Passion + Intimacy + Commitment = Consummate Love

Love is complicated, arising in many forms.

Passion, intimacy, and commitment are the three pillars of couple-love, says psychologist, Robert Sternberg in his “triangular theory.” We may love based on intimacy, passion, or commitment, or any combination of the three.

We may also experience different aspects of love at different stages of a relationship, and move in and out of various types of love over time. Let’s take a look at a few possibilities.

Passionate love

Early love is marked by the infatuation of “passion.” Giddy, and intense with longing, the lovebirds feel the heart-thumping arousal of the yearning heart. Can’t eat, can’t sleep. (Why let sleep come between you and the “high” that attaches to thoughts of your beloved?)

These are turbulent times, marked by ecstasy and fulfillment when loved is returned; but sadness and despair when it is not.

Intimacy

Love may also emerge as intimacy, marked by warmth, closeness and connectedness. Each partner wants to give and receive emotional support and share their innermost thoughts and experiences.

If the couple feels intimate, but lacks passion, the relationship is more of a liking/friendship sort than romantic love.

Commitment

Sometimes partners commit to stay together and maintain love and relationship through thick and thin. But this love is more compassionate than passionate.

When a couple is committed but lack passion and intimacy, their relationship may be stagnant, lacking the emotional involvement and attraction they once had. When nothing but duty keeps them together, this is “empty love.”

But in places where marriages are arranged a couple might start with nothing but commitment, yet over time become intimate or passionate, or both. So sometimes “empty love” can be the beginning rather than the end.

Consummate love: intimacy + passion + commitment

These different sorts of love may arise in various combinations. Romantic love can be full of passion and intimacy yet lack commitment. Companionate love can involve intimacy and commitment but lack passion. Or perhaps a couple experiences passion and commitment, yet still lack deep intimacy.

When all three pillars of love combine into the perfect blend of intimacy, passion, and commitment, “consummate love” arises in what many feel is the best of all worlds.

Few couples who have been together for a long time will experience consummate love every moment. Most often the feeling waxes and wanes. And most couples experience different forms of loving styles throughout long-term relationships.

It could also be that different styles of love are a better fit for different couples, depending upon where they are, and want to be, in life and love.

Regardless of where you are, couples are best matched when they desire similar levels of each sort of love.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych, women's psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State University. And I have blogged for Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos.

Posted on February 13, 2012, in men, psychology, relationships, sex, women and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 24 Comments.

  1. This article was very interesting I didn’t know there were so many levels to building a successful relationship. I feel like if you are truly in love with someone, sex shouldn’t be the main focus and there should be more to the relationship that only makes it stronger and worthwhile. In order to show love, means a relationship should have trust, commitment, passion, and intimacy. But, in order to give your heart to someone doesn’t mean that it’s for a short amount of time, it should last and only grow. Whichever level the couples are on, all depends on how they want their relationship to end up. The couples end up having a successful relationship when both individuals are in the same pace while building the blocks to a sturdy well-built relationship.

  2. I always knew there was a formula sort of explanation on love. I know that my boyfriend and I have all three components so far. I also think that communication is the biggest part of a relationship/ love because it lets us, the lovers, to be truthful, caring and committed. I also think that love is not something that should be forced and should come naturally, but then again arranged marriages sometimes work with the forcing of loving and being loved. I guess I believe in the whole butterflies in the stomach feeling because in my past experiences I knew that if I did not have those butterflies the relationship or feelings would not last. Love is great and can be the answer to all the worlds problems. If humans could only love one another there would not be racism, hatred, and backstabbing. The love triangle is great.

  3. I found this article to be quite intriguing, maybe because my boyfriend and I just had a fight prior (hahaha). I think that the 3 levels of love, all of the depth and layers in the levels are very conclusive as to why love is such a complicated topic. Passionate love is almost like a first love, the butterflies in the stomach what to wear, how will he react to me. When you put more into the relationship because you feel you will get the same out when in reality they might not feel as passionately as you do. Passionate Love says to me ‘High School Relationship’ or ‘My First Kiss’ but now a days its ‘Damn, I love you so much lets have sex cause that is the way we show our love’.. Intimacy, my soul mate, who I am destined to be with. The connection two people feel to be honest and opened and not feel ashamed. Two peas in a pod, ‘My missing puzzle piece’, intimacy is hard to find, and even harder to maintain, from past relationships I’ve seen crumble, its the coals that keeps the fiery passion burning. Commitment, the ten letter word and both parties in the relationship have to do there fair share. Its an even word so the commitment level should be equal on both parts to make it work. To place trust in someone to always be there but love them in all there aspects, and have the compassion to accept their faults. Commitment is the bond that keeps two people together, the bond that makes I into we and we becomes a team. Consummate Love is a love that is deep, almost unreal. A love that take the words “Till death due us part” to reality. This is the love I envy and I hope one day I do find, and I hope many do find. Love is a tricky subject is all aspects, positive and negative.

