A Triangular Theory of Love Essay

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Pages: 65

A Triangular Theory of Love

This article presents a triangular theory of love. According to the theory, love has three components: (a) intimacy, which encompasses the feelings of closeness, connectedness, and bondedness one experiences in loving relationships; (b) passion, which encompasses the drives that lead to romance, physical attraction, and sexual consummation; and (c) decision/commitment, which encompasses, in the short term, the decision that one loves another, and in the long term, the commitment to maintain that love. The amount of love one experiences depends on the absolute strength of these three components, and the kind of love one experiences depends on their strengths relative to each other. The three components
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To a large extent, then, love is prototypically organized (Rosch, 1978), such that certain feelings, drives, thoughts, and behaviors appear as more highly characteristic of love as it is socially denned, whereas others appear as less characteristic.2 Indeed, one way to study love would be through the examination of people's conceptions or implicit theories of love (Barnes & Sternberg, 1986, are currently involved in such an investigation). Such an investigation capitalizes on principles of descriptive psychology in order to provide a framework for loverelated phenomena (Davis & Roberts, 1985; Ossorio, 1985). A theory of love, therefore, can help one understand the range and composition of the phenomenon of love but should not result in the whole's being lost in its parts. The similarities and differences among the three components of love may be better understood by examining their respective properties, some of which are summarized in Table 1.

Table 1 Properties of Triangle Vertices
Component Property Stability Conscious controllability Experiential salience Typical importance in short-term relationships Typical importance in long-term relationships Commonality across loving relationships Psychophysiological involvement Susceptibility to conscious awareness Intimacy Moderately high Moderate Variable Moderate High