Psychology For Dummies
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Psychology recognizes the power of love, and how good it feels to be loved and to love someone else. There's even a psychological analysis of it. Elaine Hatfield and Richard Rapson, psychologists at the University of Hawaii, identify two specific types of love:
  • Passionate love: Intense love with a sexual or romantic quality. It’s the kind of love Romeo and Juliet had for each other. It’s the kind of love you don’t have for your grandmother!

  • Companionate love: This is the love between friends and family members. There isn’t much passion here, but there are high levels of attachment, commitment, and intimacy.

Sternberg's six forms of love

Robert Sternberg, professor of human development at Cornell University, created a theory that outlines six forms of love. Each form is distinguished by varying degrees of: passion, a strong desire for another person, and the expectation that sex with that person will be rewarding; commitment, the conviction that a person will stick around, no matter what happens; and intimacy, the ability to share our deepest and most secret feelings and thoughts with another person.

Here are Sternberg’s six forms of love that are based on varying levels of passion, commitment, and intimacy:

  • Liking: There’s intimacy but no passion or commitment here. A relationship with a therapist is a good example of this form of love. You can tell your therapist your thoughts and feelings, but you don’t necessarily feel passion for or commitment to them.

  • Infatuation: Here, there’s passion but no intimacy or commitment. This form of love is like lust. It’s the one-night-stand or seventh-grade crush version of love.

  • Empty love: This is what people have who are committed but share no passion or intimacy. Some married couples are committed to each other out of necessity or convenience and stay together despite the lack of passion or intimacy.

  • Fatuous love: This is the highest level of commitment and passion but it offers low levels of intimacy. Romeo and Juliet seemed to be under the spell of fatuous love.

  • Companionate love: This form of love is being committed and intimate but lacking in passion. It epitomizes a really good friendship.

  • Consummate love: This form is the total package: high passion, strong commitment, and deep intimacy. This one has got to be “consuming.”

Are the foundations of love formed in childhood? Some psychologists feel that our love relationships as adults are extensions of our childhood attachments. Children who have healthy attachments have more mature adult relationships with higher levels of intimacy and trust, and they’re comfortable with higher levels of interdependency.

Children who experience anxious or ambivalent attachments to their primary caregivers may “fall in love” too easily, seeking extreme closeness right off the bat and reacting intensely to any suggestion of abandonment. Children who avoid social interaction tend to be uncomfortable with closeness and have a tough time with being dependent upon others in their adult relationships.

Hatfield and Rappon proposed that people possess love templates in the form of mental schemas or scripts. Templates are formed early in life and are revised and solidified over the years as individuals experience various relationships with other people. These templates shape how a person thinks about relationships and determine what expectations he has upon entering into relationships

There are six basic love schemas that apply to romantic relationships. Each schema is differentiated by a person’s comfort level with closeness and independence and how eager they are to be in a romantic relationship. The schemas:

  • Casual: No strings attached. Interested in a problem-free relationship. Dream on!

  • Clingy: Seeks closeness (a little too much) and fears independence. Anybody got a spatula?

  • Fickle: Uneasy with both closeness and independence. Can’t make up your mind? Flip a coin already!

  • Secure: Comfortable with both closeness and independence and doesn’t rush things.

  • Skittish: Fearful of too much closeness and perfectly comfortable with independence. Don’t run!

  • Uninterested: Just not into the whole relationship thing.

Everyone has an opinion on each of these love schemas. It’s hard to judge people who may use one type of schema over another. Different schemas seem to apply to different periods of life, but many people strive toward the secure schema. If someone feels that their schema is causing problems in their life, therapy is a good place to work out these issues.

About This Article

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Adam Cash is a clinical psychologist who has practiced in a variety of settings including forensic institutions and outpatient clinics. He has taught Psychology at both the community college and university levels. He is currently in private practice specializing in psychological assessment, child psychology, and neurodevelopmental disorders.

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