Sternberg’s Triangular Theory Of Love – Discover The 8 Types Of Love

Are you in love but wondering what stage your relationship is at? Discover your level of love by reading this mystifying Sternberg triangular theory.

Love – the intricate and enigmatic emotion that has bewildered poets, philosophers, and scientists alike for centuries. How does one define this mystical force that binds souls together and inspires symphonies of the heart?

Enter Robert Sternberg, a brilliant psychologist who sought to decode the secrets of love with his revolutionary Triangular Theory of Love. In this fascinating journey, we will unravel the intricacies of Sternberg’s theory, explore its three primary components, delve into the elusive ideal of love, and discover the eight distinct forms of affection that this extraordinary theory encompasses.

So buckle up, because Sternberg’s triangular theory of love is about to take us on an enthralling journey into the world of romantic love.

Who is Robert Sternberg?

Before we dive into the fascinating world of Sternberg’s Triangular Theory of Love, let’s take a moment to get to know the brilliant mind behind the theory. Robert J. Sternberg, born on December 8, 1949, is an American psychologist known for his extensive research in various fields of psychology, including intelligence, creativity, wisdom, and, of course, love. He earned his Ph.D. in Psychology from Stanford University and went on to become a prominent figure in the psychological community.

Sternberg has made significant contributions to understanding human intelligence, proposing the famous “Triarchic Theory of Intelligence,” which consists of analytical, creative, and practical intelligence. However, he is best known for his work on love and relationships, which has had a profound impact on the way we perceive and comprehend this complex emotion.

What are the three main components of Sternberg’s Triangular Theory of Love?

Picture a triangle, and at its three points, you’ll find the fundamental components of Sternberg’s theory: Passion, Intimacy, and Commitment. Each of these elements represents a critical aspect of love, and the intensity of these components determines the nature of the affection experienced.

Passion: The Spark that Ignites the Flame

Passion sets our hearts ablaze and encompasses the intense emotions, desires, and physical attraction experienced in a romantic relationship. The exhilarating rush of excitement and infatuation makes us weak in the knees and keeps the flames of love burning brightly. However, without the other elements, passion is frequently fleeting and can fizzle out. Sternberg views passion as the motivational and arousal-driven component of love. The force draws two individuals together, igniting the spark that leads to romance, desire, and the consummation of their feelings.

Intimacy: The Emotional Connection

Intimacy, as Sternberg defined it, is a feeling of closeness, connection, and bonding in a loving relationship. The emotional aspect of love creates a sense of warmth and familiarity between two individuals. Intimacy encompasses the deep emotional bond that enables partners to share their innermost thoughts, feelings, and vulnerabilities with one another.

According to Sternberg, emotional investment in the relationship fosters trust and empathy between partners, which in turn nurtures intimacy. It involves the desire to understand and support one another and the ability to communicate openly and honestly.

Commitment: The Anchor of Forever

At the final corner of the triangle, we encounter commitment, the decision and determination to maintain the relationship over time. It is the aspect that endures through challenges and difficult times, solidifying the couple’s dedication to one another. Commitment is the glue that holds the partnership together, even when passion and intimacy may ebb and flow.

As Sternberg puts it, “In the short term, the decision that one loves someone else, and in the long term, the commitment to maintain that love…the cognitive elements that are involved in decision making about the existence of and potential long-term commitment to a loving relationship.”

What is the ideal love that incorporates all three?

Now that we’ve explored the three primary components let’s envision the ideal love that combines passion, intimacy, and commitment in harmonious equilibrium. Sternberg refers to this ultimate form of love as “Consummate Love.” It represents the pinnacle of romantic relationships, where all three aspects of the triangle thrive, creating a deep, fulfilling, and enduring bond.

Consummate Love is the magical connection that makes fairytales come alive, where partners are not only passionately attracted to each other but also share a profound emotional intimacy and a steadfast commitment to each other’s well-being. Achieving this state of love requires effort, open communication, and a willingness to navigate the complexities that arise on life’s journey together.

What are the eight forms of love, according to Sternberg?

