sternberg's triangular love theory - 8 types of love

The Triangular Theory of Love: 8 Types of Romantic Love

One framework for understanding love is known as Sternberg’s Triangular Theory of Love, and is especially helpful in defining romantic relationships. Sternberg posits that there are 3 main components (passion, intimacy, and commitment) that makeup 8 types of love.

To best understand this framework, it helps to understand the three components:

  • Passion: Feelings of excitement and attraction
  • Intimacy: Feelings of bonded connection and closeness with another person
  • Commitment: A desire to continue and nurture the relationship

According to Sternberg, a relationship will have some combination of the components, and from there, we can determine which of the 8 types of love is present in the relationship. See if you can recognize your love type from the list below:

1. Non love: 

No feelings of love, but also no feelings of dislike. Non-love exchanges might include a friendly stranger you meet in line at the coffee shop, a pleasant cashier at the grocery store, or an excellent customer service representative who helped you solve a problem. In these types of interactions, you don’t develop feelings of love, but there is no development of intimacy, passion, or commitment. These exchanges are typically pleasant but neutral.

2. Liking: intimacy only. 

This type of love does not include commitment or passion, but does include a sense of closeness. We might find this type of love evident between friends and acquaintences where we enjoy spending time with the or other person, but there is little desire to spend extended time or share passionate exchanges with them.

3. Infatuated love: passion only. 

Most of us in western culture know this as “love at first sight,” or the feelings we may have for our crush. This type of love is fiery, intense, and at times, all-consuming, but it ranks low on intimacy and commitment and doesn’t typically last.

4. Empty love: commitment only. 

We might find this type of love in a ‘loveless’ marriage, where we are committed to staying in the relationship, but experience little in terms of passion and intimacy. 

5. Romantic: passion + intimacy. 

Similar to infatuation, romantic love adds an element of intimacy. We might see this type of love early on in our relationship with a partner, when we are in the honeymoon stage but have not yet developed a desire to commit to the relationship.

6. Companionate love: intimacy + commitment. 

When intimacy and commitment converge in a relationship, we might find the love between friends, also known as companionate love. Not just for friends, long-term marriages also can have this combination of intimacy and commitment that, without passion, creates a relationship built on closeness and the desire to nurture the relationship.

7. Fatuous love: passion + commitment. 

This type of love is difficult to sustain, as it lacks intimacy – a key component to sustainable relationships. This marriage of passion and commitment might be found in a “shotgun” union – that is, the relationship is passionate, and backed by commitment, but lacks the feeling of being bonded to and close with the other person.

8. Consummate love: passion + intimacy + commitment.

Often, the ideal marriage is described in terms of consummate love – that is, the union is one where we feel excited and attracted to our partner, we feel close to them, and we are committed to making the relationship last. According to Sternberg, having every component in the relationship makes for consummate, or complete, love. Of course, we don’t need a marriage to have this type of love – the only requirements are that all 3 components (passion, intimacy, and commitment) are present.

If you would like to explore your particular love type, a love coach may be able to help you make sense of the journey. Please reach out – you are worth it.