Sternberg’s triangular theory of love was developed after the identification of passionate love and companionate love. Passionate love and companionate love are different kinds of love but are connected in relationships.
Passionate love is associated with strong feelings of love and desire for a specific person. This love is full of excitement and newness. Passionate love is important in the beginning of the relationship and typically lasts for about a year. There is a chemical component to passionate love. Those experiencing passionate love are also experiencing increased neurotransmitters, specifically phenylethylamine. These feelings are most commonly found in the most early stages of love.
Companionate love follows passionate love. Companionate love is also known as affectionate love. When a couple reaches this level of love, they feel mutual understanding and care for each other. This love is important for the survival of the relationship. This type of love comes later on in the relationship and requires a certain level of knowledge for each person in the relationship.
Sternberg created his triangle next. The triangle’s points are intimacy, passion, and commitment.
Intimate love is the corner of the triangle that encompasses the close bonds of loving relationships. Intimate love felt between two people means that they each feel a sense of high regard for each other. They wish to make each other happy, share with each other, be in communication with each other, help when one is in need. A couple with intimate love deeply values each other. Intimate love has been called the “warm” love because of the way it brings two people close together. Sternberg’s prediction of this love was that it would diminish as the relationship became less interrupted, thus increasing predictability.
Passionate love is based on drive. Couples in passionate love feel physically attracted to each other. Sexual desire is typically a component of passionate love. Passionate love is not limited to sexual attraction, however. It is a way for couples to express feelings of nurture, dominance, submission, self-actualization, etc. Passionate love is considered the “hot” component of love because of the strong presence of arousal between two people. Sternberg believed that passionate love will diminish as the positive force of the relationship is taken over by opposite forces. This idea comes from Solomon’s opponent-force theory.
Commitment, or committed love, is for lovers who are committed to being together for a long period of time. Something to note about commitment, however, is that one can be committed to someone without feeling love for him or her, and one can feel love for someone without being committed to him or her. Commitment is considered to be the “cold” love because it does not require either intimacy or passion. Sternberg believed that committed love increases in intensity as the relationship grows. Commitment can be considered for friends as well.
Sternberg believed love to progress and evolve in predictable ways; that all couples in love will experience intimate, passionate, and committed love in the same patterns.
Although these types of love may contain qualities that exist in non-loving relationships, they are specific to loving relationships. A description of non-love is listed below, along with the other kinds of love. These kinds of love are combinations of one or two of the three corners of Sternberg’s triangle of love.