According to the triangular theory of love developed by psychologist Robert Sternberg, the three components of love are intimacy, passion, and commitment. Intimacy encompasses feelings of attachment, closeness, connectedness, and bondedness. Passion encompasses drives connected to both limerance and sexual attraction.
Theories of Love
Why do people fall in love? Why are some forms of love so lasting and others so fleeting? Psychologists and researchers have proposed several different theories of love to explain how love forms and endures.
Love is a basic human emotion, but understanding how and why it happens is not necessarily easy. In fact, for a long time, many people suggested that love was simply something too primal, mysterious, and spiritual for science to ever fully understand.
The following are four of the major theories proposed to explain love and other emotional attachments
Liking vs. Loving
Psychologist Zick Rubin proposed that romantic love1 is made up of three elements:Attachment Caring Intimacy
Rubin believed that sometimes we experience a great amount of appreciation and admiration for others. We enjoy spending time with that person and want to be around him or her, but this doesn't necessarily qualify as love. Instead Rubin referred to this as liking.
Love, on the other hand, is much deeper, more intense, and includes a strong desire for physical intimacy and contact. People who are "in like" enjoy each other's company, while those who are "in love" care as much about the other person's needs as they do their own.
Attachment is the need to receive care, approval, and physical contact with another person. Caring involves valuing the other person's needs and happiness as much as one's own. Intimacy refers to the sharing of thoughts, desires, and feelings with the other person.
Based on this definition, Rubin devised a questionnaire to assess attitudes about others and found that these scales of liking and loving provided support for his conception of love.
Compassionate vs. Passionate Love
According to psychologist Elaine Hatfield and her colleagues, there are two basic types of love:Compassionate love Passionate love
Compassionate love is characterized by mutual respect, attachment, affection, and trust. Compassionate love usually develops out of feelings of mutual understanding and a shared respect for one another.
Passionate love is characterized by intense emotions, sexual attraction, anxiety, and affection. When these intense emotions are reciprocated, people feel elated and fulfilled. Unreciprocated love leads to feelings of despondency and despair. Hatfield suggests that passionate love is transitory, usually lasting between 6 and 30 months.
Hatfield also suggests that passionate love arises when cultural expectations encourage falling in love, when the person meets one's preconceived ideas of ideal love, and when one experiences heightened physiological arousal in the presence of the other person.
Ideally passionate love then leads to compassionate love, which is far more enduring. While most people desire relationships that combine the security and stability of compassionate with intense passionate love, Hatfield believes that this is rare
The Color Wheel Model of Love
In his 1973 book The Colors of Love, psychologist John Lee compared styles of love to the color wheel. Just as there are three primary colors, Lee suggested that there are three primary styles of love. These three styles of love are:
Eros: The term eros stems from the Greek word meaning "passionate" or "erotic." Lee suggested that this type of love involves both physical and emotional passion.
Ludos: Ludos comes from the Greek word meaning "game." This form of love is conceived as playful and fun, but not necessarily serious. Those who exhibit this form of love are not ready for commitment and are wary of too much intimacy.
Storge: Storge stems from the Greek term meaning "natural affection." This form of love is often represented by familial love between parents and children, siblings, and extended family members. This type of love can also develop out of friendship where people who share interests and commitments gradually develop affection for one another.
Continuing the color wheel analogy, Lee proposed that just as the primary colors can be combined to create complementary colors, these three primary styles of love could be combined to create nine different secondary love styles. For example, combining Eros and Ludos results in mania or obsessive love.
Three primary styles:1. Eros – Loving an ideal person 2. Ludos – Love as a game 3. Storge – Love as friendship
Three secondary styles:1. Mania (Eros + Ludos) – Obsessive love 2. Pragma (Ludos + Storge) – Realistic and practical love 3. Agape (Eros + Storge) – Selfless love
Triangular Theory of Love
Psychologist Robert Sternberg proposed a triangular theory suggesting that there are three components of love:Intimacy Passion Commitment
Different combinations of these three components result in different types of love. For example, combining intimacy and commitment results in companionate love, while combining passion and intimacy leads to romantic love.
According to Sternberg, relationships built on two or more elements are more enduring than those based on a single component. Sternberg uses the term consummate love to describe combining intimacy, passion, and commitment. While this type of love is the strongest and most enduring, Sternberg suggests that this type of love is rare
The Psychology of Romantic Love
Most everyone wants to fall in love, especially codependents. To us, love is perhaps the highest ideal, and relationships give our lives meaning and purpose. They enliven and motivate us.
