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Love Triangle: Robert Sternberg's Theory of Love

Updated on March 16, 2014

According to Robert Sternberg, love is composed of three ingredients. The first ingredient is passion, the feeling and desire to be sexual with a person, to touch them, be with them, hold hands, etc. “Passion is largely an emotional state and is characterized by high bodily arousal” (Baumeister & Bushman, 2013). The second ingredient of the recipe of love is intimacy, though not to be mistaken with the first. In Sternberg’s love triangle recipe, intimacy is more of a comfort and acceptance, as opposed to a physical sense. He purports that intimacy is the “common core” to all relationships. Intimacy is the emotional need to be with someone and empathy is also important for love. The third and less point in the triangle is commitment. Commitment is the decision that a person makes to stay with another person. Unlike the emotions of intimacy and passion, commitment is the decision to stay.

To me, the most important ingredient in this love soup would be passion, because without passion, you merely have a friend. You may want to be around someone, enjoy their company and even make a conscious choice to be there for them, however without the physical aspects, there is no love. Well not a romantic love anyways.

In Sternberg’s notion of love with three components, all parts are needed for the goal of love. As described above, passion is needed for love, or you just have a friend. Without intimacy, you basically have a friend with benefits or a more casual outlook to relieving physical needs. Without commitment, the love would not last for any large amount of time. There may be love in the beginning, however, lust goes away and if the decision to is not made to commit, there will be no love.


Baumeister, R.F., and Bushman, B.J. (2011) Social Psychology and Human Nature, (2nd ed) Wadsworth, Cengage Learning


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