The Triangular Theory of Love


In college, I took a course called the psychology of relationships. It was one of my favorite classes and one of the theories I learned about was the Triangular Theory of Love.

There are 4 major types of love associated with the theory and I feel like I have experienced all of these in my short time. All the types of love contain some form of passion, commitment, and intimacy. While not all psychologists agree with this theory I think there’s some truth to it and it’s interesting to explore how the dynamics play out in each. I took some time to reflect on my past and decided to write letters to the men I’ve had these experiences with.

Companionate- commitment + intimacy This is exactly what is sounds like. It can be used to describe family or friends you’ve known for a long time. You know that friend you might not talk to often but when you do it’s like no time has passed? That’s companionate love. It can also be considered part of the progression for a romantic relationship. There are strong emotional bonds with this person and things are comfortable.

Dear companionate, I love you (I don’t think I say that enough). You’ve been with me my whole life. Every moment of my life good or bad I have to tell you about. I know we may drift apart sometimes but know I’m always thinking of you and praying for you. You are an amazing friend and thank you for being in my life.

Romantic love- Passion + Intimacy Romantic love has passion and intimacy but no commitment. Some psychologists describe this as a one night stand but I think if it more as a situationship. You talk often, might even be physically intimate but there’s never any evolution in the relationship. Eventually, that lack of commitment can lead to the end of the relationship.

Dear Romantic, I gave a lot to you in a short time. I still think about you and wonder if you’re well. The time we shared together was a growing experience for me. You taught me that you can’t make someone see you for more sometimes and that’s okay. I hope whatever path you’re on now is making you happy. I hope you learn the importance of creating bonds and being loyal to those that care about you.

Fatuous – Passion + commitment This is often described as a “whirlwind romance” they come in and sweep you off your feet. Life feels like a fairytale. You don’t know how it started and if it ends that comes as a surprise too. These relationships often times lack substance and that can make it difficult for them to last.

Dear Fatuous, Whenever I think about you I feel confused. I don’t understand how we started or how we finished. I feel like you thrive off of these type of relationships and when the excitement goes away you move on to something else. Dating you made me feel like I was on a rollercoaster. Those highs and lows made me feel insecure. I spent a lot of time hiding parts of me because I thought it would make you stay with me. End the end I don’t think you really knew me. Thanks for showing me the parts of love I am not willing to accept.

Consummate passion+intimacy+commitment This is looked at as the complete form a love or what you see in your idea of a perfect couple. You may not have all three components all the time. It is something that that takes work to maintain but the desire to do so means speaks volume in itself. I have always heard people say that love is a choice and learning about this theory made that phrase make more sense to me.

Dear Consummate, Since you came into my life everything feels different. I know it took a while for us to get to where we are but I’m glad we did. You make me feel calm when it seems like the world is crumbling around me. You make me want to be a better me so that I’m better to you. I never knew what true security in a person felt like before you. It’s so easy to be open and show you the dorky, bratty me. I don’t have to hide from you. And although we don’t know where we’re headed on this journey as long as we figure it out together I’ll be fine.

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