Sternberg’s Triangular Theory of Love goes beyond the conventional notion of a singular type of love. Instead, it embraces the intricacies of human emotions and identifies eight distinct forms of love that emerge from various combinations of the three components. Let’s uncover the kaleidoscope of love:

  1. Non-Love: Lack of Intimacy but Full of Compassion
  2. Liking/Friendship: The Foundation of All Relationships
  3. Infatuation: Love on Cloud Nine
  4. Empty Love: Commitment Without Intimacy or Passion
  5. Fatuous Love: The Rushed Romance
  6. Romantic Friendship: The Best of Both Worlds
  7. Companionate Love: Where Hearts Find Forever Homes
  8. Consummate Love: Where Passion, Intimacy, and Commitment Fuse to Last a Lifetime

Non-Love: Lack of Intimacy but Full of Compassion

Non-love, as the name suggests, represents a state where there is no significant intimacy, passion, or commitment between individuals. However, this does not mean that the relationship is devoid of compassion and care. It can be likened to a genuine friendship where two people share mutual respect and concern but do not experience romantic feelings or a desire for commitment.

Imagine two coworkers who share a strong bond, always ready to support each other through thick and thin. They understand each other’s struggles, celebrate successes, and offer a shoulder to lean on during tough times. While there might not be any romantic spark, their connection is built on the foundation of genuine compassion.

Liking/Friendship: The Foundation of All Relationships

Liking, also known as friendship love, is the simplest and most fundamental form of love. It involves a strong sense of intimacy and affection without the presence of romantic passion or long-term commitment. Liking serves as the building block for all other types of love and is often the root of meaningful relationships.

Think of two childhood friends who have grown up together, sharing countless laughs, secrets, and adventures. Their bond is unbreakable, and they find comfort in each other’s company. While they may not have romantic feelings, their friendship is a steadfast anchor in their lives.

Infatuation: Love on Cloud Nine

Infatuation – the whirlwind romance that sweeps us off our feet, leaving us floating on cloud nine. This form of love is characterized by intense passion and attraction, often experienced in the early stages of a relationship.

In easy words, It is an emotional state where one becomes captivated by another person, often seeing them through rose-colored glasses and experiencing a rush of euphoria and excitement. However, infatuation tends to lack the depth and stability found in long-lasting relationships, making it more akin to a powerful crush than genuine love.

Picture this: Lily and Alex, two coworkers who recently started working together in the same office. From the moment Lily laid eyes on Alex, she couldn’t help but feel an instant attraction. Everything about Alex seemed perfect – his wit, charm, and dazzling smile. Lily found herself day dreaming about Alex and eagerly looking forward to any opportunity to interact with him.

However, Lily and Alex had only exchanged a few friendly conversations, and they barely knew each other beyond work-related topics. Despite this, Lily’s infatuation grew stronger by the day, and she found herself fantasizing about a romantic future with Alex.

Empty Love: Commitment Without Intimacy or Passion

Empty Love is a form of love characterized by the presence of commitment without the emotional intimacy and passionate connection between individuals. It occurs when a relationship that once had passion and intimacy begins to fade, leaving behind only the commitment to stay together.

In such cases, individuals may continue to be in a partnership for various reasons, such as cultural norms, social pressure, or practical considerations, rather than being driven by emotional attachment.

Consider a couple who have been married for many years. In the early stages of their relationship, they were deeply in love, sharing intimate moments and passionate emotions. However, as time passed, the sparks of passion and emotional intimacy started to wane. Despite this, they continue to stay together due to their commitment to the marriage, their children, and their financial stability. In this scenario, the love between them has become empty as the emotional connection and passionate bond have diminished.

Fatuous Love: The Rushed Romance

Fatuous love is a whirlwind combination of passion and commitment, lacking the depth of emotional intimacy. It often occurs when two individuals quickly decide to commit without taking the time to truly understand each other.

Picture this: two people meet on a spontaneous trip and fall in love. They are instantly drawn to each other and feel an overwhelming attraction. Without giving it much thought, they decide to get married after knowing each other for only a few weeks. Their love is passionate and impulsive, but they may have needed to take the time to truly understand each other’s values, dreams, and personalities. In time, the initial rush of infatuation might fade, and they could face challenges as they realize the importance of emotional intimacy and shared values in sustaining a lasting relationship.

