Defining True Love


So many people struggle with healthy intimate relationships.  What is real love, what does it feel like, and how to do I know when I have it.  Pain from past relationships often create fear and causes poor choices with new relationships.   Then if you are lucky enough to settle these issues and find a fulfilling relationship, the struggle begins to keep it alive.  Many simply put their heart on ice permanently and give up on true, satisfying connections entirely.

How does one even begin to sort through all of this?…..In fact, there are many types of love and all of them are real.  What most people really want are fulfilling connections that endure through the test of time and remain fulfilling.  One way to begin to get a handle on this complicated problem is to look at a good model that helps to label the different types of love.

Robert Sternberg was a psychologist who developed a triangular model that helps us to begin to clarify what type of love we have and what type we want.  He identifies 3 components of love:

  • Intimacy – feelings of attachment, closeness, and connection
  • Passion – strong drive to be connected including sexual attaction
  • Commitment – the decision to remain together and the long term plans made with each other





According to Sternberg, the amount of love one feels depends on the strength of each of these components and the type depends on how these different components work together.  A relationship that based on a single element is not expected to last as long as one based on 2 or 3.  Also, consider that most relationships develop and go through different stages as time passes.  For example, a relationship may begin with passion alone as infatuated love, later add intimacy and develop into romantic love, and finally marriage is proposed and consummate love develops.  Consummate love is thought to be the ideal type.  These couples are described as having joy in their relationship together, overcoming difficulties together gracefully, and experiencing good sex even after 15 years together.  However, even consummate love must be maintained and this can be difficult.  It is possible and quite common for couples to experience consummate love for a time but after the birth of children and weathering the stress of live empty love is all that is left.

Whatever your situation, just identifying the type of love you have or have had and the type of love you want is a helpful step in the right direction.


photo credits: frozen heart Lara Danielle,, sophisticated




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