Triangular Theory of Love

Topics: Love, Triangular theory of love, Psychology Pages: 10 (3220 words) Published: August 23, 2013
SOCIAL BEHAVIOR AND PERSONALITY, 2004, 32(7), 683-690 < Society for Personality Research (Inc.) B



Lewis-Clark State College, Lewiston, ID, USA
Stemberg's Triangular Theory of Love was examined to identify the structure of the psyche implied in that theory, Stemberg's theory posits three components of human functioning to explain the phenomenon of love in close relationships: intimacy, passion, and commitment. Analysis of these three components indicates that they align with a neoclassical model of the human psyche, A neoclassical psyche consists of at least three fundamental, irreducible capacities: cognition, affect, and conation, Stemberg's commitment component relies on the capacity for cognition (and conation), the passion component is derived from conation (and affect), and the intimacy component is derived from emotional investment or the capacity for affect (and cognition). Therefore, Stemberg's overall Triangular Theory of Love ontologically presupposes a neoclassical structure to the psyche.

The purpose of this paper is to describe the structure of the human psyche that is implied in Stemberg's Triangular Theory of Love, with its three nodes of intimacy, passion, and commitment. Therefore the authors of this paper aimed to answer the question, "What must be the structure of the psyche in order for love to consist of intimacy, passion and commitment?" The central hypothesis in this paper is that the structure of the psyche, implied in Stemberg's work, is "a neoclassical psyche," a psyche that consists of at least these three fundamental, irreducible, capacities: a) cognition, b) affect, and c) conation (Hilgard, 1980; LeDoux, 2002; Tallon, 1997).

Rhett Diessner, Professor of Psychology and Education, Nellie Frost and Titus Smith, Lewis-Clark State College, Lewiston, ID, USA, Appreciation is due to reviewers including: Robert Lemieux, PhD, McDaniel College, Communication Department, 2 College Hill, Westminster, MD, USA 21157, Email: ; Ge Gao, PhD, Department of Communication Studies, San Jose State University, San Jose, CA 95192, USA, Email: Keywords: Stemberg, psyche, love, cognition, conation. Please address correspondence and reprint requests to: Rhett Diessner, Professor of Psychology and Education, 500 8th Ave,, Lewis-Clark State College, Lewiston, ID 83501-2698, USA. Phone: 208 792 2338; Fax: 208 792 2820; Email:





The triangular theory of love is so called because it holds that love can be understood in terms of three components that together can be viewed as forming the vertices of a triangle: intimacy, passion, and decision/commitment (Stemberg, 1986). Stemberg grounds this theory historically and rationally (1988, 1998; Beall & Stemberg, 1995) as well as psychometrically and empirically (Acker & Davis, 1992; Chojnacki & Walsh, 1990; Lemieux & Hale, 1999; Stemberg, 1997; Stemberg & Grajek, 1984; Whitley, 1993). According to Stemberg (1986, 1988, 1997) the intimacy component refers to a sense of bonding and close, connected feelings in loving relationships. Thus this component focuses on the emotions that comprise the experience of warmth in a loving relationship. Stemberg and Grajek's (1984) cluster analysis of various love scales indicated that intimacy included such factors as desire to promote the beloved's welfare, sharing with the beloved, mutual understanding, high regard and intimate communication. "In general, the intimacy component might be viewed as largely, but not exclusively, deriving from emotional investment in the relationship..." (Stemberg, 1986, p. 119). The triangular theory's passion component refers to "the drives that lead to romance, physical attraction, sexual consummation, and the like in a loving relationship" (Stemberg, 1988,...

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