The Triangular Theory of Love

Neil StraussNeil28 Comments

I recently got turned on to an interesting theory.

It’s useful not just for your own education about attraction, but also as a conversation topic to bring up with others.

It’s called The Triangular Theory of Love, and it was conceived by the psychologist Robert Sternberg in the mid-80’s.

It states that love contains three elements: passion, intimacy, and commitment. He charts these as three points on a triangle. And the different types of love people have for each other are defined by the presence or absence of these elements.

Normally, when you go out to meet women, you’re trying to inspire passion – which may include infatuation, attraction, or even a love at first sight feeling. However, you’re trying to avoid solely striving towards intimacy, which without the other elements on the triangle leads to friend zone. And the worst outcome, which Sternberg calls empty love, is when you are in a relationship and solely have commitment.

Often, relationships begin as passion, turn to intimacy, and end as commitment. The goal, however, is to have all three elements working together, which is what Sternberg calls consummate love. I’ve noticed that women who cheat on their boyfriend or husbands are generally missing one of these elements in their relationship, and are looking to find it with someone else. I don’t advocate seducing someone who is taken, but by discussing the triangular theory of love with a woman and asking her about her current relationship, you can find out a lot of information. In addition, it is a good tool to analyze your own relationships.

Applying Sternberg’s theories to your own life is also powerful, especially when it comes to self-improvement. His triarchic theory of intelligence puts forward three elements to intelligence (the guy loves triangles): analytical, creative, and practical. And if you study it, you’ll be better able to determine your own sticking points.

Some guys only work on one aspect of their own intelligence: for example, there are the analytical learners, who need to study and understand everything before doing it. On the other hand, the practical knowledge guys go out and just approach but never bother to learn the openers, routines, and courtship structure. It is only by combining all three elements – an analytical understanding of the attraction process,  practical knowledge derived from experience, and creative knowledge to deal with contingencies and the unexpected — that the game can truly be mastered.

And it’s funny, now that I think about it in the context of Sternberg,  my usual sign-off on to emails to the Inner Circle list is also a triangle…

Yours In Health, Wealth, and Relationships,

Related Stories from The Inner Circle

How to Break Up
The Language of Love
The Meaning Of Life, The Secret To Happiness, and Wii Tennis



28 Comments on “The Triangular Theory of Love”

  1. Three creates all things. (san sheng wan wu). 3 points creates a triangle, which is a geometric shape rather than simply a point, or line. To me it then resembles like a sort of.. gateway, or portal, maybe a channel of energy – And you dont want to kink the hose.

    All the best,

    1. Relevance: Awesome article, Neil. I don’t know what it is but today everything seems funnier and clearer (it could be waking up just before the sun rises).

      Off Topic: Is that thepu maman, sj? Because that has to be the best virtual avatar I’ve seen on this website.

      1. First of all: great article again, Neill! I respect your commitment to the community! Getting introduced to the community by The Game has brought me the perfect girlfriend I was looking for.

        But right now I’ve got a question for everybody who reads this, for a friend of mine. A question I had to deal with as well in the past and where I saw other friends also struggle with:

        Situation: friend kissed a girl in a bar last Saturday. Had a successfull date on Monday. He wants a new date. Question is: how and when to suggest a new one?
        Already on the night of the previous date? (“so, when do we meet again?”)
        The next day?
        Few days later?
        Or let her work for it and don’t suggest a new date at all?

        What are you guys’ experiences with this? The opinion in my group of friends (mix of naturals and intermediate pua’s) are divided.

        Many thanks in advance!

        Kindly regards from Holland,

        1. Neil,

          I read your article, and my suspicions were confirmed; you have voluntarily gotten caught up in the soft-soap metaphysics of “Self-Help” balderdash.

          Here are 3 words for you to think about:


          Here are 3 word that classify your web-site:


          Now you can apply your philosophical framework to the Triune Christian Godhead. I just can’t wait to humiliate you.

          Your sign-off line seems to indicate that you are an advocate of “fair-weather” friendship. How’s von Markovik doing, now that you two don’t hang?

          Yours in Sickness, Poverty, and Solitude,

          JohnPaul Adamovsky

          PS – I am wondering if you even bothered to gather your so-called “Society” together, because there has been no evidence that it even exists.