  4. I know that when I first heard of these three tiers of love that I felt a little relieved. I have been in a relationship with my boyfriend for over five years and I know that our love had morphed into something that is different than what it was when we first met. You see passionate love in movies and books, where two people are so enthralled with one another that they cannot think of anything else, and I felt that with my boyfriend for the first couple of years, but slowly our relationship changed into something more of a friendship love, we know each other inside and out, but the passion wasn’t always there. I was around all of my friends who are just starting to date new people and they cant seem to be apart from their new flames, and I really missed what my boyfriend and I first had, I thought it went away. What really happened was that it transformed into something that I consider more important, our intimate love and compassionate love had taken the place of some of the passionate love. I realized that although we had lost some of the beginning excitement of start of our relationship, we ended up with something real. I want everyone to know that love does change and that doesn’t mean that it turns into anything “boring” or that it has “lost its spark”, it just means that it has matured and that it can last.

  5. Marquel Benton

    This topic is very interesting and a very serious one. I feel that those 3 components about love and relationship is so critical because people don’t really know the meaning of a relationship they think its all about sex and the way a person looks but its way deeper than that. Love is long lasting, its ongoing, just because your lover gets hurt or loose a leg its not right to divorce or break up with them. Love is more than that and when a person say “I love you” that’s a strong word that should not be taken for granted. When you are in love with someone that should be the priority and its a really strong commitment that you are giving. I agree with Liliya, if humans could love one another there wouldn’t be any racism, backstabbing, etc. Love is really a great thing that should be more emphasized today.

  6. Love seems so much more complicated when it is all written down in words and analyzed like this. This was an interesting article though. It is hard to imagine that you can ever find someone that will perfectly fit each and every expectation their is to love as you. I guess you just have to give a little and work at it if you really want a relationship to work and be sucessful.

  7. I love that this article ended with “regardless of where you are, couples are best matched when they desire similar levels of each sort of love.” Everyone is different, everyone has different needs and that statement put an umbrella over all the “untraditional” kind of loves out there and legitimized them as well. Love is complicated and there is no perfect formula for all couples. For myself, I know I need my partner to be my best friend; they need to make me laugh, be willing to explore the world with me, and support me. Sex is also very important to me; it’s a place where you both become vulnerable, united, and focus on instant gratification.

  8. I personally take all three pillars in high consideration when thinking about engaging in a relationship. However, each pillar weighs differently. I am a very affectionate and loving person so intimacy and passion are extremely important and act as a foundation for my long term relationships. I can still feel these feelings and fill these positions of love without actual verbal or legal commitment. From personal experience I have found that when I share passionate love with another, everything else falls into place in terms of mutual feelings and commitment. However, intimacy often jumpstarts and increases the feelings of passion and from then on feelings expand. This more than likely leads to commitment in which I generally accomplish having an abundance of all thre types of love. I have actually only had this success only once and although the feelings are not completely the same, that relationship taught me that having it is more than possible to be able to share a mutual respect of these three types of love.

  9. This reminds me of the movie the graduate, when after they get so consumed with passion they run away together in the end and their smiles start to fade away, such is passion, or so I’ve been told and read. The sad part about passion for somebody is when it’s not reciprocated and one feels that she/he was the one true love. Or when someone starts to “warm up” in a relationship and then the other person ends it because she/he was not happy in it. It can have a feeling like something important to you dying. Well something that is important, like the future of what could have been getting darker. And this person that is in a passionate stage doesn’t want to let that idea die so they hold onto it for far longer than is probably healthy.
    Cheating on someone comes from being unhappy in the relationship and not getting what one needs out of it. So it’s strange if you ask people if they would rather have their partner cheat on them or be unhappy in the relationship, it’s the same thing that probably gets different answers.

  10. Dominique Dillon

    After reading about the three pillars of love, I have acquired new in depth knowledge of the different stages of love in a relationship. Previous to reading this article, I lacked any knowledge of psychologist Robert Sternberg’s triangular theory of love. It makes perfect sense that when you combine passion in addition to intimacy and commitment they equal consummate love. Consummate love is ideal for people in relationships to strive to work towards because this form of love is complete with all three important components of love. I want to definitely work towards consummate love in my relationship. And I think I can also achieve consummate love if I work on one of the components of love that is currently lacking in my relationship. I really do appreciate you sharing this article with everyone because this article has provided insight that I might not have ever learned.

  11. Casey D-Miller

    This article was interesting because it helped give me a new perspective on my relationships. I think the most important aspect of the article was saying that relationships are best when both people want to achieve the same levels of the different loves. Being on the same page about where a relationship is going and how much it means to each person is equivalent to communication, which is a key aspect to any healthy relationship.