A partner provides a companion when we have difficulty initiating action on our own. Being loved also validates our sense of self-esteem, overcomes shame-based doubts about our lovability, and soothes our fears of loneliness. But too often a beautiful romance turns sour. What was a wonderful dream becomes a painful nightmare.
Ms. Perfect or Mr. Right becomes Ms. or Mr. Wrong. The unconscious is a mighty force. Reason doesn’t seem to stop us from falling in love, nor make it any easier to leave! Even when the relationship turns out to be toxic, once attached, ending the relationship is as hard as falling in love was easy!
he Chemistry of Romance and Falling in Love
Our brains are wired to fall in love — to feel the bliss and euphoria of romance, to enjoy pleasure, and to bond and procreate. Feel-good neurochemicals flood the brain at each stage of lust, attraction, and attachment. Particularly dopamine provides natural high and ecstatic feelings that can be as addictive as cocaine.
Deeper feelings are assisted by oxytocin, the “cuddle hormone,” released during orgasm. It’s directly linked to bonding and increases trust and loyalty in romantic attachments.
he Psychology of Romantic Love — Whom We Find Attractive
Psychology plays a role, too. Our self-esteem, mental and emotional health, life experiences, and family relations all influence whom we’re attracted to.
Experiences, both positive and negative, impact our choices and make someone appear more or less attractive. For example, we might find commonality attractive, but avoid someone who cheated on an ex if that has happened to us before.
We’re attracted to subtle physical attributes, albeit unconsciously, that remind us of a family member. More mysterious, we can be attracted to someone who shares emotional and behavioral patterns with a member of our family even before they become apparent.
The Ideal Stage of Romance
It’s true that we’re blinded by love. Healthy idealization is normal and helps us fall in love. We admire our beloved, are willing to explore our partner’s interests, and accept his or her idiosyncrasies.
Love also brings out parts of our personality that were dormant. We might feel manlier or more womanly, more empathic, generous, hopeful, and more willing to take risks and try new things.
In this way, we feel more alive, because we have access to other aspects of our ordinary or constricted personality. Additionally, in early dating, we’re usually more honest than down the road when we become invested in the relationship and fear speaking our truth might precipitate a breakup.
Although, healthy idealization doesn’t blind us to serious warning signs of problems, if we’re depressed or have low self-esteem, we’re more likely to idealize a prospective partner and overlook signs of trouble,
such as unreliability or addiction, or accept behavior that is disrespectful or abusive. The neurochemicals of romance can lift our depressed mood and fuel codependency and love addiction when we seek a relationship in order to put an end to our loneliness or emptiness.
When we lack a support system or are unhappy, we might rush into a relationship and become attached quickly before really knowing our partner. This is also referred to as “love on the rebound” or a “transitional relationship” following a breakup or divorce. It’s far better to first recover from a breakup
The Ordeal Stage of Romantic Love
After the initial ideal stage, usually starting after six months, we enter the ordeal stage as we learn more things about our partner that displease us. We discover habits and flaws we dislike and attitudes we believe to be ignorant or distasteful. In fact, some of the same traits that attracted us now annoy us. We liked that our mate was warm and friendly, but now feel ignored at social gatherings.
We admired his bold and decisive, but learn he’s rude and close-minded. We were enchanted by her carefree spirit, but are now appalled by her unrealistic spending. We were captivated by his unfettered expressions of love and a promised future, but discover he’s loose with the truth.
Additionally, as the high wears off, we start to revert to our ordinary personality, and so has our partner. We don’t feel as expansive, loving, and unselfish.
In the beginning, we may have gone out of our way to accommodate him or her, now we complain that our needs aren’t being met. We’ve changed, and we don’t feel as wonderful, but we want those blissful feelings back.
Two things happen next that can damage relationships. First, now that we’re attached and fear losing or upsetting our partner, we hold back feelings, wants, and needs. This puts up walls to intimacy, the secret sauce that keeps love alive.
In its place we withdraw and breed resentments. Our feelings can come out sideways with sarcasm or passive-aggression. As romance and idealization fade, the second fatal mistake is to complain and try to turn our partner into who we first idealized him or her to be.
We feel cheated and disillusioned that our partner is now behaving differently than in the beginning of the relationship. He or she, too, is reverting to their ordinary personality that may include less effort made to win you and accommodate your needs. Our partner will feel controlled and resentful and may pull away.
