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Full Title: The Triangle of Love: Intimacy, Passion, Commitment
Author(s): Robert J. Sternberg
Publishing / Edition: Basic Books, Inc., 1988
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Content Review

According to the general model, there are three aspects to relationships: Passion, Intimacy, and Commitment.

Each of these can combine in different ways to change the nature of that relationship:


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• If there is only Passion, then it is an Infatuation.
• If there is only Intimacy, then it is a Liking.
• If there is only Commitment, then it is an Empty Love.

• If there is Passion + Commitment, then it is a Fatuous Love.
• If there is Intimacy + Passion, then it is a Romantic Love.
• If there is Commitment + Intimacy, then it is Companionate Love.

• And finally, if there is Passion, Intimacy, and Commitment, then it is a Consummate Love.

The qualities can vary in their amount, and each person within the relationship can have more than one triangle. For example, a person can have a triangle for their ideal partner within their own mind, and another triangle for their interpretation of how their actual partner is. The triangles can match up with one another, and/or with those inside of their partner.

This model reminds me strongly of the "claddagh", an ancient Irish symbol associated with marriage:



The heart represents Love, the hands represent Friendship, and the crown represents Loyalty. These match up well with the elements of Passion, Intimacy, and Commitment within the triangle.

Of course, Sternberg's model is a little more involved. It is based upon a lot of research (specific types of surveys) that he goes into throughout the book, but this is an intriguing correspondence that points to the likelihood that such a way of looking at relationships says something important about the structure of relationships in general (i.e.: the division into three qualities is meaningful and has a historical context).

Related Resources

Robert J. Sternberg - Love
This is the author's website, specifically the page on theories related to love.