The L-Word

05 Feb

Love is a four-letter word, easy to say, but what does it really mean?

The L-word, what is the ultimate form of love? As we associate February with love, I thought I would share an idea about what love is.


There have been many attempts at defining love, from Plato and Kierkegaard to contemporary psychologists, such as Robert Sternberg. Sternberg maintained that there are eight types of romantic love, based on the absence or presence of three pillars: intimacy, passion and commitment. Imagine a triangle. A relationship possessing all three pillars was said to be the ultimate romantic love. This approach became known as ‘Sternberg’s pillars of love’.

So what do these pillars entail? Intimacy refers to friendship, the bond that arises from being open and vulnerable towards one another. Passion refers to sex and lust, the chemistry that arises between two people. Commitment refers to matrimony, the ultimate act of compromise and support, be these moral or financial.

A relationship becomes stronger with every additional pillar. For example, one of the eight types of Sternberg’s romantic love was commitment plus intimacy, which leads to compassionate love. Imagine an arranged-marriage couple, who grow a friendship over time. Or, take the type of love Sternberg termed ‘fatuous’ – for example, a drunken Vegas wedding! However, Sternberg maintained that a relationship in possession of all three pillars made for the strongest and most satisfying love.

With this in mind, perhaps it’s an idea to think about your relationship. Which pillars need strengthening? If you are still in the early stages of a relationship, which pillars might you still need to acquire?

As The Vida Consultancy’s in-house relationship psychologist, I am always here if you need any support with dating or your relationship. Please click here to get in touch for a consultation.

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by Madeleine Mason

Psychologist

Madeleine has over 15 years of experience in psychology, where she is trained in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Applied Positive Psychology. She is currently undertaking a PhD in Counselling Psychology, and is member of the British Psychological Society, the International Positive Psychology Association & Dating Industry Professionals Network.More by this author