1986, Vol. 93, No. 2, 119-135
Copyright 1986 by the American Psychological Association, Inc.
This article presents a triangular theory of love. According to the theory, love has three components:
which encompasses the feelings of closeness, connectedness, and bondedness one ex-
periences in loving relationships; (b)
which encompasses the drives that lead to romance,
physical attraction, and sexual consummation; and (c)
which encompasses, in
the short term, the decision that one loves another, and in the long term, the commitment to maintain
that love. The amount of love one experiences depends on the absolute strength of these three com-
ponents, and the kind of love one experiences depends on their strengths relative to each other. The
three components interact with each other and with the actions that they produce and that produce
them so as to form a number of different kinds of loving experiences. The triangular theory of love
subsumes certain other theories and can account for a number of empirical findings in the research
literature, as well as for a number of experiences with which many are familiar firsthand. It is proposed
that the triangular theory provides a rather comprehensive basis for understanding many aspects of
the love that underlies close relationships.
What does it mean "to love" someone? Does it always mean
the same thing, and if not, in what ways do loves differ from each
other? Why do certain loves seem to last, whereas others disappear
almost as quickly as they are formed? This article seeks to answer
these and other questions through a triangular theory of love.
This tripartite theory deals both with the nature of love and with
loves in various kinds of relationships.
The presentation of the theory will be divided into three main
parts. In the first part, the main tenets of the theory will be
explained and discussed, and the theory will be compared with
other theories of love. In the second part, the implications of the
theory for close relationships and satisfaction in them will be
described. In the third part, the theory will be shown to account
for many of the empirical phenomena that have been observed
with regard to love.
The Triangle of Love
The triangular theory of love holds that love can be understood
in terms of three components that together can be viewed as
forming the vertices of a triangle. These three components are
intimacy (the top vertex of the triangle), passion (the left-hand
vertex of the triangle), and decision/commitment (the right-hand
vertex of the triangle). (The assignment of components to vertices
is arbitrary.) Each of these three terms can be used in many
different ways, so it is important at the outset to clarify their
meanings in the context of the present theory.
I am grateful to Michael Barnes, Susan Grajek, and Sandra Wright