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Love Theories

Updated on July 31, 2011

A Few Love Theories From Sociological Thinkers

The why's and how's of love has long been discussed in many different kinds of writings such as songs, books, poems and by sociological thinkers. Social scientists are always studying how and why human beings interact with each other. Some of my favorite theories are discussed in this lens. They are: (1) The Attachment Theory; (2) The Reiss's Wheel Theory of Love; (3) Sternberg's Triangular Theory of Love; (4) The Exchange Theory and (5) The Lee's Styles of Loving.

I write a lot about relationships because I think it is relationships that rocks our world! I am always looking for ways to improve my relationships, ways to understand my relationships and why is because I think it is relationships, but especially "good relationships" that rocks our world. I hope you find the information on my lenses helpful, useful, entertaining and interesting. I also hope you take some time to visit my websites listed below in the "related websites" section and read my collection of articles written by other authors all about relationships, the good, the bad, and probably some ugly too!!!!

The Attachment Theory

The attachment theory states that all people regardless of race, culture or nationality are primarily motivated toward becoming connected to other people. The theory is based upon the thought that the reason we are so motivated to becoming connected to others is that becoming connected to others is the only real security in life we will ever have. In this way of thinking it does not matter how wealthy a person is; it is that, our greatest sense of real security comes from being connected to other people. The quest for human connections begins at birth and ends upon death.

The Reiss's Wheel Theory of Love

The Reiss's Wheel Theory of Love is another interesting sociological theory proposed by Sociologist Ira Reiss and his associates. It was a theory that created research on the subject of love for decades. The Reiss's Wheel Theory of Love states that there are four stages of love which are: (1) rapport; (2) self-revelation; (3) mutual dependency; and (4) personality need fulfillment.

Stage 1: People develop rapport with each other based upon their cultural backgrounds of similar upbringing, social class, religion and education. Without this basic rapport, love theory thinkers believe would-be lovers do not have enough in common to establish even the first spark of an interest in each other.

Stage 2: The self-revelation stage helps a couple grow closer together as each person feels more at ease he or she is more likely to discuss hopes, desires, fears, ambitions and even might engage in sexual activities during this stage.

Stage 3: At this stage a couple is becoming closer and more intimate to each other. They may develop a mutual dependency upon each other. They may begin to exchange ideas, jokes, and sexual desires.

Stage 4: This is the last stage of the Reiss's Wheel Theory of Love. If the relationship develops to this last stage they will begin to experience personality need fulfillment. The partners will confide in one another, make mutual decisions, support each other's ambitions and boost each other's self-confidence.

The Reiss's Wheel Theory of Love is compared to the spokes on a wheel. The stages can turn many times or can be repeated. The partners may build some rapport and then reveal small pieces of themselves, build more rapport, then exchange ideas and so on as the wheel keeps turning throughout the duration of their relationship.

The spokes on the wheel might keep turning to produce a long, deep and lasting relationship. Or, by contrast, as with a casual affair or fleeting romance, the spokes on the wheel may stop just after a few turns. The spokes on the wheel can even wind up and down several times in one evening. For example, a couple may argue, then make up and engage in self-disclosure with each other, then back to arguing again creating an unwinding of the wheel to even stopping the wheel and termination of the relationship all in one evening.

The Reiss's Wheel Theory of Love was later modified by Sociologist Dolores Borland in 1975 who proposed love relationships can be viewed as "clock springs." She stated, relationships can wind up and unwind several times as love grows or declines.

Romantic Gifts For Women
Romantic Gifts For Women

Sternberg's Triangular Theory of Love

The psychologist Robert Sternberg and his associates focused upon love having three important components: (1) intimacy; (2) passion and; (3) decision/commitment.

Intimacy involves feelings of closeness, connectedness and bonding. Passion is the forerunner of romance, physical attraction and sexual activity. Decision/commitment consists of short term and long term components. The short term period is when partners make a decision to love each other. The long term period exists when partners make a commitment to maintain their love throughout time.

The theory explains how a mix of intimacy, passion and commitment varies from one relationship to another. A relationship can exist in a non-love category having all three components missing. Relationships can also exist having all three components active and alive, however, even when all three components are active within a relationship they may vary in intensity and over time for each partner. The theory combines these three components as if forming a triangle. It also explains that the greater there are of mismatching of dimensions of these three components, the greater is the dissatisfaction within a relationship.

Stop Jealous Thoughts
Stop Jealous Thoughts

Lee's Styles of Loving

A Canadian sociologist, John Lee, created one of the most cited and studied theories of love that come to be known as the "Lee's Styles of Loving." His theory states there are six basic styles of loving that are: (1) eros; (2) mania; (3) ludus; (4) storge; (5) agape and; (6) pragma. All six styles overlap and can vary in intensity.


Eros: Is the root of the word "erotic," and means love of beauty. It is also characterized by powerful physical attraction and can describe a "love at first sight" emotion or feeling. It is the kind of love most described in romantic novels. Physical symptoms of eros are usually palpitations, light-headedness and intense emotional desire. The theory states that erotic lovers tend to want to know everything there is to know about their lover. For example: "what he or she dreamed about last night, or what he or she ate for dinner and snacks today."

Mania: Manifestations are obsessiveness, jealousy, possessiveness, and intense dependency. There may be loss of appetite, sleeplessness, headaches and even suicide because of real or imagined rejection by the desired person. Mania in love relationships is often associated with individuals with low self-esteem and a poor self-concept.

Ludus: Carefree and casual love that consists of fun and games. These lovers often have several partners at one time and are not possessive or jealous. They usually do not want their lovers to become dependent upon them. Ludic lovers enjoy sex just for fun and not for emotional rapport. Their sexual encounters are typically self-centered and exploitative. Ludic lovers typically do not want long term commitments and consider them to be scary.

Storge: A slow-burning, peaceful, and affectionate love that comes with the passage of time and the enjoyment of shared interests and activities. It lacks the ecstatic highs and lows that describe other styles of love. Many social scientists suggest storgic love is equal to companionate love characterized by feelings of togetherness, tenderness, and deep affection as well as sharing and supporting each other throughout a lifetime. Sex usually occurs later than in erotic, manic and ludic love because the partners have more long term goals for each other such as marriage, home and children. Storgic lovers often remain friends even if they break up.

Agape: A classical Christian type of love. It is self-sacrificing love aimed at all mankind. It is always kind and patient, never jealous or demanding and does not seek love in return.

Pragma: A rational love based on practical considerations such as being compatible to one another. Pragmatic people seek compatibility on background, education, religion, occupations and recreational pursuits. It is often seen that pragmatic lovers look out for one another and are also very practical if the relationship breaks up. They move on quickly in search for someone else.

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Love Addiction Solutions

Exchange Theory

A social exchange process is what love is according to some social scientists. Social exchanges between romantic and long-term love relationships that provide rewards and costs for each partner is one way to describe what love is. When the initial interactions are give and take and satisfying to both partners a relationship will last and flourish. If needs, however, are mismatched and not mutually satisfying or change considerably throughout time partner's love may wane or shift between the periods of adolescence and later life.

Resources used to create this lens:

Textbook: Marriages and Families, Changes, Choices and Constraints by Nijole V. Benokraitis, 7th edition, copyright 2011, 2008, 2005 by Pearson Education, Inc., Upper Saddle River, NJ

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      5 years ago

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