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Love, Psychological Theories!

Love psychological theories
What causes people to fall in love? Why are certain types so enduring while others so temporary? Several different theories have been developed by psychologists and researchers to explain how love develops and survives.

Love is a fundamental human experience, but understanding how and why it occurs is not totally straightforward. For a long time, many people believed that love was simply too primitive, mystical, and spiritual for science to completely comprehend. However, thankfully science is progressing!

Some primary theories have been presented to explain this phenomena and other emotional attachments.
Here they are:

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Like Vs Love

Psychologist Zick Rubin proposed that romantic love is made up of three elements:

  •  Attachment: The need to be cared for and be with the other person.
    Physical contact and approval are also important components of attachment.
  •  Caring: Valuing the other person’s happiness and needs as much as your own.
  •  Intimacy: Sharing private thoughts, feelings, and desires with the other person.

Rubin believed that sometimes we experience a tremendous amount of admiration and gratitude for others. We want to be around that person and like spending time with him or her, but this does not always imply love. Instead, Rubin used the term “liking” to describe it.

Love, on the other hand, is considerably more intense, with a great need for physical intimacy and contact. People who are “in like” enjoy each other’s company, but those who are “in love” are concerned about the needs of the other person as well as their own.

Based on this definition, Rubin devised a questionnaire to assess attitudes about others and found that these scales of liking and loving provided support for his conception of love.

The questions were sorted according to whether or not they reflected feelings of liking or loving. These two sets of questions were first administered to 198 undergraduate students and a factor analysis was then conducted. The results allowed Rubin to identify 13 questions for ‘liking’ and 13 questions for ‘loving’ that were reliable measures of these two variables.


Compassionate vs Passionate

According to psychologist Elaine Hatfield and her colleagues, there are two basic types:

  • Compassionate
  • Passionate

Mutual respect, attachment, affection, and trust define compassionate. Compassionate love typically arises from feelings of mutual understanding and mutual respect for one another. 

Intense emotions, sexual attraction, anxiety, and affection are all characteristics of Passionate Love. People feel happy and satisfied when these powerful emotions are reciprocated. Feelings of sadness and despair result from unrequited love. Passionate, according to Hatfield, is fleeting, lasting between 6 to 30 months on average.

Hatfield further states that passionate love develops when societal expectations support falling in love, when the other person fulfils one’s preconceived notions of ideal love, and when one experiences increased physiological arousal in the presence of the other person.

Passionate , in theory, could lead to compassionate love, which is considerably more lasting. While most individuals seek partnerships that combine the security and stability of compassionate with intense passionate love, Hatfield believes this is rare.

The Colour Wheel Model of Love

In his 1973 book The Colors of Love, psychologist John Lee compared styles of love to the color wheel. Just as there are three primary colors, Lee suggested that there are three primary styles of love. These three styles of love are:

  • Eros: The term eros stems from the Greek word meaning “passionate” or “erotic.” Lee suggested that this type of love involves both physical and emotional passion. 
  • LudosLudos comes from the Greek word meaning “game.” This form of love is conceived as playful and fun, but not necessarily serious. Those who exhibit this form of love are not ready for commitment and are wary of too much intimacy.
  • StorgeStorge stems from the Greek term meaning “natural affection.” This form of love is often represented by familial love between parents and children, siblings, and extended family members. This type of love can also develop out of friendship where people who share interests and commitments gradually develop affection for one another.

Continuing the color wheel analogy, Lee proposed that just as the primary colors can be combined to create complementary colors, these three primary styles of love could be combined to create nine different secondary love styles. For example, combining Eros and Ludos results in mania or obsessive love.


Lee’s 6 Styles Of Loving

There are three primary styles:

  • Eros: Loving an ideal person
  • Ludos: Love as a game
  • Storge: Love as friendship

Three secondary styles:

  • Mania (Eros + Ludos): Obsessive love
  • Pragma (Ludos + Storge): Realistic and practical love
  • Agape (Eros + Storge): Selfless love

Triangular Theory Of Love

Psychologist Robert Sternberg proposed a triangular theory suggesting that there are three components of love:

  • Intimacy
  • Passion
  • Commitment

Different combinations of these three components result in different types of love. For example, combining intimacy and commitment results in compassionate love, while combining passion and intimacy leads to romantic love. According to Sternberg, relationships built on two or more elements are more enduring than those based on a single component. Sternberg uses the term consummate love to describe combining intimacy, passion, and commitment. While this type of love is the strongest and most enduring, Sternberg suggests that this type of love is rare.


Types Of Love

The three components of love, according to Sternberg, interact in a systematic way. There are seven different types of love experiences based on the existence of a component of love or a combination of two or more components. These forms of love might change during the course of a relationship.


This type of love is when the intimacy or liking component is present, but feelings of passion or commitment in the romantic sense are missing. Friendship love can be the root of other forms of love.


Infatuation is characterised by feelings of lust and physical passion without liking and commitment. There has not been enough time for a deeper sense of intimacy, romantic love, or consummate love to develop. These may eventually arise after the infatuation phase. The initial infatuation is often very powerful.

Empty Love 

Empty love is characterised by commitment without passion or intimacy. At times, a strong love deteriorates into empty love. The reverse may occur as well. For instance, an arranged marriage may start out empty but flourish into another form of love over time.

Romantic Love 

Romantic love bonds people emotionally through intimacy and physical passion. Partners in this type of relationship have deep conversations that help them know intimate details about each other. They enjoy sexual passion and affection. These couples may be at the point where long-term commitment or future plans are still undecided.

Companionate Love

Companionate love is a kind of love that is intimate but not-passionate. It incorporates the triangle’s intimacy or liking component as well as the commitment component. It is more powerful than friendship since it involves a long-term commitment but little or no sexual desire.

This form of love is common in marriages when the passion has gone but the pair still maintains a strong bond or profound affection for each other. This can also refer to the affection shared by close friends and family members.

Fatuous Love

Commitment and passion are present in this form of love, but intimacy and liking are not. A whirlwind courtship characterises fatuous love, in which passion drives a commitment without the stabilising impact of intimacy. Witnessing this frequently leaves onlookers perplexed as to how the pair could be so impulsive. Unfortunately, such marriages frequently fail. When they do, many people attribute their success to luck.

Every Relationship Is Unique

The value of each component of love, according to Dr. Sternberg, varies from person to person and couple to couple. For the perfect romantic connection, all three components are ideal, although the degree of each component required varies from one relationship to the next, and even over time within a relationship. Knowing how the components interact might help you spot areas that could use some attention.

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