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Triangular Theory of Love: Relationships

In the 1980’s, Robert Sternberg published his book Triangle of Love: Intimacy, Passion, Commitment where he introduced a revolutionary theory for how to define love in relationships.


The triangular theory of love explains the topic of love in an interpersonal relationship. Psychologist Robert Sternberg’s theory describes types of love based on three different scales: intimacy, passion, and commitment. It is important to recognize that a relationship based on a single element is less likely to survive than one based on two or more. Different stages and types of love can be explained as different combinations of these three elements. For example, the relative emphasis of each component changes over time as an adult romantic relationship develops.

Video Explanation


Sternberg says that this intimate liking characterizes true friendships, in which a person feels a bondedness, a warmth, and a closeness with another but not intense passion or long-term commitment.

two people standing on seashore, intimacy
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Infatuated love or passion is often what is felt as “love at first sight.” We have all seen enough episodes of The Bachelor to get a good idea of passionate love.

silhouette photo of man and woman kissing, passion
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Sometimes, a stronger love deteriorates into empty love, in which the commitment remains, but the intimacy and passion have died. In cultures in which arranged marriages are common, relationships often begin as empty love.

a happy couple dancing on sidewalk, commitment
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

Sternberg does say that Consumate Love is the pinnacle of love where the relationship has a balance of Intimacy, Passion, and Commitment.

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