Love has to be one of the most confusing and confounding emotions we feel. It can drive you crazy trying to understand if what we feel for someone is love and if they love you in return. And how will I know if he really loves me? Hmm sounds like the lyrics of a million love songs.
Well, it turns out a professor at Yale has come up with an interesting way of deciphering our love feelings and categorizing them so we can know if what we are feeling is true love or not. His theory, the triangular theory of love, not to be confused with a love triangle, was written to help shed some light on our relationships and what makes love.
Love that is real, strong and lasting according to Dr. Sternberg, is like a triangle made up of three essential sides. When all three sides are equal you have the perfect love. Hmm, sounds easy right? So what are the three elusive sides of real love?
Side one: The intimacy component – feeling closeness and attachment to each other. The amount we can open up to someone and feel like they understand and know us.
Side two: The passion component – strong physical and/or emotional arousal that comes from being around this person.
Side three: The decision/commitment component – feeling a strong desire to be committed to someone, to promise to do or give something to another and to be loyal to one person.
The Perfect Combination
A perfect combination of these three components creates the strong, lasting love of legends. A complete love is the ideal loving formula everyone strives for with an equal balance of intimacy, passion and commitment. If you have this, you have found what millions of others are still looking for. People in love like this cannot imagine themselves happier over the long-term with anyone else. These couples are able to overcome their difficulties gracefully and they enjoy being in a relationship with each other over a long period of time.
So, what about the other types of love we experience? Not every love experience is a complete success. The triangular theory of love can help us understand these experiences also. According to the theory a relationship with one or two components missing creates one of 6 different types of love and here they are:
The Friend-zone: When you have a closeness and understanding with someone, but without passion or commitment you are firmly in the friend zone. A type of love reserved for friends and family with no romantic involvement.
Puppy Love: This is the form of infatuated love. It has lots of passion, but misses out on the intimacy or commitment. We may think we are in love, but really we don’t even know each other yet and have no idea if we will see each other beyond next week.
Empty Love: Comes when there is a strong commitment to each other, but without any passion or intimacy remaining. The type of love between partners who stay together because they promised they would.
Romantic Love: The heady stuff of love songs and romances. Those relationships that go on for months and are full of passion and intimacy, but never make it to the commitment stage. This is the love affair or the one-night stand that goes no further.
Best Friends Forever Love: Best friends love each other in a two-sided love of closeness and commitment without the passionate love component. These are the friends we will be close to for years and sometimes for a lifetime.
Love At First Sight: The whirlwind love affair that grows between two hearts full of passion and desire for commitment. It is the adrenaline rush of love that begs us to head directly to a Vegas chapel to profess our undying love and commitment to each other. Yet, this love lacks the essential intimacy component. Basically, you still don’t know each other well enough yet, but given time it can grow into a more complete love.
Dr. Sternberg really should be thanked for helping bring clarity to the different types of love we feel. And, the good Doctor has one more piece of advice for us. It is essential that our love is shown in actions. He states, “Without expression, even the greatest of loves can die”. So, this Valentine’s Day think about how you can express your love to those around you in all the types of relationships we have. After all, everyone deserves to feel more of this crazy little thing called love.