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Consummation Of Love Definition Essay

Not to be confused with Love triangle.

The triangular theory of love is a theory of love developed by Robert Sternberg, a member of the Psychology Department at Yale University. During his time as a professor, Sternberg emphasized his research in the fields of intelligence, creativity, wisdom, leadership, thinking styles, ethical reasoning, love, and hate. In the context of interpersonal relationships, "the three components of love, according to the triangular theory, are an intimacy component, a passion component, and a decision/commitment component."[1]

Sternberg says that intimacy refers to "feelings of closeness, connectedness, and bondedness in loving relationships", passion refers to "the drives that lead to romance, physical attraction, sexual consummation, and related phenomena in loving relationships" and decision/commitment means different things in the short and long term. In the short-term, it refers to "the decision that one loves a certain other", and in the long-term, it refers to "one's commitment to maintain that love."[2]

Dictionary definitions[edit]

The three components of love are as follows

Passion: Passion can be associated with either physical arousal or emotional stimulation. Passion is defined in three ways:

  1. A strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something or about doing something[3]
  2. A strong feeling (such as anger) that causes people to act in a dangerous way
  3. strong sexual or romantic feeling for someone

Intimacy: Intimacy is described as the feelings of closeness and attachment to one another. This tends to strengthen the tight bond that is shared between those two individuals. Additionally, having a sense of intimacy helps create the feeling of being at ease with one another, in the sense that the two parties are mutual in their feelings.

Intimacy is primarily defined as something of a personal or private nature; familiarity.[3]

Commitment: Unlike the other two blocks, commitment involves a conscious decision to stick with one another. The decision to remain committed is mainly determined by the level of satisfaction that a partner derives from the relationship. There are three ways to define commitment:

  1. A promise to do or give something
  2. A promise to be loyal to someone or something
  3. the attitude of someone who works very hard to do or support something[3]

"The amount of love one experiences depends on the absolute strength of these three components, and the type of love one experiences depends on their strengths relative to each other."[4] Different stages and types of love can be explained as different combinations of these three elements; for example, the relative emphasis of each component changes over time as an adult romantic relationship develops. A relationship based on a single element is less likely to survive than one based on two or three elements.

Early theories of love[edit]

One of the first theories of love was developed by Sigmund Freud. As Freud so frequently attributed human nature to unconscious desires, his theory of love centered around the need for an "ego ideal".[5] His definition of an ego ideal is this: the image of the person that one wants to become, which is patterned after those whom one holds with great respect.

Another theory was introduced by Maslow. Maslow's hierarchy of needs places self-actualization at the peak. He maintains that those who have reached self-actualization are capable of love.[2]

Yet another theory, one about being in love, was developed by Reik. Being in love was said to be attainable for those who could love for the sake of loving people, not just fixing one's own problem.[2]

When theories about love moved from being clinically based to being socially and personality based, they became focused on types of love, as opposed to becoming able to love.

Of the multiple different early and later theories of love, there are two specific early theories that contribute to and influence Sternberg's theory.

The first is a theory presented by Zick Rubin named The Theory of Liking vs. Loving. In his theory, to define romantic love, Rubin concludes that attachment, caring, and intimacy are the three main principles that are key to the difference of liking one person and loving them. Rubin states that if a person simply enjoys another's presence and spending time with them, that person only likes the other. However, if a person shares a strong desire for intimacy and contact, as well as cares equally about the other's needs and their own, the person loves the other.[6]

In Sternberg's theory, one of his main principles is intimacy. It is clear that intimacy is an important aspect of love, ultimately using it to help define the difference between compassionate and passionate love.

The second is a theory—The Color Wheel Model of Love—presented by John Lee. In his theory, using the analogy of primary colors to love, Lee defines the three different styles of love. These include Eros, Ludos, and Storge. Most importantly within his theory, he concludes that these three primary styles, like the making of complementary colors, can be combined to make secondary forms of love.[7]

In Sternberg's theory, he presents, like Lee, that through the combination of his three main principles, different forms of love are created.

Sternberg also described three models of love, including the Spearmanian, Thomsonian, and Thurstonian models. According to the Spearmanian model, love is a single bundle of positive feelings. In the Thomsonian model, love is a mixture of multiple feeling that, when brought together, produce the feeling. The Spearmanian model is the closest to the triangular theory of love, and dictates that love is made up of equal parts that are more easily understood on their own than as a whole. In this model, the various factors are equal in their contribution to the feeling, and could be disconnected from each other.[8]


Sternberg's triangular theory of love was developed after the identification of passionate love and companionate love. Passionate love and companionate love are different kinds of love but are connected in relationships.

