What is Love?

What is Love?

The above figure shows that different combinations characterize seven types of love (plus non-love which is the absence of all three). Let’s look at each one of these combinations more closely:


Intimate liking is based on bonding, warmth and closeness with another (in the absence of intense passion or long term commitment).


‘Love at first sight’ is what describes infatuated love the best. But without intimacy and commitment, this passion is likely to disappear soon.

Empty Love

Sometimes, a strong relationship deteriorates into empty love where two people wish to stay with each other out of habit or comfort or as an attempt at following the cultural norms but without any intimacy or passion. Arranged marriages are a good example of empty love.

Romantic Love 

Two lovers are bonded emotionally and through passionate arousal. But they are shaky when it comes to the ground of commitment

Companionate Love

This kind of love is often found in relationships where the passion has stepped out of the equation but where deep affection and willingness to stay remains. It can be found between partners who have been married for long, family members and best friends.

Fatuous Love

Here two people wish to be together as they ride heavily on the passion they have for each other (like in the case of courtship) but without the stability of intimacy.

Consummate Love

Maintaining a love where all three – intimacy, passion, commitment – are present is harder than achieving it. Sternberg stresses the importance of translating the components of love into action. “Without expression,” he warns,”even the greatest of loves can die.”

The balance among these three components is likely to shift sides during the course of a relationship. Consummate love, for many of us, stands for an ideal relationship. But it is not achieved overnight. All three take time and effort to occur, grow and stay. Knowing about this triangle might help you and your partner to identify the areas where you two need to work or help you realise when it’s time to cut chords by making you aware of the kind of love you want and the kind you are likely to get at best.


By Michelle Bone

Assistant Psychologist @WeAreHumanCounselling


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