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7 Types of Love According to Sternberg's Triangular Theory

Gabrielle Applebury
Couple hugging

Love within a relationship can come in many forms. Sternberg's Triangular Theory of Love breaks love down into seven categories that make it easy to decipher and understand.

Understanding Sternberg's Triangular Theory of Love

Knowing what type of love you share with different people can help you better understand your relationships. In this theory, commitment, passion, and intimacy are the three ingredients that make up the seven different types of love. Keep in mind that this theory can be used to highlight the reality of what a relationship looks like, as well as what the individuals hope it looks like in the future. In this theory:

  • Passion refers to being sexually attracted to each other
  • Intimacy refers to feeling connected and close to each other
  • Commitment/Decision refers to being dedicated to each other and deciding to be with each other
Types of Love According to Sternberg's Triangular Theory

Liking

Liking occurs when there is solely intimacy involved in a relationship. In turn, commitment and passion are missing in this type of relationship. This means there is no sexual attraction and no decision to remain committed to each other. An example of liking would be having a deep friendship.

Companionate

Companionate love includes intimacy and commitment. This means that there is a conscious decision to remain with each other and there is a deep connection to one another. With the absence of intense sexual feelings for each other, this type of love can be seen on a scale from deep friendships, to relationships with family members, to couples who have opted to stay with each other but don't have the same intense passion for each other that they may have had when they first started dating.

Couple walking arm-in-arm

Empty Love

With empty love, the only component present is the decision to be together. If you have empty love with someone, it means that the passion is minimal to non-existent and you do not feel overly connected, if at all, to each other. Empty love may be present with a couple who no longer feels attracted to each other and has had a difficult time maintaining a connection. Keep in mind that this type of love can shift over time if both partners are committed to working on their connectedness and their passion for one another.

Fatuous Love

In a relationship that has fatuous love, there is a passion and a commitment to each other without the intimacy. This means that the connectedness component is missing. In these types of relationships, the sexual attraction and a drive to stay together are present, without the deep connection to one another. This can look like a couple that spontaneously gets married, or moves in together before really knowing each other well. This love can blossom and work out, but it can also fall apart if the connection to never materializes.

Infatuation

With infatuation, there is a lot of passion and sexual desire towards one another, but limited connectedness and commitment to each other. Infatuation can become a deeper, more connected love eventually if both partners are interested in moving towards a different type of relationship.

Romantic Love

In romantic love, there is passion and intimacy with no commitment to each other. This means there is sexual attraction and feelings of connectedness without necessarily being dedicated to being with each other long term. This type of relationship can also transform into a committed relationship if the couple chooses to be together.

Couple in love at restaurant

Consummate Love

With consummate love, all three components are present. This means that there is a partnership with passion, commitment, and connectedness to each other. There is no set amount of each component, and it will vary depending on the relationship's specific needs. This type of relationship takes continuous nurturing and attention.

Strengthening Your Relationship

Better understanding what type of love you have with another individual can help when it comes to improving your relationship's' overall health. Keep in mind that the three components of love can be fluid, meaning that they can ebb and flow as relationships change over time. This also means that when relationships are given attention and partners are willing to work through issues or tiffs, that love can strengthen.

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7 Types of Love According to Sternberg's Triangular Theory