Passionate love is associated with strong feelings of love and desire for a specific person. This love is full of excitement and newness. Passionate love is important in the beginning of the relationship and typically lasts for about a year. There is a chemical component to passionate love. Those experiencing passionate love are also experiencing increased neurotransmitters, specifically phenylethylamine.[9] These feelings are most commonly found in the most early stages of love.

Companionate love follows passionate love. Companionate love is also known as affectionate love. When a couple reaches this level of love, they feel mutual understanding and care for each other. This love is important for the survival of the relationship.[9] This type of love comes later on in the relationship and requires a certain level of knowledge for each person in the relationship.

Sternberg created his triangle next. The triangle's points are intimacy, passion, and commitment.

Intimate love is the corner of the triangle that encompasses the close bonds of loving relationships. Intimate love felt between two people means that they each feel a sense of high regard for each other. They wish to make each other happy, share with each other, be in communication with each other, help when one is in need. A couple with intimate love deeply values each other.[9] Intimate love has been called the "warm" love because of the way it brings two people close together. Sternberg's prediction of this love was that it would diminish as the relationship became less interrupted, thus increasing predictability.[10]

Passionate love is based on drive. Couples in passionate love feel physically attracted to each other. Sexual desire is typically a component of passionate love. Passionate love is not limited to sexual attraction, however. It is a way for couples to express feelings of nurture, dominance, submission, self-actualization, etc.[9] Passionate love is considered the "hot" component of love because of the strong presence of arousal between two people. Sternberg believed that passionate love will diminish as the positive force of the relationship is taken over by opposite forces. This idea comes from Solomon's opponent-force theory.[10]

Commitment, or committed love, is for lovers who are committed to being together for a long period of time. Something to note about commitment, however, is that one can be committed to someone without feeling love for him or her, and one can feel love for someone without being committed to him or her.[9] Commitment is considered to be the "cold" love because it does not require either intimacy or passion. Sternberg believed that committed love increases in intensity as the relationship grows.[10] Commitment can be considered for friends as well.

Sternberg believed love to progress and evolve in predictable ways; that all couples in love will experience intimate, passionate, and committed love in the same patterns.[10]

Although these types of love may contain qualities that exist in non-loving relationships, they are specific to loving relationships. A description of non-love is listed below, along with the other kinds of love. These kinds of love are combinations of one or two of the three corners of Sternberg's triangle of love.

Forms of love[edit]

Infatuated love 
Empty love  
Romantic love
Companionate love
Fatuous love 
Consummate love

The three components, pictorially labeled on the vertices of a triangle, interact with each other and with the actions they produce so as to form seven different kinds of love experiences (nonlove is not represented). The size of the triangle functions to represent the "amount" of love—the bigger the triangle, the greater the love. Each corner has its own type of love and provides different combinations to create different types of love and labels for them. The shape of the triangle functions to represent the "style" of love, which may vary over the course of the relationship:

  • Non love The absence of any of the three types of love. No connection. Indifferent to relationship.
  • Liking/friendship This type of love is intimacy without passion or commitment. This includes friendships and acquaintances.[11]
  • Infatuated love: Infatuated love is passion without intimacy or commitment. This is considered "puppy love" or relationships that have not become serious yet.[11] Romantic relationships often start out as infatuated love and become romantic love as intimacy develops over time. Without developing intimacy or commitment, infatuated love may disappear suddenly.
  • Empty love is characterized by commitment without intimacy or passion. A stronger love may deteriorate into empty love. In an arranged marriage, the spouses' relationship may begin as empty love and develop into another form, indicating "how empty love need not be the terminal state of a long-term relationship...[but] the beginning rather than the end".[12]
  • Romantic love This love is passionate and intimate but has no commitment. This could be considered a romantic affair or could be a one-night stand.[11]
  • Companionate love is an intimate, non-passionate type of love that is stronger than friendship because of the element of long-term commitment. "This type of love is observed in long-term marriages where passion is no longer present"[13] but where a deep affection and commitment remain. The love ideally shared between family members is a form of companionate love, as is the love between close friends who have a platonic but strong friendship.
  • Fatuous love can be exemplified by a whirlwind courtship and marriage—it has points of passion and commitment but no intimacy. An example of this is "love at first sight".[11]
  • Consummate love is the complete form of love, representing an ideal relationship which people strive towards. Of the seven varieties of love, consummate love is theorized to be that love associated with the "perfect couple". According to Sternberg, these couples will continue to have great sex fifteen years or more into the relationship, they cannot imagine themselves happier over the long-term with anyone else, they overcome their few difficulties gracefully, and each delight in the relationship with one other.[14] However, Sternberg cautions that maintaining a consummate love may be even harder than achieving it. He stresses the importance of translating the components of love into action. "Without expression," he warns, "even the greatest of loves can die."[15] Thus, consummate love may not be permanent.[citation needed] If passion is lost over time, it may change into companionate love. Consummate love is the most satisfying kind of adult relation because it combines all pieces of the triangle into this one type of love. It is the ideal kind of relationship. These kinds of relationships can be found over long periods of time or idealistic relationships found in movies.[11]

