Positive Psychology at Tufts

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Relationships: The Triarchic Theory of Love

Posted by SR on May 4, 2010 at 1:28 PM

By Natasha Malkani


Love. There is an infinite number of books, careers, shows, songs, movies, plays, artworks, and nearly 1.5 billion websites on Google that dance around this lovely theme. Positive Psychology, as discussed in great depth in our ExCollege class at Tufts, yields itself to conceptualizing love in more intriguing ways than ever. 


Robert Sternberg, a very reputable and established figure in the field of psychology, formulated the Triarchic Theory of Love. Sternberg [1988] theorizes that a relationship can be illustrated by three components: Passion, Intimacy, and Commitment. Seven different combinations can be made of these three characteristics which each loosely represent a type of relationship. If you really think about each type, I'm sure you can find an example of a relationship that you have come across. Try it; my anecdote follows for more of an idea: 



My anecdote on the types of love...


Liking: Intimacy Alone

-feelings of closeness, connectedness, and bond

-my best friend


Empty Love: Commitment Alone

-the conscious decision to be with another and to share achievements and plans with that person

-a bad arranged marriage


Infatuation: Passion Alone

-physiological and emotional drives that lead to romance, physical attraction, and sexual consummation

-that dream guy one-time hook-up


Romantic Love: Intimacy and Passion

-zero commitment

-hooking up with your close friend without expecting anything


Fatuous Love: Passion and Commitment

-zero intimacy

-meeting and subsequently marrying the love of your life who makes passionate love (but you don't really know him/her)


Companionate Love: Intimacy and Commitment

-zero passion

-couples who complain of that lack of "spark" or attraction


Consummate Love: Intimacy and Passion and Commitment

-that perfect relationship with strong emotional, sexual, and mental connections

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