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Ask Dr. Wendy The triangular theory of Love: The difference between Love and Lust.

Ask Dr. Wendy

The triangular theory of Love: The difference between Love and Lust.

Yes, the New Year is here and the old one just a distant past.  Resolutions, a cornerstone of ringing in the New Year emerge. Those who are committed perhaps share they would like to remain in their relationships and vow to make this year even better together, maybe travel or have children. Those that are single promise to find the perfect someone and finally settle down. Sound familiar?

Remember your first love? Anytime the person walked near you, your face , gushed, flushed, and glowed with excitement not to mention your other body parts? Sex was the number one priority and you couldn’t keep your hands off of one another? Often, having sex multiple times a day, as if sex and orgasms were as important as food and water. You couldn’t bear to be apart and when you were, you constantly spoke on the phone for hours; and when hearing the person’s voice you got hard, moist, or wet and at times had phone sex?

As your relationship evolved over the years, the gushiness subsided and it was replaced with knowing the other person so well that you could finish each other’s sentences and friendship and companionship overrode sex. Sex evolved as tenderness that expressed how you care for, accept, and desire to satisfy your partner. The motivation was to help and support the other in no uncertain terms, and to assist the partner in overcoming challenges and prepare the other for a life-long partnership.

The former scenario involves the physical and the latter involves intellectual/emotional aspects. Sternberg (1986) described a triangular theory of love in having intimacy, passion, and commitment as the description that differentiates love from lust (Sternberg, 1986). Intimacy means a warmth, coziness, and lovingness that surrounds the couple (Sternberg, 1986). Passion pertains to the sexual arousal and romantic feelings a couple feels for one another and the desire to fulfill sexual desires (Sternberg, 1986). The decision/commitment component is first to make the decision that both of you are in love together, and then the commitment to make the relationship and your love a priority and to stay together (Sternberg,1986).

Lust on the other hand, is having just the sex component and is actually one-dimensional. Love includes sex, but is multi-factorial and has a deeper intimacy and commitment not seen in the initial stages of lust. Further, the triangular theory added that communication and acceptance were other attributes that differentiated love and lust from one another (Sternberg and Barnes, 1985). For those that are in the infant stages and those in more seasoned relationships knowing the difference between love and lust can be essential. Those in lust can be get addicted to the initial feeling and have perpetual lust relationships that never evolve. Those that are in long-term committed relationships need to know how to keep the passion.

So, how can couples evolve from lust to love and still keep the passion alive? If your new year’s resolution is to grow as a couple, there are many things you can do to keep sex and passion exploding. It is called experimentation. Don’t use the same room of the house and the same moves…. That gets sooooo boring that even the most committed couples will lose interest. Try going out to a new restaurant don’t drink too much, go to a hotel, or get the kids out of the house and light candles. Get some great and sexy tunes and a slinky outfit. Have your man take male enhancement pills, dance, take a bath, and laugh. Bring toys and sexy body jewelry, into your bedroom and use them on both of you. We have some great sex toys that are definitely fun for both men and women on our Teddy Love Adult Toys website. Try new positions and make sure you use plenty of foreplay including clitoral and taint stimulation. If you are an older, couple don’t forget the lube. Now you are ready…..

Take time as a couple, once a week, to increase your passion and the sex drive will be as important as it once was. Hot, steamy, and loving sex but with the added intimacy that we all deserve and desire.

Love and Sex,

Dr. Wendy Adams



Sternberg, R. J. (1986). A triangular theory of love. Psychological Review, 93(2), 119- 135.

Sternberg, R. J., & Barnes, M. L. (1985). Real and ideal others in romantic relationships: Is four a crowd? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 49(6), 1586-1608.

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