In some cases, we might discover serious problems — that our partner has an addiction, mental illness, or his abusive or dishonest. These are issues that require a serious commitment to change and often years of therapy to overcome.
Many codependents, who get quickly involved for the reasons stated above, will sacrifice their own happiness and continue in a relationship for years trying to change, help, and fix their partner. The dysfunctional family dynamics of their childhood often get repeated in their marriages and relationships.
They may unconsciously be contributing to the problem, because they’re reacting to an abusive or controlling parent. Change requires healing our past and overcoming shame and low self-esteem to feel entitled to love and appreciation.
Getting to the Real Deal
We might not want to continue a relationship that involves addiction or abuse or has other serious problems. (See Codependency for Dummies for a list of both minimal and optimal ingredients for successful relationships.)
Lacking major obstacles, getting past the ordeal to the real deal requires self-esteem, courage, acceptance, and assertiveness skills. It necessitates the ability to honestly speak up about our needs and wants, to share feelings, compromise, and resolve conflict.
Rather than try to change our partner, our efforts are better placed on learning to accept him or her. (This doesn’t mean accepting abuse.) This is the struggle for intimacy, and requires a commitment by both partners to get through the ordeal stage with mutual respect and a desire to make the relationship work.
Steps You Can Take to Make Love Last
We will attract someone who treats us the way we expect to be treated. As we value ourselves more, whom we are attracted to will also change, and we will naturally avoid someone who doesn’t treat us well or meet our needs.
Know yourself, your needs, wants, and limits. (Do the exercises in Codependency for Dummies.)
Take time to get to know the person you’re dating. Learn who they really are and how you both resolve conflict.
Remember that sex releases oxytocin and increases bonding (though it can occur without it).Be honest from the start. Don’t hide who you are, including your needs. Speak up when you dislike something.
Talk honestly about what you want and your expectations in a relationship. If the other person doesn’t want the same things, end it. (This may not be easy, but the relationship wouldn’t have worked or satisfied you.)
Research shows that relationship outcomes are predictable based on the partners’ self esteem. Read “Codependency: The Effect of Low Self-Esteem on Relationships.” Self-worth is essential to healthy relationships. It also enables you to receive love and be repulsed by abuse. Get How to Raise Your Self-Esteem.
Boundaries and intimacy are essential to relationships. Learn to be assertive to express your feelings, needs, and wants and set boundaries. Get How To Speak Your Mind – Become Assertive and Set Limits and the webinar How to Be Assertive.
All About Love
Valentine’s Day is the time of the year when we take the time to celebrate love and the people who are meaningful to us. Love — which could be defined as a field of resonating, often oscillating, and sometimes synchronous energy — is more than just a biological imperative to procreate.
Maternal love and bonding
Early in life, our first experience of love is through the warmth, nurturance, and affection we receive through the contact and touch from our mothers, fathers or another primary caregiver.
During our infancy and childhood, warm, nurturing, and affectionate behaviors from our parents provide us with the capacity to form intimate, emotional bonds or relationships, called attachments, which shape how we form bonds with others throughout our lives.
Affectionate behaviors like touching, holding, kissing or hugging help to provide us with a sense of loving safety, and trigger the limbic system to release vasopressin, which helps us to form bonds, and oxytocin (“the love hormone”), which combats stress, promotes feelings of closeness with others and helps to soothe us.
Bonding during infancy is not only important for our survival; it provides us with the safety, comfort and security we need when we are stressed or in danger, and protects our physical and psychological well-being.
Humans are not the only ones who are affectionate toward one another for the purposes of love and forming bonds.
Tenderness can be seen among other mammals that form bonds with one another and display affectionate behaviors, like nuzzling in horses or kissing and hugging in chimpanzees
Maternal love is only one type of love that we experience in our lives. Psychologist Robert Sternberg proposed that different types of love involve different amounts of intimacy (trust, warmth, and closeness), passion and commitment. In his triangular theory of love, he outlined seven main types of love:
Friendship – warmth and closeness to another person (intimacy), but no intense passion or long-term commitment Infatuation – “love at first sight” (passion), but lack of intimacy and commitment (infatuated love can disappear suddenly)
Empty love – commitment exists, but the relationship lacks intimacy and passion
Romantic love – intimacy and passion exist, but not commitment
Companionate love – intimacy and commitment exist, but relationship lacks passion
Fatuous love – commitment motivated primarily by passion and lacks intimacy
Consummate love – the “ideal” relationship that involves all three elements (intimacy, passion, and commitment)
As relationships evolve, different types of love may be present at different stages. Many of the love types tend to overlap, with some couples having companionship and lust,
but not all of the time. In other words, there are many more than seven types of love, especially when taking into account that humans are driven by a biological need to procreate (lust). In romantic love, passion is more enduring, meaningful and cerebral than lust.
