning of the relationship and typically lasts for about a year. There is a chemical component to passionate love. Those experiencing passionate love are also experiencing increased neurotransmitters, specifically phenylethylamine.

3. Decision/commitment

Decision/commitment refers, in the short-term, to the decision that one loves a certain other, and in the long-term, to one’s commitment to maintaining that love. 

These two aspects of the decision/commitment component do not necessarily go together, in that one can decide to love someone without being committed to the love in the long-term, or one can be committed to a relationship without acknowledging that one loves the other person in the relationship.

Implications of The Triangular Theory of Love in relationships

According to Robert Sternberg, the three components of love interact with each other. For example, greater intimacy may lead to greater passion or commitment, just as greater commitment may lead to greater intimacy, or with lesser likelihood, greater passion.

In general, then, the components are separable but interactive with each other. Although all three components are important parts of loving relationships, their importance may differ from one relationship to another, or over time within a given relationship.

Indeed, different kinds of love can be generated by limiting cases of different combinations of the components.

Related: 11 Steps to Prepare Yourself For The Big Love You Know You Deserve

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Paromita Mitra Bhaumik

CONSULTING PSYCHOLOGIST / AUTHOR / LEARNING AND DEVELOPMENT COACH / EDUCATIONIST Paromita Mitra Bhaumik is a committed, knowledgeable and capable psychology expert working on psychological wellbeing, essential skills building, Coaching and writing for awareness for the last 25 years. She is the Founder Director of Anubhav Positive Psychology Clinic at Kolkata, India. A registered psychologist with the Rehabilitation Council Of India, ( R.C.I.) and a Life Associate Member with the Indian Psychiatric Society (I.P.S), Paromita has been trained in Cognitive Behavior Therapy (C.B.T) and Stress Management under professor Stephen Palmer at the Institute of Stress Management in London. She has also received an extensive training in Neuropsychology from National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, Bangaluru , India. Apart from being a certified coach for Neuro-Linguistic Programming (N.L.P), she is a qualified coach for Directive Communication Psychology (D.C trainer) trained by Arthur Carmazzi, for skills building. As a renowned coach, Paromita Mitra Bhaumik has the experience of having conducted over 300 workshops and training programmes in India and abroad. Her paper on the mental health of the senior citizens in India was well appreciated at the Shippensburg University U.S.A.Paromita Mitra Bhaumik has edited and contributed to the international editions of books on psychology and education by Pearson Global. She is also a Resource Person with Pearson Education for the last decade. She is a prolific writer and orator who draws inspiration from her subject, psychology and the life around. She is a writer at wordpress.com ( Palette by Paromita mitra Bhaumik) and at The Minds Journal.View Author posts