5 Ways Psychological Theories Explain Love (2023)

because peoplefell in love? And why are some forms of love permanent while others are so fleeting? Psychologists and researchers have developed various theories about love to explain how love is formed and how it lasts.

Love is fundamentalhuman emotions. But understanding how and why this happens is not necessarily easy. In fact, many have long claimed that love is something too primitive, mysterious, and spiritual for science to fully understand.

Still, many have tried to learn more about this emotion to feel good about it. Here are five of the leading theories proposed to explain love and other theories.emotional ties.

I like against love

1970 PsychologistZig Rubyproposed an explanation for the difference between liking and loving.Sometimes we experience a lot of appreciation and admiration for others. We enjoy spending time with people and want to be close to them. That's "like," according to Rubin, and doesn't necessarily count as love.

Love is much deeper, more intense and involves a strong need for intimacy and physical contact. People who are "in love" enjoy the company of others, while people who are "in love" care about the needs of others as much as they care about their own.

Rubin believed that romantic love consists of three elements:

  • A close bond and dependent needs.
  • willingness to help
  • feelings ofexclusivityand absorption

Based on these elements, Rubin created a questionnaire to assess an individual's attitudes toward others. He found that scales from affection to love supported his conception of love.

The color wheel of love template

In his 1973 bookthe colors of love, psychologist John Lee compared love styles toFarbkreis.Just as there are three primary colors, Lee suggested that there are three primary styles of love:

  • Eros: The termErosIt derives from the Greek word meaning "passionate" or "erotic". Lee suggested that this type of love involves both physical and emotional passion. It represents love for an ideal person.
  • Primary school:Primary schoolcomes from the Greek and means "game". This form of love is playful and fun, but not necessarily meant to be serious. Those who display this form of love are uncommitted and overly suspicious.privacy. So it represents love as a game.
  • storage:storageIt derives from the Greek term meaning "natural affection". This form of love includes family love between parents and children, siblings and relatives. This love can also develop from friendship, where people who share common interests and commitments gradually develop affection for one another. Therefore, it represents love as friendship.

Lee's 6 love styles

Later, Lee suggested that just as primary colors can be combined to create other colors, the three primary love styles can also be combined to create secondary love styles. Then, in 1977, Lee expanded the list of love styles.

The three new secondary love styles were:

  • Mania: A combination ofErosmiPrimary school, representobsessive love
  • Pragma: A combination ofPrimary schoolmistorage, which represents realistic and practical love
  • agape: A combination ofErosmistorage, which represents selfless love

love triangle theory

1986, PsychologistRobert SternbergHe proposed the triangle theory of love.According to this theory, love has three components:

  • privacy
  • dedication
  • Engagement

Different combinations of these three components result in different types of love. For example, the combination of intimacy and commitment leads to compassionate love, while the combination of passion and intimacy leads to romantic love.

In accordance withSternberg triangle theory, Relationships based on two or more elements are more durable than those based on a single component. Sternberg uses the termconsummate loveto describe the combination of intimacy, passion and devotion. While this type of love is the strongest and most enduring, Sternberg suggests that this type of love is also rare.

Loving Attachment Theory

In 1987, Cindy Hazan and Phillip Shaver, two researchers at the University of Denver, theorized that romantic love is a biosocial process, similar to the way children form bonds with their parents.His theory is based on psychologist John Bowlby.theoretical connection.

(Video) 5 Psychological Theories of Love

According to Hazan and Shaver's love attachment theory, a person's attachment style is shaped in part by the relationship they had with their parents during childhood. This basic style continues into adulthood where it becomes part of your romantic relationships.

The three adult stylesadditivethey are:

  • anxious/ambivalent: A person with this style often worries that their partner does not love them. Sometimes they want to be with their partner so badly that they put the other person off.
  • avoiding: Someone with this style feels uncomfortable getting close to other people. They also often have difficultiesdevelop trust.
  • secure: As the name suggests, the secure attachment style is all about being secure in the relationship. Someone who is safe has very few worriesTaskor fear of someone getting too close.

According to Hazan and Shaver's research, secure attachment is the most common style. This is followed by the avoidant attachment style and then the fearful/ambivalent attachment style.

Hazan and Shaver also suggested that experiences of love and attachment affect your beliefs, which impacts your relationship outcomes. It's a cyclical process that can be good for people with a more secure attachment style, but can also create problems for someone who is avoidant or anxious/ambivalent in their relationships.

compassionate love vs. passionate love

In 1988, psychologist Elaine Hatfield proposed that there are two basic types of love:compassionate love and passionate love.

