What is Triangular Theory of Love


Love is a profound and intricate human emotion that has fascinated poets, writers, and scientists throughout history. It’s a feeling that defies a simple definition due to its multifaceted nature. The Triangular Theory of Love, developed by psychologist Robert J. Sternberg, offers a structured framework for understanding the complexities of this powerful emotion. In this article, we will delve into the Triangular Theory of Love, exploring its origins, components, types, real-life applications, and the debates it has sparked.

The Origin of the Theory

Before we dive into the theory itself, it’s essential to understand its roots. Robert J. Sternberg, an influential figure in the field of psychology, introduced this theory. Sternberg is renowned for his work in intelligence, creativity, wisdom, and love. His fascination with the concept of love, along with his background in psychology, led to the development of the Triangular Theory of Love. The theory was first proposed in 1986 and has since become a foundational concept in the study of love and relationships.

Understanding the Three Components

At the heart of the Triangular Theory of Love are three essential components: Passion, Intimacy, and Commitment.

Passion refers to the intense physical and emotional desire present in a loving relationship. It’s the component responsible for the sparks and fireworks that often accompany the initial stages of a romantic relationship.

Intimacy encompasses emotional closeness and the ability to connect with another person on a deep level. It’s the sense of being seen, understood, and valued by your partner.

Commitment represents the decision to maintain a long-term relationship. This component is crucial for the endurance of a partnership, especially when passion and intimacy ebb and flow.

What makes this theory especially intriguing is how these components interact. Different combinations of passion, intimacy, and commitment can result in various types of love.

Types of Love

The Triangular Theory of Love identifies seven distinct types of love:

  1. Liking: This type of love involves intimacy alone. It’s the fondness and warmth we feel for close friends and acquaintances.
  2. Infatuation: Infatuation is characterized by passion alone. It’s the exhilarating feeling of being “head over heels” in love.
  3. Empty Love: Empty love is built on commitment alone. This might describe a long-term relationship where the passion and intimacy have faded, but the commitment remains.
  4. Romantic Love: Romantic love combines passion and intimacy. It’s the love we often associate with dating and courtship.
  5. Companionate Love: Companionate love involves intimacy and commitment, but lacks the fiery passion. It’s the deep, affectionate love often found in long-term marriages and friendships.
  6. Fatuous Love: Fatuous love combines passion and commitment, but misses the deep emotional intimacy. It’s often seen in whirlwind romances and impulsive marriages.
  7. Consummate Love: Consummate love represents the ideal combination of passion, intimacy, and commitment. It’s a well-rounded, complete love that many strive for in long-term relationships.

Real-Life Applications

The Triangular Theory of Love isn’t just an abstract concept. It has practical applications in psychology and relationships. Psychologists use this framework to assess and understand the dynamics of different relationships. For individuals and couples, it offers valuable insights into their own love experiences. It helps them recognize the strengths and weaknesses of their relationships and provides a roadmap for enhancing and deepening their connection.

Critiques and Controversies

As with any psychological theory, the Triangular Theory of Love is not without its critiques and controversies. Some argue that it oversimplifies the complexities of human emotions and relationships. Critics also point out that cultural and individual variations can influence the applicability of the theory in all contexts. Despite these criticisms, the theory remains a significant contribution to the field of psychology and has practical value in understanding and improving relationships.


The Triangular Theory of Love by Robert J. Sternberg has not only enriched our understanding of love but also offered practical tools for navigating the intricacies of relationships. Its enduring significance lies in its ability to help us recognize and appreciate the many facets of love, from passion and intimacy to commitment. By exploring this theory, individuals and couples can gain a deeper understanding of their own love experiences and take steps to enhance and enrich their relationships. Love, after all, remains one of the most profound and mysterious aspects of human existence.


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