  12. Relationships are not a recipe and even though many relationships are more healthy than others, the stage of love changes. Meaning that not always two people are at the same stage but if they are both understanding of each others needs this moments are more often for them than the other groups who are not connected at this levels. The cense of carrying and respect are always there but the levels of love change. I am not saying that some times we don’t feel love for this person but feel more in love than usual and connected with the other person at different times.

  13. What’s interesting is that most of the time, these three components don’t appear at the same time. Often times, passion precedes the other two. Intimacy comes from passion, and commitment comes from intimacy (and moral obligation). Since these three things don’t come together into a relationship at the same time, the balance of the relationship is, as Sandra said, “always changing.” That is, perhaps, why there are so many stages in the process of a relationship. By the time your relationship gets to the stage of marriage, you can only hope it’s not a lopsided triangle.

  14. After being married for over 20 years and 5 children, I can tell you that love includes all of those components and each of them come and go, however a strong, loving relationship filled with passion, desire, respect, laughter and excitement is developed through strong relationship with God, communication and lots of love making. I think that two people who love each other can become bored with each other unless you two are talking about what you need. Consummate love: intimacy + passion + commitment these can be obtained if both are wiling to work for it and work hard. Intimacy is very important and it is just not sexual, it can be a wife getting home from work after a hard day and she does not need to say a word, her husband already knows and he takes care of her, whether that be run a bath or cook dinner. And there are times when a wife should know that although she may not be in the mood, her man needs some love and attention. e must give and take the reward is priceless! Life is too short to let the person you love go a day not knowing that you adore them and are over the top attracted to them. This was a great topic!

  15. I really enjoyed this article! I think that this is really good information to be aware of and realize that “Love” and relationships shouldn’t be a “duty”. That is unhealthy and unfulfilling, you may care for someone very much, but if you feel as though you are restraining yourself from experiancing other meaningful love. I feel people get caught up in this alot. Quite often staying together for the kids becomes a theme in todays society, well if you are unhappy maybe it’s time to rethink this choice.

  16. I thought this was a great read. I feel like relationships definitely need all three of these characteristics if they are going to last. While commitment is of obvious importance to a relationship, I think when I was younger, I didn’t understand how important sex could be to a relationship, but it really is. Lacking intimacy in a relationship is sort of like missing a pinky toe– things get really unbalanced. Having a partner that is also your best friend is one of the greatest gifts life has to offer.

  17. Currently being in a relationship I found this incredibly interesting. I could not help but compare it to my relationship and try to see different aspects of it in these separate categories. I also liked how it explained each type of love and tried to understand each of them as well as I could. I did however struggle a bit on understanding commitment alone, is it really still considered love? I tried to think of an example in my life where I have seen something like this and the only thing I can think of are my parents. They are the perfect example of commitment alone or as it says above empty love. Their sole purpose for being together is to raise their children and nothing else. So that is why it’s hard for me to wrap my mind around seeing commitment alone as being a type of love.

    • “commitment alone, is it really still considered love?”

      I guess it depends. Sometimes you probably don’t have love even if you have a commitment.

      But some couples have personalities that are very practical. They aren’t really passionate or really intimate and yet they love each other on some level.

  18. I struggle with the idea that an ultimately fulfilling relationship requires passion, because passion is by nature fleeting. Passionate romantic feelings are produced by physiological responses that almost always have an expiration date. I always thought that if passion was necessary for a satisfying relationship, then we could only hope for serial monogamy at best. Not lasting, happy relationships.

    Am I missing something?

  19. This article help clarify some of the experiences I have had. It is hard to put your finger on something when you don’t know how to define it. This article gave me some structure on which I can define where I stand in a relationship. It also gave me information so that when I am in a particular period I can be reassured that it isn’t the end, only a period in time and we can all survive that!

  20. I totally agree with this article, it is so true that a relationship can only be long lasting and happy if they have the three elements and they are passionate, intimacy and commitment. Even though some people say a relationship should base on the feeling you got towards another person, I think if two people do not have commitment or intimacy, the bond between them will be very weak. To me, commitment is very important to a stable and long lasting relationship because it is like a promise to one another. But if you only have commitment but without passionate and intimacy, the relationship will be very dull and not close at all. Therefore, the combination of passionate, intimacy and commitment can help to build a healthy relationship.

  21. My mom’s marriage was arranged when she was in Africa and my dad was out in America. When my mom was approached by my grandfather about the proposal from my dad’s family she was accepting a commitment to a lifelong partnership to a man she didn’t know (African people frown upon divorce) and she was moving thousands of miles away from home. The way my mom tells it to us it was hard living with him and dealing with him but over time, she soon grew to love him.

  1. Pingback: Passion + Intimacy + Commitment = Consummate Love | kwahtgrl

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