22 Love and Attraction Theory

One of the most important factors in interpersonal attraction is similarity: the more similar two people are in attitudes, background, and other traits, the more probable it is that they will like each other. Contrary to popular belief, opposites do not usually attract. Although physical attraction may take precedence in the early stages of a romantic relationship, similarity and other compatibility factors become more important later on.

Sternberg’s Triangular Theory of Love

Psychologist Robert Sternberg describes love based on combinations of three components: passion, intimacy, and commitment.  When two people share all three, they are said to be in a state of consummate love.  This combination is considered to be an ideal type of love, but is also relatively difficult to maintain for a long period of time.

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A relationship based on a single component is less likely to survive than one based on two or three components.

Intimate love encompasses the close bonds of loving relationships. Intimate love felt between two people means that they each feel a sense of high regard for each other. They wish to make each other happy, share with each other, be in communication with each other, help when one is in need. A couple with intimate love deeply values each other. Intimate love has been called the “warm” love because of the way it brings two people close together.

Passionate love is based on drive. Couples in passionate love feel physically attracted to each other. Sexual desire is typically a component of passionate love. Passionate love is considered the “hot” component of love because of the strong presence of arousal between two people.

Commitment, or committed love, is for couples who are committed to being together for a long period of time. Something to note about commitment, however, is that one can be committed to someone without feeling love for him or her, and one can feel love for someone without being committed to him or her.


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