About Sternberg’s Triangular Theory of Love

N.B. The Triangular Theory of Love, which is apparently popular, states that there are three components of love: intimacy, commitment and passion. The Wikipedia article describes what each of these terms mean in the theory.

I have a problem with the idea that sexual attraction between people who love each other is a component of love.

Sexual attraction commonly occurs at the same time as love, but it is a completely separate phenomenon than love.

Not to mention that the Triangular Theory of Love has the consequence that asexual people are incapable of “consummate” love or complete love due to the sexual-attraction  requirement to establish “passion.”

I would like to submit to the internet that my asexual partner and I have very much passion between us when passion is not exclusively defined as sexual or romantic attraction.

But maybe my main problem is the idea that passion—let’s say they mean attraction in a broad sense—is a component of love rather than something that often happens at the same time.

I also have a problem with the idea that the theory defines friendship to be without commitment. Maybe I’m just weird, but I am very committed to the people I call friends. Apparently it is atypical to feel sad or depressive from a friend’s absence, or to have a mutual desire to live in the same city as that friend for the rest of both of your lives. Someone please tell me it’s not just aromantic people like me who think of friendship this way.

So I think my problems with this theory can be summed up as follows:

  • It reinforces the ideas that sexual attraction and love are intimately connected and that sexual attraction is a component of the highest, most complete kind of love.
  • It reinforces the idea that to be friends with someone is to be “just friends” with someone and in so doing, it devalues friendship as a type of meaningful relationship a person can have.

So in attempting to broadly define love, Sternberg just reinscribes a whole lot of stuff that many people already believe about love, except that he tries to disguise it by referring to many situations people regard as non-love as “love” anyway.

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Talia C. Johnson

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