Sternberg's triangular theory of love provides a strong foundation for his later theory of love, entitled Love as a Story.[16] In this theory, he explains that the large numbers of unique and different love stories convey different ways of how love is understood. He believes, over time, this exposure helps a person determine what love is or what it should be to them. These two theories create Sternberg's duplex theory of love.[17]

"Personal relationships that have the greatest longevity and satisfaction are those in which partners are constantly working on sustaining intimacy and reinforcing commitment to each other."[11]

Mixed support[edit]

In a study done by Michele Acker and Mark Davis in 1992, Sternberg's triangular theory of love was tested for validity. By studying a population that extended outside the typically studied group of 18 to 20-year-old college students, Acker and Davis were able to study more accurately the stages of love in people. Some criticism of Sternberg's theory of love is that although he predicted the stages of a person's love for another person, he did not specify a time or point in the relationship when the stages would evolve. He does not specify whether the different parts of love are dependent on duration of relationship or on the particular stage that relationship has reached. Acker and Davis point out that the stage and duration of the relationship are potentially important to the love component and explore them.[10]

They find that there are no exact answers because not only each couple, but each individual in the couple experiences love in a different way. There are three perceptions of the triangular theory of love, or "the possibility of multiple triangles". Multiple triangles can exist because individuals can experience each component of love (or point of the triangle) more intensely than another. These separate triangles, according to Acker and Davis and many others, are 'real' triangles, 'ideal' triangles, and 'perceived' triangles.[10]

These 'real' triangles are indicative of how each individual views the progress and depth of his or her relationship. The 'ideal' triangles are indicative of each individual's ideal qualities of his or her partner/relationship. The 'perceived' triangles are indicative of each individual's ideas of how his or her partner is viewing the relationship. If any of these three separate triangles do not look the same as a person's partner's triangles, dissatisfaction is likely to increase.[10]

Sternberg's triangular theory of love, may not be as simple as he initially laid it out to be. Sternberg measured his theory on couples who were roughly the same age (mean age of 28) and whose relationship duration was roughly the same (4 to 5 years). His sample size was limited in characteristic variety. Acker and Davis announced this issue as being one of three major problems with Sternberg's theory. Romantic love, in particular, is not often the same in undergraduate level couples as couples who are not undergrads. Acker and Davis studied a sample that was older than Sternberg's sample of undergraduates.[10] Sternberg himself did this in 1997.[2]

The two other most obvious problems with Sternberg's theory of love are as follows. The first is a question of the separate nature of the levels of love. The second is a question of the measures that have previously been used to assess the three levels of love.[10] These problems with Sternberg's theory continued to be studied, for example Lomas (2018).[18]

See also[edit]


External links[edit]

