Passion, Intimacy, Commitment: the three main components of love (according to science)

American psychologist Robert Sternberg states that happy and healthy love relationships are based on these three crucial elements. Let’s learn more about them, then.

Passion refers to the drives that lead to romance, physical attraction, sexual consummation, and related phenomena in loving relationships. The passion component includes the sources of motivational and other forms of arousal within its purview that lead to the experience of passion in a loving relationship.

Intimacy refers to feelings of closeness, connectedness, and bondedness in loving relationships. It thus includes total acceptance of the loved one and ignites those feelings that give rise, practically, to the experience of warmth in a loving relationship. The physical and psychological need and desire to spend as much time as possible with the loved one comes from here.

Commitment refers to the decision that one loves a certain other, and to maintain that love. It may include several renounces in order to keep the relationship going. It is also based on a shared goal that unites both partners who also share the same values, priorities, and a common horizon.

If there’s only passion, it’s just sex. You may enjoy a tremendous one-night stand with someone you know nothing about. It’s amazing, but it’s not love.

If there’s only intimacy, you guys are good friends, you love each other like brothers and sisters, but that’s it. It’s not love.

If there’s only commitment, maybe you guys share an apartment and help each other pay the bills, but it is not love.

There can be several combinations – intimacy and passion, but no commitment; passion and commitment, but no intimacy; commitment and intimacy, but no passion. Only when all of these three ingredients blend, it’s real love.

What happens when one of these three elements fades away, though? For example, what happens when passion fades away? Well, you might choose to have sex with your fiancee/spouse only once in a while and be okay with that. Or you can choose to open your relationship and say goodbye to exclusiveness. This might be the prelude of the end of your story or, on the contrary, save it.

Truth is that maybe there is no such thing as the perfect formula for the perfect love relationship. Each and every couple is a unique and unrepeatable universe, with two unique and unrepeatable individuals. No one but them can know what’s best for their relationship, what works, and what doesn’t. Authentic dialogue, effective communication, and listening undoubtedly remain the best way to keep your love relationship alive and healthy.

Alessandro Cozzolino, LGBTQ+ coach

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