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The Seven Types of Love

28 March 2008

In Part 1 we presented Robert Sternberg's Triangular Theory of love which state that love can be visualized as a triangle with Intimacy, Commitment and Passion as the three corners.

Triangular theory of love

The strengths of your Intimacy, Commitment and Passion allow you to see where in the triangle your relationship currently sits. High levels of intimacy and commitment but no passion? You are experiencing companionate love. High passion but no Commitment or Intimacy? You're infatuated.

In all Sternberg identifies seven different types of love that can be explained by the triangular theory of love. They are :

1. Liking

Characterized by high Intimacy but no commitment or passion. Sternberg says that this is friendship where one enjoys the company of another but does not feel sexually passionate toward them or indeed feel any long-term commitment to them as one would with a family member.

2. Companionate Love

Long term romantic relationships tend toward Companionate Love. There is Intimacy and Commitment but no sexual passion. Most people feel Companionate love toward their family members. There is more commitment than in a simple friendship. Feeling companionate love for a person does not stop you being annoyed or irritated by that person. Indeed, that irritation and resentment can often be the cause of the loss of passion. Often cantankerous older couples have strong companionate love for each other even though they argue all the time.

3. Empty Love

In empty love there is commitment but no passion or intimacy. Relationships where couples are leading separate lives under the same roof. A relationship can slip toward Empty Love when a couple stay together for family reasons.

4. Fatuous Love

Commitment and Passion with no Intimacy are the hallmarks of Fatuous Love. When a couple fall in love seemingly instantly and marry with haste they will often find themselves in the trouble of Fatuous Love. Without intimacy or friendship the reality of the dream life that the couple thought they would lead can come as a shock. The relationship can still make it but it will be hard work since the couple don't really know each other.

5. Infatuation

Infatuation is love at first sight. It's passion without intimacy or commitment which explains why it can dissapear as suddenly as it appeared. The reality of life with another human being is very hard on Infatuation. There's nothing wrong with Infatuation as a starting point in a relationship, many relationships start that way but the relationship won't last unless it can become grounded in some Intimacy and/or Commitment. This helps to explain why our passion cools after a while - it has to in order to enable to relationship to survive.

6. Romantic Love

This is the one we think we all want, passion and intimacy bound up together. Passionate love gives us that sensation of "fusion" with our lovers so that we seem to become one. Unfortunately it isn't grounded in commitment. As described by Dr Sternberg Romantic Love is a whirlwind of intense emotion and bonding but it can fall apart if the emotional high is not maintained through a lack of commitment or stickability.

7. Consummate Love

According to Dr Sterngerg this is the "perfect" form of love that can be found right in the center of the triangle. In it Intimacy, Commitment and Passion are all equally strong. This is the true love that can last the whole lives of the couple and allow them to survive the inevitable ups and downs of life. A couple experiencing Consummate Love can truly say that their lover is their best friend. They are true life-partners, committed, passionate and intimate with each other.

Moving towards Consummate Love

One of the interesting things about the triangular theory of love is that it does seem to provide an explanation for many of our experiences of love. We may start at Infatuation and end up at Intimacy and being JustGoodFriends. We can start out at Intimacy, just as friends and end up passionate.

The triangle gives us hope. If we find that we have slipped into Companionate love, Consummate love isn't that far away, we just need to find a way to get some passion back into our relationship. Maybe we are enjoying Consummate love already but perhaps by being closer to our partner (more Intimacy/Friendship) and working on adding passion we can enjoy a little time in the Romantic Love zone with its emotional highs.

Throughout our lives our relationship will feel drawn toward one side of the triangle or another. If we have children we may find that the passion fades for a while, work assignments might push us away from intimacy with our partner but strengthen our commitment and passion for each other. One way or another, if we are willing to work on it we can find our way back to the Consummate Love zone.

Good luck on your journey!


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