  1. ^Sternberg, Robert J. (2007). "Triangulating Love". In Oord, T. J. The Altruism Reader: Selections from Writings on Love, Religion, and Science. West Conshohocken, PA: Templeton Foundation. p. 332. ISBN 9781599471273. 
  2. ^ abcdSternberg, Robert J. (1997). "Construct validation of a triangular love scale". European Journal of Social Psychology. 27 (3): 313–335. doi:10.1002/(SICI)1099-0992(199705)27:3<313::AID-EJSP824>3.0.CO;2-4. 
  3. ^ abcWebster, Noah. New Collegiate Dictionary. A Merriam-Webster. Springfield, MA: G. & C. Merriam, 1953. Print.
  4. ^Sternberg, Robert J. (2004). "A Triangular Theory of Love". In Reis, H. T.; Rusbult, C. E. Close Relationships. New York: Psychology Press. p. 258. ISBN 0863775950. 
  5. ^3.0.CO;2-4
  6. ^Rubin, Zick. "Measurement of Romantic Love". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 16. doi:10.1037/h0029841. 
  7. ^Lee, John A. (1976). The Colors of Love. New York: Prentice-Hall. 
  8. ^Sternberg, R.. "A Triangular Theory of Love." Psychological Review. American Psychological Association, Inc., 1986.
  9. ^ abcdeLevy, P. E. (2013). Industrial Organizational Psychology (4th ed.). New York: Worth. pp. 316–317. ISBN 9781429242295. 
  10. ^ abcdefghiAcker, M.; Davis, M. (1992). "Intimacy, passion, and commitment in adult romantic relationships: a test of the triangular theory of love". Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. 9 (1): 21–50. doi:10.1177/0265407592091002. 
  11. ^ abcdefRothwell, J. Dan. In the Company of Others. Oxford University Press. p. 224. 
  12. ^Sternberg, in Close Relationships p. 268
  13. ^Ashford, J. B.; et al. (2009). Human Behavior in the Social Environment. Gardners Books. p. 498. ISBN 9780495604662. 
  14. ^"Cupid's Arrow - the Course of Love through Time" by Robert Sternberg. Publisher: Cambridge University Press (1998) ISBN 0-521-47893-6
  15. ^Robert J. Sternberg, "Liking versus Loving" Psychological Bulletin (1987) p. 341
  16. ^Sternberg, Robert J. "What's Your Love Story?". Psychology Today. What's Your Love Story
  17. ^Sternberg, Robert J. "Love as a Story". Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. 12. doi:10.1177/0265407595124007. 
  18. ^Lomas, Tim (2018), "The flavours of love: A cross-cultural lexical analysis", Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour 

This article is about the consummation of marriages. For other uses, see Consummation (disambiguation).

In many traditions and statutes of civil or religious law, the consummation of a marriage, often called simply consummation, is the first (or first officially credited) act of sexual intercourse between two people, either following their marriage to each other or after a prolonged romantic attraction. The definition of consummation usually refers to penile-vaginal sexual penetration, but some religious doctrines hold that there is an additional requirement that there must not be any contraception used.[1]

The religious, cultural, or legal significance of consummation may arise from theories of marriage as having the purpose of producing legally recognized descendants of the partners, or of providing sanction to their sexual acts together, or both, and its absence may amount to treating a marriage ceremony as falling short of completing the state of being married, or as creating a marriage which may later be repudiated. Thus in some legal systems a marriage may be annulled if it has not been consummated. Consummation is also relevant in the case of a common law marriage. The importance of consummation has led to the development of various bedding rituals.

In addition to these formal and literal usages, the term also exists in informal and less precise usage to refer to a sexual landmark in relationships of varying intensity and duration.


Civil marriage[edit]

The relevance of consummation in a civil marriage varies by jurisdiction. For example, under section 12 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, a refusal or inability to consummate a marriage is a ground of annulment in England and Wales,[2] but this only applies to heterosexual marriage, because Paragraph 4 of schedule 4 of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 specifically excludes non-consummation as a ground for the annulment of a same-sex marriage.[3] Other common law jurisdictions, such as Australia, have abolished the legal concept of consummation.[4][5]

Common law marriage[edit]

Main articles: Common-law marriage and Common-law marriage in the United States

In this case, usually, consummation, as well as cohabitation, are important, they are needed - together with the presentation of the parties to society as spouses - in order to create the marriage itself.

Religious marriage[edit]

Further information: Annulment (Catholic Church) and Marriage (Catholic Church)

A religious marriage without civil registration may or may not be legally binding. However, in some (mostly Muslim-majority) countries such as Israel, Egypt, Syria,[6] Jordan,[7] UAE,[8] Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Libya, Mauritania and Indonesia,[9] religious marriage is the only legally binding marriage.

Consummation is in particular relevant in a Catholic marriage. Within the Roman Catholic Church, if a matrimonial celebration takes place (ratification) but the spouses have not yet engaged in intercourse (consummation), then the marriage is said to be a marriage ratum sed non consummatum. Such a marriage, regardless of the reason for non-consummation, can be dissolved by the pope.[10] Additionally, an inability or an intentional refusal to consummate the marriage is probable grounds for an annulment. Catholic canon law defines a marriage as consummated when the "spouses have performed between themselves in a human fashion a conjugal act which is suitable in itself for the procreation of offspring, to which marriage is ordered by its nature and by which the spouses become one flesh."[11] Thus some theologians, such as Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J., state that intercourse with contraception does not consummate a marriage.[1]


