You may have heard of tragic love triangles before, but have you heard of the Triangular Theory of Love? These concepts are not remotely related. One is a saturated romance trope and the other is a well-known model defining the types of love that exist. Developed by Robert Sternberg, the three components of the model are Passion, Intimacy, and Commitment.
Passion encompasses physical attraction and romantic feelings.
Intimacy encompasses emotional closeness and fulfillment.
Commitment encompasses the explicit decision to stay in and maintain the relationship.
All relationships involve some combination of the three at different levels — although there can exist relationships that completely lack one (or even two!) of the components. Love that has all three at high levels is known as Consummate — considered to be the most “absolute” form of love. However, different combinations exist too! There can be love such as Romantic love (which is characterized by just having Passion and Intimacy, but a lack of Commitment); there can be Fatuous love (that has both Commitment and Passion, but no Intimacy); or there can be Companionate love (that has both Commitment and Intimacy, but no Passion). But how does this theory come into play at Marriage Pact? These three points are certainly related to — and can be measured by — questions we have written. Let’s look at some examples: MP Question: “My partner should be my best friend” As one of our most popular questions, most people agree with this statement. And when it comes to the triangle, it combines the points of Intimacy and Commitment, resulting in Companionate love. If your partner is your best friend, you are emotionally close and are devoted to them. This type of love is often found in long-term marriages. MP Question: “Sex should be romantic” If you strongly agree with this statement, you may experience Romantic love, as mentioned before. Composed of Passion and Intimacy, the physical attraction to your partner is there, as well the need for affection and emotional attention during this act. MP Question: “It's wrong to stay in a relationship with someone you know you don't love” Now if you agree with this statement, the idea of Empty love does not sit right with you. Commitment is the sole reason that this love exists. There is no Passion or Intimacy and the relationship continues only because the parties involved decide to. Though Sternberg’s theory isn’t the end-all-be-all of relationship frameworks, by narrowing down three key components that can contribute to relationships, the Triangular Theory of Love does provide a neat categorization of the types of love that exist in the world. Next time you’re analyzing any of your relationships (as we often do on the Relationship Science team) you have a new tool to help you do so.