These days, relationships take many different forms: dating, friends-with-benefits, open couples, with or without cohabitation, polyamory, and so on. The form that the relationship takes depends on the agreement between the partners and what they want to get out of it. Sometimes, you may also feel the need to take a break and be single for a while. Whichever the case, for many of us, relationships are a big part of our lives.

The 7 types of love

According to Sternberg’s Triangular Theory of Love, love is made up of three components that can be felt to varying degrees: intimacy, passion, and commitment.

Intimacy is represented by a smiling emoji and 3 pink hearts.

Intimacy is the emotional part of love. It’s about the mutual feelings felt between partners, such as trust, the desire to exchange and to be close to one another.

Passion is represented by a purple heart.

Passion is the powerful part of love linked to physical and psychological attraction. This is how you feel when you absolutely need your partner and can’t imagine life without him or her.

Commitment is represented by overlapping speech bubbles.

Commitment is about the extent to which you see your relationship as long-term beyond the “stomach butterfly” phase. More than that, it’s about translating that commitment into concrete actions and behaviours.

The combination and intensity of each of these components give rise to the seven types of love defined below.

The image illustrates the 7 types of love, whose points represent respectively: intimacy, passion and commitment. The 7 possible combinations of these components are represented in the image.


This is the feeling of sincere affection for another. We understand each other, know each other, trust each other, and create memories together. But there’s no passion, nor desire to commit to a long-term relationship.


This is when there’s more of an idealization and attraction towards another than a real understanding of who they are. You want and miss each other, which is often the case at the beginning of a relationship, when you’re still a long way from planning an exclusive, long-term relationship.

Empty love

Partners are together only for a rational decision that may include financial reasons, values, children, etc. It’s a form of contractual obligation where there’s no desire for each other, very little communication, or emotional involvement.

Romantic love

This is the kind of love that makes for great stories, with the potential for a lasting relationship if the mutual will to commit eventually presents itself. There’s a desire to spend time with each other, and to get to know and trust each other.

Companionate love

These are relationships in which couples work together but are devoid of any form of sexual attraction. For example, couples who know each other perfectly well, but have no particular need for sex, or who satisfy this need with other partners.

Fatuous Love

In these relationships, the partners are passionately in love with each other, but know little about each other. These are the stories that begin with love at first sight, but risk falling apart at the first heated argument.

Comsummate love

This is love that encompasses all three dimensions. It’s difficult to achieve and maintain, but not impossible to find. The proportion of each of the three components can vary and redefine itself over the course of the relationship, so it’s normal to have ups and downs with this type of love.

All these elements can help us understand why love is sometimes so complicated! There is no single model, and consummate love is not an ideal that surpasses all other types of love. We can love in different ways and with different needs, in the present moment.

Managing conflict in a loving relationship

You never know how a relationship will evolve, but one thing’s for sure: sooner or later, you’ll have to deal with conflict. This is normal because it’s impossible to agree on everything with your partner. Money, budgeting, professional life, social relationships, and sexuality are all aspects of life together that can give rise to different opinions. In any case, remember the following facts:  

  • It’s not the quantity of conflicts that predicts a couple’s longevity, but rather the attitude (openness and willingness to listen) and willingness of both partners to talk about them respectfully, in order to find a balance between points of view.
  • Genuine conflict resolution builds greater intimacy, mutual knowledge, and trust, than simply restoring peace on the surface, without addressing the situation in depth.
  • Defensive behaviours such as criticism, denial, or silence, usually only increase or postpone the conflict.
  • No form of psychological or physical violence is acceptable in conflict situations.


Why are you still single? How can you stay single for so long? Are you too picky? These are questions we hear all too often when we’re single! These prejudices tend to diminish over the years, but they are still found in our society. The fact that people sometimes insist on questioning this status and its value can add extra pressure to embarking on a romantic relationship when, on the contrary, being single is not the end of the world! Being in or out of a relationship doesn’t make you happier or less happy, or make you more or less desirable.

Just like being in a relationship, being single has its advantages and disadvantages. It’s a passage that can do you a lot of good, and eventually make it easier for you to find a partner who’s compatible with you, if that’s what you want. Whether it’s voluntary or not, being single can be an opportunity to make it a priority to work on your personal development, develop stimulating projects or build a social network of your own.

It’s also a time to review your love life and assess your relationship needs by reflecting on certain issues.

  • Which needs were not met in my former relationships?
    • What made me choose the people I’ve been with?
    • How do I show my affection?
    • What would I like to experience in my next relationship?
    • Are there times when I feel I have done less well in my past relationships?
    • What would I like to work on in my next relationship?

On the other hand, let’s face it, the loneliness associated with being single can also lead to sadness and disappointment when trying to find a partner. If this is what you’re going through, avoid as much as possible waiting for a partner to find your happiness. This stage of your life can be temporary, so make the most of this time, which is totally yours, to develop your full potential, your social network, and your friendships.

Breaking up

When the negative aspects of a relationship outweigh the positive, feelings of love can fade or give way to resentment and weariness. Breaking up sometimes becomes inevitable. Whether it’s the first or not, no matter how long the relationship lasted or who made the decision, a break-up brings its share of difficult emotions. Everyone experiences it in their own way, and unfortunately there’s no magic formula for getting through it easily. The stages of grief are similar to those of losing a loved one.

  1. Shock: feeling like you’re living a nightmare, feeling confused and discouraged.
  2. Denial: thinking the other person will come back, isolating yourself, feeling angry.
  3. Recognition: feeling the pain and lack of the relationship in your life, understanding your emotions, seeing that you are gradually detaching from the person, but remaining optimistic for the future. 
  4. Acceptance: learning from the relationship, being able to move on.

In any case, there will be ups and downs, and back and forth between the different stages. Grieving the loss of a relationship takes time, and you have every right to move at your own pace.

  • Don’t hold back your tears if you need to cry.
  • Confide in people you trust. Some people won’t know what to say or do to help you, while others will always be there to support you. 
  • Be patient and forgiving with yourself and others.
  • If you feel your situation isn’t improving over time, consult a professional to help you along the way.


Intimate relationships between two partners can be based on physical attraction or feelings of love. Sexual desire and attachment are distinct elements for many people but can be inseparable for others. Having physically intimate relations and feeling good about someone on a regular basis can create a form of attachment. That’s why it’s best to communicate regularly with your partner about where you stand as far as how your relationship is evolving.

A healthy sex life, regardless of the nature of the relationship, is practised with respect, safety, trust, well-being, discussion, honesty, consensus, and acceptance. The notion of consent in an intimate relationship is equally valid whether you’re in a relationship or out on a one-night stand. Everyone has the right and freedom to accept or reject what’s going on, and to express this through words or actions. If both partners have the same expectations and respect each other’s limits, you’ll have a great time.


  • Silence is not a sign of consent.
    • If someone is unable or unwilling to say “no,” there is no consent (e.g., in a situation of power or substance use).
    • If your partner says yes to an activity and the context changes, consent is once again required.
    • Consent obtained through pressure or threats is not valid.

For an easy-to-understand explanation watch this video (French) on consent. 


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Jeunesse j’écoute. (2023) Le consentement et pourquoi il est si important?

Sternberg, R. J. (2013).  Measuring love.  The Psychologist, 26(2), 101.

Université Laval. Tomber en amour et le rester

Université de Sherbrooke. (2013) Relations amoureuses

Sternberg R.J. et Sternberg, K. (2019). The new psychology of love. New York: Cambridge University Press.  


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Illustrations : Mario Fontaine

Contribution to the article : Isabelle Queval, psychologist

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