Traditionally, in many cultures, for example in Middle Eastern and South Asian cultures (where Islam and Hinduism is followed and sex before marriage is not allowed), consummation was an important act because it was the act which proved the bride's virginity; the presence of blood was erroneously taken as definitive confirmation that the woman was indeed a virgin.[12]


In the family law defining civil marriage in some jurisdictions, particularly those where the civil marriage laws remain influenced by religion (albeit they are officially secular) non-consummation of a marriage may be a ground for annulment (an annulment is different from a divorce because it usually acts retrospectively). This stipulation has been in recent years heavily criticized on a wide variety of grounds, ranging from the mixing of religious doctrine into secular law, to being degrading to women given its negative historical connotations of ownership of the wife.[13] It has been argued that the purpose of this ground is not clear: it is neither procreation (the act need not end in pregnancy, and neither is there a need of the possibility of it, given the fact the consummation is legally valid even if one or both parties is sterile), neither is it the expectation of sexual satisfaction in marriage (one single act of sexual intercourse is sufficient, even if the spouse following the consummation says he/she will never again engage in intercourse).[14] Andrew Bainham argues that this law (in England and Wales) is outdated and must be abolished "in a modern society committed to equality and human rights in personal relationships".[15]

In a 2001 report, the Law Society’s Law Reform Committee of Ireland advocated for abolishing the concept of a voidable marriage altogether (since divorce had been introduced in 1996) and criticized the consummation ground, writing the following:[16]

"The rationale behind this ground is not immediately apparent. It is not concerned with the capacity of either or both parties to procreate, still less with the ability of the parties to satisfy each other sexually during the marriage. [...] It remains a rather curious anomaly in the law, a relic perhaps of medieval times, when the first act of intercourse was thought to 'mark' a new bride as the 'property' of her husband. Whatever its origins, it is not entirely clear what modern purpose this ground serves and it is suggested that it should be dispensed with."

Another concern is sexual violence, especially since in most countries the criminalization of marital rape is recent, having occurred from the 1970s onwards; the maintaining in law of the concept of consummation is argued to foster cultural and societal attitudes and understandings of marriage that make it more difficult to acknowledge these violations; and to be a remainder of an oppressive tradition.[13][17]

"[A] historical view again throws useful light on the matter: until 1991, husbands were permitted to have sexual intercourse with their wives regardless of whether they were then actually consenting,the husband to sexual relations thereafter".[18] (about the law of England and Wales, where marital rape was made illegal in 1991, by the case of R v R.[19])

See also[edit]


External links[edit]

  1. ^ abHardon, S.J., John. "Consummated Marriage". Pocket Catholic Dictionary. Image Books. p. 91. ISBN 0-385-23238-1. 
  2. ^Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 (c. 18), s. 12
  3. ^"Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013". 
  4. ^
  5. ^Note: in Australia non-consummation as ground of annulment was abolished in 1975; see Dickey, A. (2007) Family Law (5th Ed) Also in 1975, Australia introduced no-fault divorce, so specific grounds of divorce such as adultery, cruelty, desertion, have all been abolished.[1]
  6. ^Syria: Social repercussions of a marriage between a male Druze and a Muslim woman, UNHCR 
  7. ^Marriage in Jordan, USA: Jordan embassy, archived from the original on 2011-10-06 
  8. ^Marriage and weddings, Dubai, UAE FAQs 
  9. ^Marriage in Indonesia, BCC Visa Law 
  10. ^"Code of Canon Law - IntraText". 
  11. ^canon 1061 §1
  12. ^Marriage Customs of the World: From Henna to Honeymoons, by George Monger, pp 82-84
  13. ^ abFamily Law: Text, Cases, and Materials, by Sonia Harris-Short, Joanna Miles, pp. 96-99
  14. ^Body Lore and Laws Essays on Law and the Human Body, edited by: Andrew Bainham, Shelley Day Sclater, Martin Richards, pp 171- 182
  15. ^Body Lore and Laws Essays on Law and the Human Body, edited by: Andrew Bainham, Shelley Day Sclater, Martin Richards, pp 175
  16. ^
  17. ^"Case in point - Is consummation a legal oddity? - Solicitors Journal". 
  18. ^Family Law: Text, Cases, and Materials, by Sonia Harris-Short, Joanna Miles, pp. 96
  19. ^"R. v R [1991] UKHL 12 (23 October 1991)". Retrieved 2017-03-30.