How early attachments impact us in adult romantic relationships
Early bonding and attachments we form with our parents when we are young play a key role in how we form romantic relationships later in life. In adult romantic relationships, when we feel safe and secure in our relationships, have responsive partners, and have close, intimate contact with our partners, we typically have a secure adult romantic relationship.
On the other hand, people who form a type of insecure attachment known as dismissing-avoidant may be uncomfortable with how close they get to their partners, and in an effort to detach from intimacy with their partners, they may engage in alcohol, sex or other addictions.
They might also indulge in other addictive behaviors like paraphilias, which are emotional disorders that are characterized by sexually arousing fantasies, urges or behaviors, that affect the person’s sexual arousal like voyeurism (spying on others in private activities) or exhibitionism (exposing the genitals).
Love vs. lust
Love and lust may be easily confused, as mutual sexual attraction is one of the major components of popular dating apps like Tinder, where two people “match” with other people they are sexually attracted to, but one or both people may not necessarily be looking for an actual relationship.
Lust – our innate biological drive to reproduce is also present and drives our sexual attraction and need for sexual gratification. Our sex hormones (androgens) — testosterone and oestrogen —
kick in when we are teenagers, and it’s not soon after that many of us have our first kiss. Many of our primitive biological drives to reproduce are driven by the need for sexual gratification (lust).
In a relationship, it is true that someone may be “lusting,” while the other confuses the others’ attraction for the desire to form and commit to a relationship. Although we may be initially driven by our sex drive (the libido or lust), simply being sexually attracted to someone doesn’t mean that a romance or relationship will advance or last very long.
Intimacy: Hugs and kisses
The kisspeptin hormone has also been suggested to be a vital neuromodulator that drives different aspects of human reproduction by enhancing our emotional and sexual brain processing in key limbic and paralimbic brain structures in areas responsible for mood, drive and reward.
In other words, kisspeptin encourages us to procreate by fueling our sexual stimulation and desire to bond with a partner, driving forces in pair-bonding and romantic love.
Aside from the luxurious kiss hormones, kissing is considered to be one of the highest forms of intimacy. Rather than being purely driven by our innate drive to reproduce, passion in romantic love is much more than lust.
Hugs, cuddles, and kisses are important in life, because they create more body-to-body contact outside of intercourse; they fuel intimacy.
In romantic relationships, affectionate behaviors such as kissing can help to build intimacy (trust and closeness) between two people and satisfy our emotional needs for affection with our partners
Falling in love
As “falling in love” can activate the reward system, some people compare the initial stage of falling in love as being similar to the high produced by cocaine — that’s because infatuation is characterized by intense cravings to see or talk to someone you are smitten by and the desire to be closer to him or her. When we are first falling in love, our attraction is driven by changes in our brain chemicals, including:
Increases in dopamine that motivate us to seek and maintain a relationship with a preferred romantic partner
Norepinephrine increases that give us a rush of excitement, nervousness, energy and motivation to pursue our romantic partner. This also produces physical symptoms like a racing heart, flushed skin and sweaty palms.
Serotonin decreases, which can improve mood. Serotonin is an important neurotransmitter in regulating mood, sexual desire, and function, appetite, sleep, memory, social behavior and learning.
If you are newly smitten with your partner, you may see the person as doing no wrong or you might idealize your partner and neglect to see his or her flaws or negative traits. In that sense, it is true what they say, that “love is blind.”
Despite the pleasurable and enjoyable state, infatuation is only temporary, and the elated and euphoric feeling wears off anywhere after a few months to several years – and it’s definitely not what makes people stay together for the long term
What makes love last?
Couples reach the attachment stage, a longer-lasting commitment that is also known as “companionate love,” when two romantic partners believe that their relationship is going to last for the long term.
Attachments are strengthened because of the release of oxytocin and vasopressin during intimacy and other affectionate behaviors, the same neuropeptides that are released when we are children and help us form a bond with our mother or primary caregiver.
M I Ro