This is a deep sense of commitment

This lesson discusses the definition of companionate love, which is love based on a deep commitment between two people that is not characterized by romance or passion. We’ll talk about theories of love as well as provide some examples of companionate love.

Companionate Love

What’s love got to do with it? Well, if you’re a psychologist who studies relationships, quite a lot! We use the word ‘love’ colloquially, but there is actually research in the social sciences that deals explicitly with understanding different kinds of love.According to this research, there are different kinds of loving relationships that people might find themselves in. In this lesson, we’ll talk about companionate love, or an intimate but non-passionate love.

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This kind of love is deeper than friendship because it is defined by a long-term commitment made by two people. In this kind of relationship, there might not be that same passion you had when you first meet a new person, but there is a deep sense of commitment and allegiance to another person.

Theories of Love

It might be helpful to briefly discuss some theories of love in order to situate the definition of companionate love in social research. One important theory of relationships is called the triangular theory of love, developed by psychologist Robert Sternberg. Sternberg set out to understand the different kind of feelings that might characterize people’s relationships. According to Sternberg, there are three major components of a loving relationship:

  • Intimacy – feelings of closeness or attachment to another person
  • Passion – feelings of sexual attraction to another person
  • Commitment – plans to remain with someone for the long term

So, the kind of love a person feels depends on the strength of each of these three components in a relationship.

Now, to make things more confusing, these three components are related to forms of love, or particular styles of love.That’s where companionate love comes in. According to this theory, companionate love is a form of love based largely on the commitment component of love. So, there might not be a lot of passion left, but two people are committed to one another, and they do care about one another.Other forms of love include empty love, which is the presence of commitment but a lack of passion or intimacy.

However, it’s important to note that this is different from companionate love because in companionate love there might not be passion but there is deep affection. Alternatively, romantic love is love that is characterized by passion and intimacy but a lack of long-term commitment.Consummate love is an ideal kind of love, representing a relationship that has strong emphasis on all three components of love. This is the kind of relationship that people often strive to attain, but it may be hard to achieve. Moreover, if passion is lost, for example, consummate love could turn into companionate love.

Examples of Companionate Love

Do you have grandparents who have been together for 50 or 60 years, and are still happily married? If so, they are probably in the companionate phase of love. This means that they still have a deep affection for one another but it is a different kind of relationship than when they first began dating one another (way back in the day).

So, there might not be that passion or ‘spark’ as in the early days, but there is an important type of emotional love in this kind of relationship.Companionate love can also form in non-romantic relationships. For example, very deep platonic, or non-sexual, friendships can be characterized by companionate love.

If you have a very, very old friend who attends your family gatherings and is always there for you in a crisis, who you consider like family, this is a kind of companionate love. Companionate love might also be a strong commitment to family, such as the love you feel for your parents or siblings.

Lesson Summary

There are a number of different kinds of relationships that people can form with one another. One particular form, known as companionate love, is a kind of bond that is characterized by a deep commitment to one another, such as in a long-term marriage where the passion has left but not the deep affection for one another.

Family relationships and some friendships can also be characterized by companionate love.Companionate love is a form of love, characterized by a high level of commitment, one of the three major factors in the triangular theory of love which was developed by the psychologist Robert Sternberg.


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