  • compassionate loveIt is characterized by mutual respect, solidarity, affection and trust. Such love usually develops from feelings of mutual understanding and respect.
  • passionate lovecharacterized by intense emotions,sexual attraction, fear and affect. When these intense emotions are reciprocated, people feel elated and fulfilled, while unrequited love leads to feelings of discouragement and despair.

Hatfield proposes that passionate love arises when cultural expectations encourage falling in love, when the person fulfills their preconceived notions of ideal love, and when they experience heightened physiological arousal in the other person's presence.

Passionate love is fleeting, typically lasting between 6 and 30 months, according to Hatfield.Ideally, passionate love leads to compassionate love, which is much more enduring.

While most people desire relationships that combine the security and stability of compassionate love with intense, passionate love, Hatfield believes this is rare.

A word from Verywell

There are many theories about how love is created and developed. Each contributes in their own way to what we know about this emotion, and provides several possible explanations for how love-based relationships begin, grow, and change.

How to know if you are in a healthy relationship

7 sources

Verywell Mind uses only quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to back up the facts in our articles. read ourspublishing processto learn more about how we review our content and keep it accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. Rubín Z.measure of romantic love.J Personal Social Psychology. 1970;16(2):265-273. doi:10.1037/h0029841

  2. Cramer K., Marcus J., Pomerleau C., Gillard K.Gender invariance in the love attitude scale based on Lee's color theory of love.Prueba Psychomet Methodol App Psychol. 2015;22(3):403-413. doi:10.4473/TPM22.3.6

  3. Sternberg RJ.A triangle theory of love..Rev Psychology. 1986;93(2):119-135. doi:10.1037/0033-295X.93.2.119

  4. Langeslag SJ, van Strien JW.Regulating Romantic Feelings of Love: Prejudices, Strategies, and Feasibility.Plus one. 2016;11(8):e0161087. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0161087

  5. Hazan C, Shaver PRomantic love conceived as a bonding process.J Personal Social Psychology. 1987;52(3):511-524. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.52.3.511

  6. Hatfield E.passionate and compassionate love. In Sternberg RJ, Barnes ML, Editors:The psychology of love. Yale University Press.

    (Video) 8 Stages of Development by Erik Erikson

  7. Earp BD , Wudarczyk OA , Foddy B , Savulescu J .Love Addiction: What Is Love Addiction And When Should It Be Treated?.Philos Psychiatr Psychol. 2017;24(1):77–92. doi:10.1353/ppp.2017.0011

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5 Ways Psychological Theories Explain Love (1)

VonKendra Cherry
Kendra Cherry, MS, is an author and educational consultant focused on helping students learn about psychology.

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What are the 5 theories of love? ›

For example, as early as 1886, the German physician and pioneering sexologist Richard von Krafft-Ebing (1886/1945) identified five types of love: true love, sentimental love, platonic love, friendship, and sensual love.

What is the psychology theory about love? ›

According to the triangular theory of love developed by psychologist Robert Sternberg, the three components of love are intimacy, passion, and commitment. Intimacy encompasses feelings of attachment, closeness, connectedness, and bondedness. Passion encompasses drives connected to both limerance and sexual attraction.

What are the 5 stages of falling in love? ›

Five Stages of Relationships
  • Attraction. The early days of the relationship are the honeymoon phase. ...
  • Curiosity. As the infatuation fades a bit, you start investigating your partner and who they really are as a person. ...
  • Crisis. ...
  • Deep attachment. ...
  • Commitment.
Nov 19, 2019

What are the different types of love psychology? ›

The seven kinds of love in Sternberg's triangular theory cover a range of relationship types:
  • Liking. You share emotional intimacy, but there's no physical passion or commitment. ...
  • Infatuation. Passion is the key component of infatuation. ...
  • Empty. ...
  • Romatic. ...
  • Companionate. ...
  • Fatuous. ...
  • Consummate.

Who founded the 5 Love Styles theory? ›

The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate is a 1992 book by Gary Chapman. It outlines five general ways that romantic partners express and experience love, which Chapman calls "love languages". They are acts of service, gift-giving, physical touch, quality time, and words of affirmation.

Is the 5 love languages a theory? ›

If you've looked into improving your relationship with your partner, chances are you've heard of the five love languages. The theory— published in 1992 by marriage counselor Gary Chapman, Ph. D., in his book The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts—proposes that people experience love differently.

What is the best theories of love? ›

Theory #1: Consummate Love in the Triangular Theory of Love by Robert Sternberg. Perhaps the most famous love theory in psychology is the Triangular Theory of Love, which was developed by Robert Sternberg in 2004.

