TM Speech #3: The Triangular Theory of Love

It’s like a rosary, because it’s full of mysteries. It means never having to say you’re sorry. It’s that feeling you get when you meet the right person. It makes the whole world go around.

What is it?

It’s love.

Love is the eternal topic. It never gets old.  Love has been defined by so many people in so many ways for so long.

This speech is on my favourite definition or explanation of it—The Triangular Theory of Love.

Robert Sternberg’s a psychologist and he formulated this theory at around 1986. In a nutshell, he says that love is defined by  3 components. The three components are intimacy, passion and commitment.

Let’s define the components.

Intimacy is the feeling of closeness that you feel with a person. It’s when you talk to someone and share thoughts, ideas, dreams and generally feeling that you’re understood by the other person.

The second is Passion. The basic definition is  having sexual relations or having physical feelings for someone.  It’s the desire to hug and kiss someone, hold their hand or make love to them.

The final component is Commitment. Commitment is defined as the basic decision to love or be with a person whether it be short term or long term.

And so these three—Intimacy, Passion and Commitment make the triangle of  love. According to the theory, different combinations of the components can describe all the love that exists in the world.

The first combination is NonLove.  Simply put, it is the absence of all components. It’s not feeling any intimacy, physical attraction or commitment to someone. I basically call this indifference.

Liking or friendship is the second form of love. It has intimacy but no commitment or passion. As the name suggests, this is the love shared by  most friends or acquaintances.

Third is Infatuated love. This is when someone is attracted to someone based on the physical. It’s like having a crush from afar.

The fourth form is Empty Love. This love has commitment but no passion and no intimacy. This would be the type of love in an arranged marriage wherein both people are committed to each other but they don’t know each other and have not seen each other—hence no intimacy and no passion.

The next one is the most familiar —called Romantic Love. It’s when there’s passion and intimacy in the relationship but no real sustaining commitment. The type of love is found in new romances, there is intimacy, there is physical attraction butno lasting commitment.

The sixth is called Companionate Love. It’s where there is commitment and intimacy but no passion.  This type of relationship can usually be seen in long-term marriages where the sexual attraction might have faded, but the deep affection and commitment remains. This form of love can also be seen in long term platonic friendships—which we usually call —BFFs or best friends forever.

Second to the last is the Fatuous love. It’s when there is passion and there is commitment but no intimacy. The best example of this would be shotgun weddings. They get married because of the results of their physical attraction but they don’t really know each other.

The final combination is called Consummate love.  It has all the components — intimacy, passion and commitment. It’s when you’ve been with a person for years, are still attracted to them physically, consider them your best friend, and can’t imagine life without them.  It’s the ideal, the perfect love—hard to attain and even harder to maintain.

And so these are the 8 forms of love according to the Triangular theory. There are other theories like the color wheel theory of love  but the triangular theory is my favorite. It’s because it’s simple and it makes sense. It gives leeway to factors such as time, human behaviour and special conditions. It doesn’t define love as being static but moving— like it’s a journey or a story unfolding. Love can flow from Non love to Friendship then to Romantic love ripening to Consummate love then gradually becoming Companionate love.

But perhaps, the biggest reason why i like this theory is because with it I find it easier to answer some of life’s difficult questions.

What difficult questions, you ask?

Well for example, Life asks me— “What is love?”

And because of this theory, i have an answer—I’d answer, “I believe in Robert Sternsberg’s theory—Love to me, is a triangle—of intimacy, passion and commitment.”

And then sometimes life asks me further—” What kind of love do you want in your life?”

And as the triangular theory suggests that the most successful relationships are with people who want the same triangle, my answer would be:

“I want Consummate Love.  And I’m working on it.”



It’s a speech to inform. I enjoyed researching on it and talking about it.

It is my favorite definition of love. I hope everyone had a great Valentine’s day week!

This speech was presented last February 9, 2012 at the MSE Penthouse Room B.

For more information on this topic: Visit  the wiki here.. The diagram/photo is also from that site.


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