The Triangular Theory of Love: What it Means for Those Who WaitAugust 2nd, 2010 by Mike
The image above is a simple representation of Dr. Robert Sternberg’s famous Triangular Theory of Love. It is as close as science gets to defining “true love” in psychological terms. You can use it as a metric for judging the quality of your relationships, based on how many “points” of the triangle they are able to achieve. If you hit all three points, you have true love. If you only hit one or two points, it’s something else.
How many sides of the triangle does your relationship achieve?
None of Them = Nonlove. You’ve got nothing. You’re practically strangers with no attraction at all to each other.
Intimacy Only = Friendship Love. Like you might have with somebody you can just completely open up to, but aren’t particularly committed to or attracted to. A best friend.
Commitment Only = Empty Love. Like a lifeless marriage. In cultures with arranged marriages, most of the marriages start out as empty love.
Passion Only = Infatuated Love. Blind, stupid, fast, and frenzied. Lots of sexual desire, but nothing else. Like that mad crush you had on that person you barely knew.
Passion + Intimacy = Romantic Love. You’re really into each other, and you have a great talking/physical relationship, but there’s not really any commitment to speak of.
Passion + Commitment = Fatuous Love. This is when you you let your big crush on on somebody rush you into a relationship/marriage and then one day your find out that you barely know (or don’t really like) them as a person and you have no friendship or deep connection to speak of…and then everything falls apart.
Commitment + Intimacy = Companionate Love. Stronger then Friendship Love because of long-term commitment, but no passion or sexual desire. Like a marriage that has gone flat, but remains respectful. This is also possible with a long-term close friendship.
Commitment + Passion + Intimacy = Consummate Love. You have it all. They’re your closest friend, your mad crush, and your lifelong partner. You cannot imagine being with somebody else. When somebody says “You don’t marry the person you can live with. You marry the person you cannot live without.” they are talking about consummate love. This is what you should be waiting for.
What all of this means for people that wait until marriage
The Triangular Theory of Love should help you define what you’re looking for — what you’re waiting on. Your ultimate goal should be to find the holy grail of romantic relationships: consummate love. I assure you it is possible. I’ve seen many people find it, and it’s…amazing.
Compare the Triangle above against all of your past relationships. Most likely, you’ve hit each point of the triangle at one time or another with different people — maybe two points on occasion — but never all three points, at least not to a sufficient intensity. If you reflect on why your past relationships failed, you can probably boil each failure down to the absence of one of the three key factors above. This should give you some validation that those relationships weren’t really meant to last (in case you’re still dwelling on any).
People that wait until marriage to have sex acknowledge from the start that life is full of incompatible relationships that aren’t really “the one”, but also that there is such a thing as The One/true love/soulmate/whatever. Most people acknowledge this, but people who wait for sex until marriage back it up with action. They actively put less of themselves into the incompatible relationships so that they can save much more of themselves to put into the relationship that deserves it.