Varieties of Love

Some observers see love as a unidimensional state ranging in intensity from simple liking to profound, passionate affection for another person. Other philosophers and psychologists have viewed love as multidimensional, varying not only in depth but also in kind. One ancient classification system, which differentiates between the eros of Plato, the philia of Aristotle, and the agape of St. Paul, was adopted by Rollo May (1969) in his theory of love and is described in Table 6-1.

Perhaps more familiar to nonclassicists is the distinction between passionate and companionate love (Hatfield & Walster, 1981; Rubin, 1973; Walster & Walster, 1978). Passionate love is an intense, emotional state in which the partners are deeply absorbed with each other. The ardent sexual passion of passionate love typically has a relatively short life span, but it may be transformed into companionate love. As depicted in romantic novels, plays, and

Table 6-1 The Many Faces of Love

Elaine Hatfield

Passionate love : an intense emotional state of ardent sexual passion and positive absorption in another person.

Companionate love: an affectionate, tranquil. stable state in which two people depend on each other and enjoy being together.

Abraham Maslow D-love ("deficiency love"): the need to receive love from other people.

B-love ("being love"): nonpossessive, giving, honest, and richer and more enjoyable than D-love.

rullo may

Eros: the desire to form a psychological union with or feel as one with a love partner. Philia: the feeling ofcompanionship or friendship that a person has with a loved one, even in the absence of sex and eros. Agape: unselfishly giving oneself in a love relationship, with no expectation of receiving anything in return.

John Lee

Eros: a need to know the loved one completely and experience everything about him or her. Mania: obsessive, demanding love, accompanied by pain and anxiety because ofthe insatiable need for attention from the loved one. Ludis: self-centered, playful love, in which love is treated as a game to be won. Storge: companionate, solid, peaceful love between close friends. Agape: saintly, "thou"-centered love that is patient, forgiving, and kind.

Pragma: logical, practical love, given only when the partner is considered to be a "good catch."

Robert Sternberg

Infatuated love: love that is high on passion but low on intimacy and decision/commitment. Romantic love: love that is high on passion and intimacy but low on decision/commitment. Fatuous love: love that is high on passion and decision/commitment but low on intimacy. Empty love: love that is low on passion and intimacy but high on decision/commitment. Consummate love: love that is high on passion, intimacy, and decision/commitment. Companionate love: love that is low on passion but high on intimacy and decision/commitment.

poetry, passionate love can range from the extreme high of ecstasy to the extreme low of loss and depression.

Companionate love consists of a strong but tranquil feeling of affection between two people. Companionate love partners depend on and trust each other, and they enjoy spending a lot of time together. Their feelings for each other are less intense but more stable than those of passionate lovers and are based on mutual self-disclosure and understanding. As companionate love grows, the partners reveal more and more about themselves. Companionate love is obviously different from passionate love, but the two states are not mutually exclusive. Romance and passion remain an important part of many enduring relationships (Murstein, 1985; Skolnick, 1981; Traupmann, Eckels, & Hatfield, 1982).

Many other ways of classifying love have been proposed. The humanistic


No No Yes Yes


No No Yes Yes

Infatuated I ove

Romantic Love

Fatuous Love

Consummate Love



Companionate Love

No i

Yes i

No i

Yes i

Intimacy Intimacy

Figure 6-2 Sternberg's triangular model of love. (Based on Sternberg, 1986.)

Intimacy Intimacy

Figure 6-2 Sternberg's triangular model of love. (Based on Sternberg, 1986.)

psychologist Abraham Maslow distinguished between D-love ("deficiency love") and B-love ("being love"). D-love, expressed as a need to receive love, often involves selfish efforts to obtain affection from others. B-love is more honest, nonpossessive, generous, and enjoyable (Maslow, 1970).

More research-based than the conceptions of Maslow and May is Robert Sternberg's (1986) three-factor theory of love. As illustrated in Figure 6-2, the theory describes love in terms of three dimensions: passion (intense physiological desire for someone), intimacy (sharing thoughts and emotions with someone), and decision/commitment (willingness to remain with someone). The various combinations of these three components yield different types of love: infatuated love, romantic love, fatuous love, empty love, companionate love, and consummate love (see Figure 6-2). Infatuation, or "love at first sight," is based on strong physical attraction. Romantic love is an intimate, passionate relationship without commitment. Fatuous love, in which the partners are "swept off their feet" but do not develop intimacy, leads to rapid courtship and marriage. In empty love, there is no passion or intimacy but the couple remains committed tc the relationship because of children or other obligations. Long-term friendships or marriages in which passion has diminished are companionate love relationships. And the ideal type of love, in which passion, intimacy, and commitment are all present, is consummate love. Two other states in Sternberg's classification system involve either no passion, no intimacy, and no decision/commitment (nonlove) or intimacy but no passion and no decision/commitment (liking).

Sternberg (1986) stresses that all three components—passion, intimacy, and commitment—of his theory of love are dynamic and change in particular ways in both successful and unsuccessful relationships. Passion consists of a quickly developing positive force and a more slowly developing but longer lasting negative force. Following a "breakup," the negative force can lead to heartache but eventually disappears. The intimacy component of love grows steadily at first and then levels off in enduring relationships. When intimacy fades, the relationship usually fails. Commitment grows gradually at first, more rapidly as the relationship progresses, and then either levels off (in long-term relationships) or declines (in failed relationships).

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