          PPS – You broke up with Lisa, I don’t give a shit. She seems like the kind of cunt that wouldn’t adhere to the traditional gender roles in our patriarchal society, so good for you.

          1. would you please leave your abundance of pricksauce on the table and check your ego at the door.

            Where do you get off sticking your nose others love affairs?

          2. Two things:

            Firstly, your display name stems from the father of this website and the target of your hollow post. This makes your point about superficiality and frivolousness completely fruitless. It is also said that imitation is the highest form of flattery.

            Secondly, you speak of purpose, meaning and gratitude, all three of which are not apparent in your ‘preaching’ to Neil.

            Ironically, I believe you are in need of what you think you have – wit and something to do with your time.

            I am a 17 year old boy who has learnt much from “The Game” and Neil’s online presence. I wonder who you have influenced besides the readers on this website that you are (to quote yourself) a ‘cunt’. Please do not confuse the word ‘influence’ with ‘deceive’ – a word I’m sure any former female companion of yours would be familiar with.


            – Arcanine

          3. Arcanine,

            Your anecdote logic is disgraceful. You belong to an age, the “Children of Women”.

            I will be 100% forthright with you NOW: I am better than you are in every quantitative metric. Zero deception.

            I am a 239.8 Lb, 30 year old aerospace-science engineer with the mind of a Nobel Laureate, the discipline-intensity of a pro athlete training 6 days a week like clockwork, and the outlook of a theologian, as I study High Theology in my down time. This is the life that makes me HAPPY.

            “The Game” was a great book, I have a copy for myself and I’ve given several copies of it away as gifts over the years, so I was expecting a LOT more from Neil when he put together a new project.

            His marketing Guru perversions are shameful, and I think you should do some research about who you are starting a confrontation with before you put yourself in a position to be publicly humiliated beyond your capacity for recovery.

            You sound like a young girl, just got felt up at the drive-in.

            Game Over, You Lose,

            JohnPaul Adamovsky

            PS – I respect the fact that you stuck your neck out as you did, and one day you might have something meaningful to say, so keep taking risks.

          4. StyleofMan….hahahaha, more like ScentofWoman. You sound worse than my ex wife. Grow a set of balls mate !

          5. Hugh,

            Did your Ex beat the living daylights out of you for being a gigantic PUSSY?

            Congratulations with your FAILED marriage.

            All the very best,

            JohnPaul Adamovsky

      2. Interesting theory from Sternberg. I was wondering if anyone knows any interesting books, articles, or additional theories he wrote?

  2. The next frontier: relationships. This is very interesting but also comes to you if you use a little of common sense. The triangle is a great way of visualize it. I guess the usual order would be passion first, then intimacy, and commitment. It’s great to work on groups of three, because with four your focus is lost a little. 3 is speacial, I believe this is why this guy likes triangles so much.

  3. all that can help in your life (to yourself), can help to have a better game.
    More you grows as a person, better relationship with others you have.

  4. That reminds me of Helen Fisher’s research. She is an anthropologist and she has studied mating behaviour very much. In her studies, she says that love can be devided in 3 aspects: romantic love,lust and commitment. And they all have their evolutionary purpous.

    Romantic love: you keep thinking of that special person and you feel very entousiastic when you do so. This is the passion and it helps us focus our energy in one person. This is supposed to live for max 2 years.

    Lust: we all know what that is and why, that instinct, has survived by natural selection.

    Commitment: this is the feeling of the bonding love that force people to stay together. It is useful for creating an environment where you can give birth and raise a child. That feeling can last for ever but it is very common to fade away in 4,5 years on average(Fisher supposes that this is the time that you need to raise the child in a functional level).

  5. Nice post. It’s definitely an interesting measure to understanding where you are in the seductive process.

    It seems a little too neat, though. A little moral. We can’t really forget that attraction is a game — that men and women are both players — and that in every game you have to suspend ethics and morality. I think there are interesting combinations for passion, intimacy, and commitment that lead to fulfilling, enjoyable experiences — even if they are brief. No pain, no gain.

    But as a way to identify key characteristics of the process, I think the triangular theory is a pretty good model.


  6. Usally my method of learning was trial and error. I have not read all of Dr. Robert Sternberg’s theorgy, which tells me that I need to take a more analytical approach. I have never had a problem with picking up women the problem has been the commitment part.

    This poses an intersting new project for me.

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