Writing Assignment Gary C. Sanders, Sr. Professor Thomas Dunn, Instructor Sternberg’s Triangular Theory of Love I was most impressed with Professor Robert J. Sternberg’s Theory of love which simply states that love is made up of three interconnected components: intimacy, passion and decision/commitment. They are thought of as the triangular effect that displays intimacy in terms of closeness, bonding and warmth. It also shows passion as the sexual feelings and desires brought on and it shows commitment as the decision to make the relationship continue on.
I really was touched by this theory because it is so relative to my life now. I am married almost five years now and my marriage has seen a multiplicity of ups and downs. However, after considering this model and theory of love and discussing with my wife, we have resolved to find ways and utilize this model to strengthen our relationship. Through his three components and the combination of these three components Professor Steinberg came up essentially with eight types of loving. He named non-love, liking, infatuated love, empty love, romantic love, companionate love, fatuous love and consummate love.
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I will seek to explain how each of these components relates to my personal life now and my previous life before marriage. With regard to the first component nonlove it refers to the absence of all three components. In my youngest days, just beginning to date and really recognizing what it was all about, I bounced from one relationship to another. They had no meaning and definitely no love. The second component in Steinberg’s theory is liking and it occurs when we just have intimacy, such as in friendships. I experienced this during surprisingly in my high school years more than when I was grown.
The third component is infatuation and this part occurs when we only have passion, such as in love at first sight. I don’t believe there is such a thing as love at first sight. I think we become so infatuated with people that we do not take the time to recognize the flaws in them. This type appears quickly and disappears almost as fast. My wife and I had a level of this prior to our marrying. We were very infatuated one with another and the physical aspect of our relationship. Everything seemed to click and we had good times. However, we did not take the time to really get to know one another until after we were married.
This makes for very difficult times and can create a rocky start to any relationship. We have endured many trials and tribulations (as most marriages do), but after five years, things are just starting to level off. The fourth component is empty love and it happens when we only have commitment, and is often the residual love that remains once the other types have faded. This component is remarkable to me because in my marriage, I have at one point lost the desire to be physical with my wife and I think if she were honest, she did the same.
However, because of the commitment we made, to one God, one another and our children, we remain in the relationship and have tried to pick up the pieces. The fifth component is romantic love, which in contrast to residual love, is the combination of intimacy and passion. In this way, it involves both liking and physical desire for the other person. People sometimes forget to learn to discern between the two and one part of this is left out. Romantic love, in my opinion is different for every couple. Women sometimes get caught up in the “Lifetime for Women” concept where they think that life always ends up with a happy ending.
It does not always happen that way unfortunately. The sixth component of Steinberg’s theory is companionate love and it is a combination of commitment and intimacy, and often occurs in the later stages of a relationship after the passion has faded. How beautiful to see this component in couples who have been married for fifty or more years and we know that there are different levels of intimacy, other than the physical. In my counseling as a pastor, I tell people to look beyond what they see right now. The beautiful figure, the masculine body, the dark, wavy hairs will all fade away with time.
Bulges will replace what they see now. I often ask people can they handle that because things will change. The seventh component is fatuous love and it is a combination of passion and commitment, therefore lacking intimacy. This stage is where I find myself right now in my marriage. I look at my wife and there is commitment but I lack the ability to be intimate with her. I blame it on the surmounting bills and the busyness of my occupation and the stresses that go along with it. I sense her frustration and rightfully so. However, these things are merely excuses for what I know to be a deeper, underlying problem.
By the time we are free, it is late, my wife is tired from dealing with the children all day, and I am tired of different things. We have no time together so we recognize that we must do something to ignite the fire back between us. Finally, the most complete aspect of his theory is consummate love and it is a combination of all three components. This is our society’s ideal type of love, because it involves close friendship, physical urges, and a strong commitment. This is the type of love every person desires; to be wanted needed and appreciated for who they are with their shortcomings and all.
This class has enlightened me to so many things, mostly where I fall short in maintaining my relationship. It has taught me to seek to communicate with my wife about things that bother me rather than keeping them bottled up. The content is this course has shown me that as Sternberg states, “Without expression, even the greatest of loves can die”. All relationship requires work and great effort to be made in regard to keeping the relationship lively. Relationships are hard but in my opinion they are worth the work and worth the struggle to have a complete companionship with another person over a life’s span.