Love, the indomitable force which fills us all with unbound energy is as mysterious as it is strong. We all define love differently, to suit our experience, and indeed everyone’s experience with love is so personal it is naive to think there is one definition we can all agree upon. 

“What love lays bare in me is energy.” – Roland Barthes, A Lover’s Discourse

Robert Steinberg, a noted Psychologist, may have found a way to provide structure to this. According to his Triangular Theory Of Love, there are three components of love – passion (sexual or romantic attraction), intimacy (a deep sense of attachment, and a dynamic of sharing) and compassion (a willingness to not only maintain the relationship, but also let it grow).

These elements combine in seven ways to give us seven different types of love. 

1. Intimacy alone is friendship or liking. 

Think of the person you tell everything to, the one you want to call when something exciting or upsetting happens in your life. Of course, you love them. But this love is called liking or friendship and doesn’t amount to a relationship. 

2. When there is passion, it is called infatuated love. 

Remember how all the crushes you had when your hormones were rushing, were brushed off as infatuation? Infatuated love feels intense and overpowering, but is short-lived without intimacy or commitment. It takes priority in your life because it may make you feel like you can do anything for the other person (such is the power of lust), but you must carefully evaluate how much you talk to each other, and whether you are willing to see it through rocky times. 

3. When you feel a strong sense of commitment toward someone, but no passion or intimacy, it is empty love. 

This is the kind of love some of us share with our family. You see the other person in your future, and perhaps can’t imagine a future without them, but there is no significant sharing of personal stories, and no sexual attraction. Unfortunately, many marriages also sometimes are based on empty love. 

4. Romantic love is when there is intimacy and passion between two people. 

This is when we feel butterflies in the stomach the moment we think of the object of our love. But without commitment, this may be short-lived. Passion is felt intensely and when it is accompanied by sharing of personal stories, it may feel like a love that will last. But without consciously and actively working toward a long-term relationship, the sense of commitment doesn’t develop. 

5. Companionate love is when there is intimacy and commitment, but not a whole lot of passion. 

At some point in a marriage or a long term relationship, there will be companionate love between two people. This isn’t such a bad thing since intimacy and commitment are the stronger of the three pillars. However, it is important to rekindle the fire and bring back passion in the mix. The elderly, who may no longer have a strong sex drive, often seek companionate love. 

6. Fatuous love is when there is passion and a will to commit, but no real intimacy. 

You meet someone new. The chemistry between the two of you overwhelms you and you simply cannot keep your hands off each other. The sex is great. They seem wonderful! Perfect, even. Just the sort of person you have always dreamt of being with. This, you conclude based on a few superficial things you know about them – where they’ve traveled, the kind of music they like, movies, books, whether they are an animal lover or not. And you decide, with the utmost earnestness, that you want to spend the rest of your life with them. You have a shotgun wedding.  But the truth is, without intimacy, you don’t really know them. 

7. When the three powerful elements combine, we get consummate love. 

This is how most of us understand love: an ideal situation where you continue having great sex with your partner, are each other’s best friends, and never dwindle on your decision to spend your lives together. 

We all want consummate love, the kind that, according to Barthes, fills us with energy. We may achieve it, but according to psychologists, the challenge lies in maintaining it. I suppose the only way you can is by choosing your lover every single day!