Unveiling the Mystery of Love with Sternberg’s Triangular Theory

Love is a complex and multifaceted emotion that has intrigued humans for centuries. While it is often seen as an abstract concept, psychologist Robert J. Sternberg proposed a comprehensive theory that aims to define and understand love in a more structured manner. Sternberg’s Theory of Love, also known as the Triangular Theory of Love, provides a framework to analyze and categorize the various components that contribute to the experience of love. In this blog post, we will delve into the key elements of Sternberg’s theory and explore how they shape our understanding of this universal emotion.

We often think of love as an emotion. It’s not that. Love is action. Love is something that we do.

The Triangular Theory of Love:

At the heart of Sternberg’s theory lies the concept of the love triangle, which encompasses three fundamental components: intimacy, passion, and commitment. According to Sternberg, the different combinations of these components give rise to various types of love.

  1. Intimacy:
    Intimacy refers to the emotional closeness, connection, and bond shared between individuals. It involves feelings of trust, openness, and vulnerability. Intimacy alone is characterized as liking or friendship, where two people feel close to each other without any romantic or passionate involvement.
  2. Passion:
    Passion encompasses the intense physical and sexual attraction between individuals. It involves feelings of desire, arousal, and longing. Passion alone is seen in infatuation, which is often characterized by a strong physical and sexual attraction without any significant emotional connection.
  3. Commitment:
    Commitment involves the decision and determination to maintain a long-term relationship. It is the cognitive aspect of love, representing the conscious choice to stay devoted to a partner over time. Commitment alone is described as empty love, where individuals may remain in a relationship without any deep emotional connection or passionate feelings.

Types of Love:

By combining these three components in different proportions, Sternberg identified seven distinct types of love:

  1. Liking: This type of love involves intimacy alone, such as the bond between close friends or acquaintances.
  2. Infatuation: Infatuation is characterized by passion alone, often experienced in the early stages of a romantic relationship that is primarily driven by intense physical and sexual attraction.
  3. Empty Love: Empty love represents commitment without intimacy or passion. It may be found in long-term relationships where the emotional connection and passion have faded, but the commitment remains.
  4. Romantic Love: Romantic love combines intimacy and passion. It is often associated with intense emotional connection and physical attraction, commonly found in the early stages of a romantic relationship.
  5. Companionate Love: Companionate love involves intimacy and commitment, but lacks intense passion. It is commonly found in long-term relationships where the initial spark has diminished, but a deep emotional bond and commitment remain.
  6. Fatuous Love: Fatuous love combines passion and commitment, but lacks emotional intimacy. It may be seen in relationships that are built on intense passion and impulsive commitment without a strong emotional foundation.
  7. Consummate Love: Consummate love represents the ideal form of love, encompassing all three components – intimacy, passion, and commitment. It is a balanced and complete form of love that is often regarded as the ultimate goal in a long-term relationship.
Type of LoveIntimacyPassionCommitment
Empty LoveX
Romantic LoveXX
Companionate LoveXX
Fatuous LoveXX
Consummate LoveXXX


Sternberg’s Theory of Love provides a valuable framework for understanding the complex nature of love and its different manifestations.

Love is not a black or white concept. It is dynamic and ever changing. Love can transition in and out of different types of love, depending on the inclusion or exclusion of the main three components.

Lovers who share intimacy, passion, and commitment through consummate love may find themselves no longer aligned on one of those and can become friends or nothing at all. Friends who share intimacy and commitment can find themselves experiencing passion for each other and thus a new relationship is born.

By recognizing the importance of all three components – intimacy, passion, and commitment – people can examine the different types of love in their lives and identify what is exists, what is needed, and what could be strengthened.





Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.