February 12, 2014, by Yvonne Teoh

Sternberg on Love

I asked my six year old niece, “What do you love most besides your parents?” Her answer was everything in PINK! I got the same response from my four year old neighbor Gracie and according to my mom; I loved dressing in pink as a tubby four year old so much that I ended up looking like a fluffy pink cotton candy. Of course over the years, my palette grew and it now ranges from all colors from every corner of the world. And so did my outlook on love evolved.

Some people describe love as a warm fuzzy feeling you get and you want to move closer to that something or someone that emits those vibes. As humans, social interaction is crucial for our survival hence we form relationships with others, and the by-product of it is love.

American psychologist Robert Sternberg developed the triangle theory of love describing the components of love in the context of relationship. The first component is intimacy, which brings a sense of closeness to another person. Whether it is a good friend or a parent, intimacy creates a link that bonds two people. Passion brings a sense of infatuation and arousal into the dynamic. Both intimacy and passion give rise to a romantic love often observed in young budding couples when everything is good and everything taste sweeter. Like the young love shared between Romeo and Juliet before their romance drove them to their deathbeds.

If Shakespeare knew the importance of commitment as another key ingredient in cultivating a successful relationship, the story of Romeo and Juliet could have a clichéd happy ending resembling yet another Hollywood romantic comedy that stars Katherine Heigl. Commitment gives us the desire to continue and foster the relationship through thick and thin, making the relationship stronger and everlasting. Just like wine, the longer it is preserved, the better it tastes.

A little bit of commitment and intimacy is companionate love shared between old couples or family members. It differs from friendship because there is a sense of committed love that drives the relationship forward.

However, commitment and passion in a relationship only produces fatuous love. Being involved and committed to someone on the basis of passion and the sexual desire. This sounds almost like stalking someone or idolizing a celebrity. You are attracted to someone based on passion and decide to commit time and effort into creating a relationship but in the absence of intimacy or likeness that bonds you two together.

A consummate love is the complete and perfect form of love that contains the perfect balance of all three components of love. And I am sure all couples aim to move their relationship towards; a little bit of intimacy to keep bond between two people; commitment that strengthens the relationship and of course passion that sparks the relationship alive. However, Sternberg stresses maintaining this form of love is much harder than achieving it. Then again, just about anything in this world, everything needs a little bit of work and effort. And if it is something or someone that you love, it is worth working hard for.

On that note, Happy Valentine’s Day and all the love in the world for you!

Poh Wei Lin
(PhD Student, School of Psychology, UNMC)

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