Here's a typical scenario: you fall head over heels for someone, the 'perfect' someone. S/he is beautiful, funny, nice, and if sex is in the cards, is a spitfire in bed. Some people rush from this wonderful situation into marriage, or quite a serious relationship. But not all that long later, the relationship just fizzles out. It gets boring, or stagnant; passionless. With a love so strong in the beginning, how do so many couples find themselves getting separated due to the magic just dying?
Psychologists have an explanation for this. Robert Sternberg (1987) proposes a 'Triangular Theory of Love' which includes three factors of love, and how they affect Love itself. The first is passion, which is the physical attraction and arousal you get from being around your lover. The second is intimacy, or the feelings of warmth, understanding, and communication in the relationship. The last is commitment, where you are fully and cognitively devoted to your partner. The different types of love, as explained in this theory, are based on the amount of these three factors.
Nonlove is when passion, intimacy, and commitment are all low. This is a superficial, empty sort of relationship between people, and is more likely just an acquaintance.
Liking occurs when intimacy is high, but passion and commitment are low. This can be a mere close friendship where the partners are not physically attracted to each other nor do they expect to be committed to each other for a long period of time.
Infatuation is a high amount of passion but a lacking in real intimacy or commitment. This is the schoolkid crush where you are madly in like with a certain someone that preoccupies your mind all the time, but you barely even know anything about.
Empty Love deals with a high amount of commitment, but no real passion or intimacy. This could be when the love between two people has gone away and they merely stick together for the sake of the kids, or the community, or financial purposes.
None of these so far are what anyone would really consider love, and for good reason. They have only one or less of the factors of love, and, as the Triangular Theory explains, love is a multifaceted thing, and gets more complicated as we pull the strings on several different factors:
Romantic Love is a more commonly heard type of love, and as Sternberg explains, is high intimacy and passion with low commitment. Romantic love is quite passionate and in some cases may be prone to commitment, but it's not the defining points. An example of Romantic Love is a summer love, where physical passion and late-night intimacies occur, but in the end everyone goes home. Romantic love is the basis for the type of love in the introduction, and it's easier to see now the problems it can cause.
Companionate Love involves a high amount of intimacy and commitment. Oftentimes this is thought of as the love an elderly couple who are still in love consume: the partners care for each other deeply and are committed to one another, but the passion has died down. Even without passion, however, Companionate Love is actually likely to last longer than the other types of love.
Fatuous Love is often called a foolish type of love, and is characterized by passion and commitment, but a lack of intimacy. Hollywood has oftentimes adopted this type for movies, where two young lovers meet, fall madly for one another, and in the heat of the moment decide to take the next step into marriage. This is different from Romantic Love because in Fatuous love, the couple hardly even knows, or necessarily likes, one another.
Consummate Love is where intimacy, passion, and commitment are all high, and a sort of 'complete' love has been formed. This is the ideal sort of love that most people seek, but be cautious. This may be easy enough to do for a period of time, but is actually quite hard to maintain.