One of the first theories of love was developed by Sigmund Freud. As Freud so frequently attributed human nature to unconscious desires, his theory of love centered around the need for an “ego ideal”. His definition of an ego ideal is this: the image of the person that one wants to become, which is patterned after those whom one holds with great respect.
Another theory was introduced by Maslow. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs places self-actualization at the peak. He maintains that those who have reached self-actualization are capable of love.
Yet another theory, one about being in love, was developed by Reik. Being in love was said to be attainable for those who could love for the sake of loving people, not just fixing one’s own problem.
When theories about love moved from being clinically based to being socially and personality based, they became focused on types of love, as opposed to becoming able to love.
Of the multiple different early and later theories of love, there are two specific early theories that contribute to and influence Sternberg’s theory.
The first is a theory presented by Zick Rubin named The Theory of Liking vs. Loving. In his theory, to define romantic love, Rubin concludes that attachment, caring, and intimacy are the three main principles that are key to the difference of liking one person and loving them. Rubin states that if a person simply enjoys another’s presence and spending time with them, that person only likes the other. However, if a person shares a strong desire for intimacy and contact, as well as cares equally about the other’s needs and their own, the person loves the other.
In Sternberg’s theory, one of his main principles is intimacy. It is clear that intimacy is an important aspect of love, ultimately using it to help define the difference between compassionate and passionate love.
The second is a theory—The Color Wheel Model of Love—presented by John Lee. In his theory, using the analogy of primary colors to love, Lee defines the three different styles of love. These include Eros, Ludos, and Storge. Most importantly within his theory, he concludes that these three primary styles, like the making of complementary colors, can be combined to make secondary forms of love.
In Sternberg’s theory, he presents, like Lee, that through the combination of his three main principles, different forms of love are created.
Sternberg also described three models of love, including the Spearmanian, Thomsonian, and Thurstonian models. According to the Spearmanian model, love is a single bundle of positive feelings. In the Thomsonian model, love is a mixture of multiple feeling that, when brought together, produce the feeling. The Spearmanian model is the closest to the triangular theory of love, and dictates that love is made up of equal parts that are more easily understood on their own than as a whole. In this model, the various factors are equal in their contribution to the feeling, and could be disconnected from each other.