Romantic Friendship: The Best of Both Worlds

Romantic Friendship is a delightful blend of intimacy and passion, with a lack of long-term commitment. It involves a deep emotional connection and a romantic spark, but both individuals may choose not to pursue a committed relationship.

Think of two individuals who are inseparable, constantly sharing deep conversations, laughter, and even romantic moments. They experience the emotional intensity of a romantic relationship without the need for a long-term commitment, cherishing the beauty of their bond as it is.

Companionate Love: Where Hearts Find Forever Homes

Although the passionate sparks of infatuation may have faded in companionate love, the partners’ sincere friendship, trust, and understanding enrich the relationship. This type of love often arises in long-term relationships where couples have weathered the trials of life together, building a solid foundation of mutual respect and care.

An example of companionate love can be seen in an elderly couple who have been married for several decades. They have experienced the rollercoaster of life’s joys and sorrows, and their initial intense passion may have mellowed over time. However, what remains constant is their profound emotional bond and genuine fondness for one another.

Consummate Love: Where Passion, Intimacy, and Commitment Fuse to Last a Lifetime

At the apex of Sternberg’s triangular theory lies Consummate love, the pinnacle of all forms of love. It is the ideal balance of intimacy, passion, and commitment, creating a love that is profound, enduring, and fulfilling.

Imagine a couple who have been together for many years, weathering the ups and downs of life together. They share a deep emotional bond, understanding each other’s hopes, dreams, and fears. Their physical attraction to one another is still as vibrant as it was in the early days of their relationship. Moreover, they remain committed to each other through thick and thin, supporting and nurturing their love with unwavering devotion.

How does Sternberg’s Triangular Theory of Love help foster a relationship?

Sternberg’s triangular theory of love serves as a valuable roadmap for couples seeking to nurture and strengthen their relationships. By understanding the three primary components and their interplay, partners can gain insights into their emotional dynamics and make conscious efforts to enhance their love.

  • Identifying imbalance
  • Setting realistic expectations
  • Building intimacy
  • Sustaining commitment

Identifying Imbalance:

The theory enables couples to identify any imbalances in their relationships. For example, a couple experiencing a decline in passion can work on rekindling the spark through shared activities, open communication, and intimacy-building exercises.

Setting realistic expectations:

Understanding that passion alone is insufficient for a lasting bond helps set realistic expectations. By acknowledging that love evolves over time, couples can embrace the natural ebb and flow of their emotions without feeling disillusioned.

Building intimacy:

Intimacy is the bedrock of any strong relationship. By focusing on building emotional connections, partners can cultivate trust, vulnerability, and empathy, leading to a deeper and more meaningful bond.

Sustaining commitment:

Commitment is crucial for weathering the challenges that relationships inevitably face. Partners can actively work on reinforcing their commitment through shared goals, compromise, and ongoing communication.


As we conclude our journey through Sternberg’s triangular theory of love, we find ourselves enchanted by the rich tapestry of emotions that love weaves into our lives. From the simple beauty of friendship to the intense whirlwind of passion, each form of love offers a unique and captivating experience.

Robert Sternberg’s insights into the complexities of love have allowed us to explore the nuances of human emotions with a touch of humor and relatability. Love, in all its forms, is an art to be embraced and celebrated, guiding us on a journey of self-discovery and connection with others.

So, whether you find yourself entangled in the warm embrace of friendship or soaring through the skies of infatuation, remember that love, in all its forms, is a beautiful gift that brings color to the canvas of life. Embrace it, cherish it, and let it fill your heart with joy and wonder. After all, in the words of Robert Sternberg himself, “Love is the ultimate mystery.”

So, embrace the various shades of love with an open heart, whether you soar on the wings of romantic love, bask in the warmth of companionship, or forge a profound friendship. Because in the end, it is the journey of love, in all of its delightful forms, that gives our lives color and purpose, making us whole as individuals and stronger as partners on this extraordinary journey of the heart.