Love can be of many kinds. There are those who have passion, intimacy and commitment, lived to the fullest and very satisfying. Others, on the other hand, become more empty, lacking in passion but nurtured by the simple fact that it is difficult to break them after so long.
Empty love is the shell of what was once a passionate relationship and a deep knowledge of two people who loved each other so much. It is now just a nurturing relationship as it is difficult to step out of the comfort zone which, while unpleasant, is preferable to any change.
This kind of love is one that he offered the famous American psychologist Robert J. Sternberg in his triangular theory, being that empty love that we will explore below.
What is empty love?
Love is something that can be very beautiful, even magical. While everyone lives in their own way, each with a different conception of love, there is no doubt that it is better to have love in your life than not to have it.
There are people who understand that in a relationship you have to prioritize time sharing and others who value freedom. There are also those for whom sex is fundamental in a love story, while others take a rather secondary role.
It’s no mystery that the spark of love may be extinguished. The magic, passion, intimacy, pleasure and excitement that comes with seeing our partner can fade for any reason. Often, this ends in relationship problems, infidelities or directly, the breakdown of the relationship. However, in others it happens that the relationship continues, they are still in a relationship, sometimes more preserved to avoid the bad trance of the breakup than not to have the illusion that one day the flame of love will return. Only the shell of love remains, an empty love.
Empty love is not uncommon. This is a situation that many people who have been together for years face. The passing of time, routine and misunderstandings in the relationship have caused her members not to love each other as much as they did before. The flame of passion is extinguished and intimacy is lost.
The bond has worn away, gradually making those who were stoned in love, now more like companions. The members of the couple feel little towards each other, although that doesn’t mean there is no respect.
Sternberg’s triangular love theory
The idea of empty love comes from the triangular theory of love proposed by Robert J. Sternberg. This psychologist made important contributions to the understanding of interpersonal and emotional relationships, developing a theory of love that continues to have repercussions today. Sternberg said in his model that he posed love as a pyramid with three vertices, where each is an essential part in shaping love:
Passion refers to physical attraction, excitement, and the need to be close to the other person. It encompasses the whole field of sexuality, but there is also the romantic desire and the need to seek physical and emotional union with the other.
This passion is very present at the beginning of relationships, and it is common for it to diminish over time.
Intimacy is the connection, complicity and trust that exist between the members of the couple.. We find feelings of affection and closeness to each other, aspects that make up a strong friendship, on a deeper level than you would have with a friend.
Intimacy causes the two lovers to get to know each other, fostering trust with each other. This intimacy usually takes place when the relationship is a little more advanced, the passion is stabilized and people already have a deeper mutual knowledge.
The third element of Sternberg’s model is engagement, which is directly related to the decision to continue the relationship for the long term. It’s the will to keep the link despite the problems that may arise throughout the relationship, valuing the history shared between the members of the couple and with the desire to realize the project of living together.
The empty love of the triangular theory
Now that we have seen the three elements of Sternberg’s model, we can understand that he raises the existence of various types of love depending on whether they have one combination or another.
According to these three elements raised by Sternberg, various combinations can arise which give rise to up to seven types of love, which we see below very schematically
- Affection = intimacy
- Enchantment = passion
- Romantic love = passion + intimacy
- Sociable love = intimacy + commitment
- Crazy love = passion + commitment
- Consummate love = passion + intimacy + commitment
In the case of the seventh, which is empty love, there is a desire to continue the relationship but there is no complicity or sexual or romantic desire. In other words, there is commitment, but there is no passion or intimacy.
This kind of love is that of relationships of convenience or self-interest, the members of which did not know each other before the union and barely had time to arouse passion and establish a certain intimacy. It is also common for couples with a long life trajectory who have not been able to manage the passing time very well or have gotten to know each other better despite the time spent together.
In the case of couples who previously had passion and intimacy, instead of stabilizing the first and acquiring more of the second, what happens is that the sexual desire and confidence ends up being lost. All that’s left is the commitment, evidenced by the simple fact that you don’t want to end the relationship because it is better to live in an empty but stable relationship.
Many times the relationship continues because, if they are married and have children, the roles of divorce and child custody are something that is not ready to happen.
Rediscover the love consumed
Many couples go through a phase where what exists is empty love, the complete opposite of what Sternberg was referring to when in the relationship there is not only commitment, but also passion and intimacy: l love consumed.
Commitment is a very important part of any relationship, essential for the couple to last because without them, the relationship may not survive the passage of time. Passion and intimacy, without commitment, are found in relationships as intense as summer love, very romantic and also very brief love.
Fortunately for those who are in a relationship with empty love, there is a solution to this problem.. It is possible to work on various areas of the couple so that empty love is consumed, regaining lost passion and intimacy. That is why, first of all, it is necessary to address the areas that usually lead to empty love, which are.
- Abandonment of physical appearance which makes the couple less attractive
- Excessive obligations, routines and commitments that take time to the relationship
- Little self-revelation: don’t trust your partner with worries, dreams, desires …
- Monotonous and repetitive couple life that brings out the passion
- Stress and anxiety leading to irritability and toxic dynamics
- Take the relationship for granted and don’t try to surprise the couple
- Neglecting daily details and displays of affection
These are the main issues that may have led a relationship to become a relationship where what defines it is empty love. As you can see from these areas we just saw, most have a relatively simple solution, requiring a bit of effort, time, and motivation to change them. Surprising the couple with a date on their wedding anniversary, on their anniversary or just because it’s time is a good first step. And he’s never too late to take this step.
- Sternberg, RJ (1986). A triangular theory of love. Psychological review, 93 (2), 119.
- Acevedo, BP, Aron, A., Fisher, HE and Brown, LL (2012). Long-term intense romantic love neural correlations. Cognitive and Affective Social Neuroscience, 7 (2), 145-159.
- Sternberg, Robert J. (2007). “Triangulate love.” A Oord, TJ (ed.). The Selfless Reader: Selections from Writings on Love, Religion, and Science. West Conshohocken, Pa .: Templeton Foundation. p. 332. ISBN 9781599471273.
- Sternberg, Robert J. (1997). “Validation of the construction of a triangular love scale”. European Journal of Social Psychology. 27 (3): 313-335.