Sternberg's Triangular Theory of Love
I'm covering this theory as I have personally found it helpful in understanding my personal relationship and have often mentioned it when chatting with friends who were having problems understanding love and what love is, particularly in long term relationships.
The theory was developed by the researcher Robert Sternberg. At the core of the theory is the view that love has 3 parts.
- Passion which includes feelings of romance, physical attraction and the urge to have sex.
- Intimacy which, in this case, refers to the desire to be close and bonded with someone at a deep, emotional level.
- Commitment which refers to the urge to share a life with someone else.
These components may be combined to characterise 8 types of love varying from non-love (none of the elements present) through to consummate love (all three parts present).
Sternberg viewed all three components as being important to relationships and, vitally, considered that their importance varied across the course of a relationship. Early stages of a relationship would primarily be caught up in passion, beginning with physical attraction and developing into sentiments of romance. As the relationship progressed further, intimacy would become of more importance and passion would reduce in importance, as the couple get to know each other and want to bond ever more closely. Finally, commitment would become the most important aspect, once the early stages of passion had steadied down and emotional intimacy had been established.
Fascinatingly, this provides a possible explaination of why some relationships might fail. It's hard to assess any one individual in any specific relationship as their feelings will naturally follow the relationship course and be more concerned with passion in the early days. However it is clear that if an individual is 'addicted' to the passionate phase of relationships, then they are not likely to manage to pass through the intimacy stage to the commitment phase, and if they do they will remain susceptible to being attracted to the passionate phase.
Now passion can still be achieved in long-term relationships, however it is less the major focus and (based on my experience (I'm a bloke by the way!)) it takes a little effort (a special meal out, a romantic gift, perhaps a weekend away). For someone who seeks a complete relationship this is fully acceptable but you can imagine that anyone who is mainly focussed on passion might end up thinking that they can only achieve this by leaving their long-term partner or having an affair.
The moral of this story is that, in my view, love is not simply the passionate love that gets equated with sex in the early phases of a relationship, it's something deeper and more abiding. However it does still cover passion, although this occasionally takes a bit of effort. So if your long term relationship needs a bit of a boost, why not plan a romantic evening or weekend, and demonstrate to yourself and to your partner that, although other things may sometimes get in the way, the passion and intimacy are still there.
Sources:Sternberg, R.J. (1986). A triangular theory of love. Psychological Review, 93, 119-135.
Added Monday February 28, 2011 by administrator under Articles