Sternberg’s Triangular Theory of Love

Amongst the types of love psychology, this theory was advanced by Robert Sternberg. The theory proposes three building blocks which must be present for love to be complete. Absence of one or more blocks in a love relationship can lead to its disintegration.

The Three Building Blocks of Love


This is mainly associated with physical arousal. Passion causes people to be physically moved by the presence of their partner. However, passion may also encompass any other deep emotional satisfaction that partners derive from the relationship.

types of love


This comprises a mutual feeling of closeness and attachment to each other. Intimacy causes partners in a love relationship to have a strong bond connecting them. It makes them feel at ease with each other.


Unlike the other two blocks, commitment involves a conscious decision to stick with one another. The decision to remain committed is mainly determined by the level of satisfaction that a partner derives from the relationship.

The Triangle Theory of Love

Sternberg came up with a triangular model where the three love components take the vertices of the triangle. The three love components interacts with each other to generate seven distinct types of love.

Sternberg’s 7 Kinds of Love

Consummate Love

This is the ideal kind of love in which all the three components are present in their right proportions. This form of love is considered to produce the perfect couple. The love relationship can survive over a very long time. However, it can also die if any of the three components start to diminish.

Fatuous Love

Fatuous love occurs when people make commitments based on passion without the element of intimacy. Lack of the stabilizing effect of intimacy makes the relationship disintegrate as passion diminishes with time.

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Companionate Love

Companionate love is the kind that exists among family members. It involves intimacy and long-term commitment .This kind of love is characteristic of many couples who still remain affectionate and committed to each other long after passion dies.

Romantic Love

This form of love happens as a result of intimacy and passion.Such couples are attracted to each other physically and have strong emotional bond. However, there is absence of commitment in the relationship.

Empty Love

This is characterized by the absence of intimacy and passion. Partners in such a relationship are only committed to each other.

Infatuated Love

It is a form of love driven by passion only. Intimacy and commitment can develop over time making infatuated love to graduate to romantic and consummate love. However, it can diminish quite easily if the other components do not come in.


It is characterized by feelings of friendship. There are feelings of warmth and closeness towards each other. However, there is absence of commitment and any strong passion towards each other.


This happens where there is absence of all the three components. People just interact casually with one another.

The triangular theory of love has been criticized especially due to its inability to specify the time or point in which one form of love evolves to another. However, it has been tested for its validity and found to hold some water.


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