The Triangular Theory of Love

Neil StraussNeil

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,

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