What is the first theory of love? ›

The first is a theory presented by Zick Rubin named The Theory of Liking vs. Loving. In his theory, to define romantic love, Rubin concludes that attachment, caring, and intimacy are the three main principles that are key to the difference of liking one person and loving them.

What are the three love theories? ›

The three loves that she came up with are the following: Lust, Passion, and Commitment. These three loves occur in different parts of the brain and occur independently from each other. For instance, you can be “in lust” with someone but have no perceived commitment to them (e.g., one night stands).

What are the 6 stages of love? ›

While not every relationship goes through the 6 stages, it is more common that they do — euphoric stage, early attachment, crisis, disillusionment, decision, and wholehearted love. Everything seems perfect in the first two stages, and the couple develops an adoration for each other.

How many theories of love are there? ›

The four types of love described in philosophy include agape, phileo, storge, and eros. Agape is a type of unconditional love that is less common in society but more apparent between individuals and their god. Phileo is a love used to describe friendship between individuals.

What are the 5 languages of love summary? ›

People express and receive love in 5 different ways, called love languages: quality time, words of affirmation, gifts, acts of service, and physical touch. The sooner you discover your language and that of your loved one, the sooner you can take your relationship to new heights.

What is the meaning of 5 love language? ›

The five love languages describe five ways that people receive and express love in a relationship. These are words of affirmation, quality time, physical touch, acts of service, and receiving gifts. Knowing your partner's love language and letting them know yours is a way to help you both feel loved and appreciated.

What are the 5 love languages test? ›

What are the five love languages? The five love languages are words of affirmation, physical touch, quality time, gifts, and acts of service, each of which represents a distinct way of expressing love.

Is there a love theory? ›

The triangular theory of love explains the topic of love in an interpersonal relationship. Psychologist Robert Sternberg's theory describes types of love based on three different scales: intimacy, passion, and commitment.

What is the theory about love languages? ›

According to this theory, each person has one primary and one secondary love language. Chapman suggests that to discover another person's love language, one must observe the way they express love to others, and analyze what they complain about most often and what they request from their significant other most often.

What is the psychology behind gift giving love language? ›

Giving a gift increases feelings of satisfaction and helps to reinforce relationships by positively acknowledging each other,” explains Dr. Kirwan. Both the giver and receiver benefit from the act of giving or receiving emotionally.

What are the main components of love? ›

Sternberg (1988) suggests that there are three main components of love: passion, intimacy, and commitment. Love relationships vary depending on the presence or absence of each of these components. Passion refers to the intense, physical attraction partners feel toward one another.

What are the 7 different types of love? ›

According to Greek philosophy, here are the 7 different kinds of love:
  • Eros – Romantic, Passionate Love (Of the Body) ...
  • Philia – Affectionate, Friendly Love. ...
  • Storge – Unconditional, Familial Love. ...
  • Agape – Selfless, Universal Love. ...
  • Ludus – Playful, Flirtatious Love. ...
  • Pragma – Committed, Long-Lasting Love. ...
  • Philautia – Self Love.

What is love explained? ›

Love is a set of emotions and behaviors characterized by intimacy, passion, and commitment. It involves care, closeness, protectiveness, attraction, affection, and trust. Love can vary in intensity and can change over time.

What are the 4 types of love and their meaning? ›

Four unique forms of love are found in Scripture. They are communicated through four Greek words (Eros, Storge, Philia, and Agape) and are characterized by romantic love, family love, brotherly love, and God's divine love.

What are the 3 feelings in love? ›

According to a team of scientists led by Dr. Helen Fisher at Rutgers, romantic love can be broken down into three categories: lust, attraction, and attachment.

What is the 5 main love language? ›

What are the love languages? We all give and receive love in 5 different ways: words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time, and physical touch. These are called 'love languages' - a concept created by Dr. Gary Chapman through his long-time work as a marriage counsellor.

What are the 3 great loves theory? ›

The three loves that she came up with are the following: Lust, Passion, and Commitment. These three loves occur in different parts of the brain and occur independently from each other. For instance, you can be “in lust” with someone but have no perceived commitment to them (e.g., one night stands).

What are the main theory on love? ›

The triangular theory of love explains the topic of love in an interpersonal relationship. Psychologist Robert Sternberg's theory describes types of love based on three different scales: intimacy, passion, and commitment.


1. 8 Signs Its A Trauma Bond, Not Love
2. How Your Brain Falls In Love | Dawn Maslar | TEDxBocaRaton
(TEDx Talks)
3. What Is Your Attachment Style?
(The School of Life)
4. The Science of Love | John Gottman | TEDxVeniceBeach
(TEDx Talks)
5. Freud’s 5 Stages of Psychosexual Development
6. Sternberg's Theory of Love: Intimacy, Commitment, Passion


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