In a recent installment of Psyched for the Weekend, I introduced the Triangular Model of Love as a helpful framework for differentiating between and communicating about different kinds of love.
In today’s post, I’m going to talk about another model later developed by the same researcher, Dr. Robert Sternberg: Love as a story.
We Develop a Personal Sense of What Love Is Based on the Stories We Encounter
In his work studying the way that people tend to conceptualize and think about love, Sternberg found an interesting pattern: The stories we were exposed to were a key component in the way that we came to view love as adults.
Sometimes these stories are explicitly intended as love stories or romances, but other times love stories are actually contained as subplots or smaller elements in stories of every genre that are about something else entirely.
Still other stories aren’t told to us but are observed by us: In addition to absorbing love stories through entertainment, we also internalize themes and beliefs about love by watching people in relationships around us or by media coverage.
All of these different stories coalesce and become our reference point, our own personal love story, which is how we define love, what we expect it to be.
Sternberg also found in his work that the closer a partner’s own personal story of love is to our own, the more likely we are to succeed in having a close relationship with them.
The 26 Love Stories
While these love stories can be very individual and varied, and there are probably countless possible varieties with slight variations, Sternberg did find a number of them appeared over and over again as he worked with people.
Here are the 26 most common ones:
- Addiction. Love is a form of addiction that involves anxious attachment, clinging, and anxiety of losing one’s partner.
- Art. One’s partner is to be aesthetically beautiful, a work of art, something lovely to look at.
- Business. Relationships are a business arrangement where strategic partnership can lead to increased wealth and power for everyone involved.
- Collection. A partner is expected to easily fit into a life with many other elements in it in a way that prioritizes completion (collecting a set of life’s accomplishments) and deemphasizes establishing emotional closeness with them.
- Cookbook. Love is viewed as needing to follow a certain recipe. Any deviations from this exact sequence are unwelcome.
- Fantasy. One party rescues the other. Most traditionally, the white knight saves the princess, and they live happily ever after.
- Game. Views relationships as a game or sport.
- Gardening. Loving relationships take upkeep and care; they need to be continually nurtured and tended to like a garden.
- Autocratic. One partner controls the other.
- Democratic. Partners act as equals.
- History. The backstory and history of the relationship are crucial. How you met, your highlights, etc. You’re building a history, writing a story.
- Horror. You know you’re in love with someone when you terrorize them or are terrorized by your partner.
- House and Home. Home is where the heart is. Household maintenance, decorating, and nesting behaviors are important to a relationship.
- Humor. Love is funny and wacky.
- Mystery. You should remain as mysteries to one another. Because love is mysterious. Never let the other person know you too well, or else all the romance will be gone.
- Police. It’s important to monitor your partner’s every move and keep them in line, make sure they’re not up to something untoward.
- Pornography. Love is carnal.
- Recovery. Love is helping each other recover from whatever trauma you’ve experienced.
- Prescribed. What love is and what it should look like is prescribed by religion.
- Love as Religion. Love is viewed as a religion in and of itself.
- Sacrifice. To love someone is to make sacrifices for them.
- Science. Love is something that can be analyzed, dissected, and understood in a rather scientific way.
- Science Fiction. Viewing a romantic partner as a bizarre inscrutable alien who will always seem foreign and odd.
- Sewing. Love can be a variety of disparate elements stitched together.
- Theater. Love follows a script. There are lines, acts, and scenes that all unfolded in a predictable manner. Lovers are playing roles.
- Travel. The idea that love is a journey or a trip that you go on.
- War. Just like Pat Benatar sang, love is a battlefield.
- Student-teacher. The idea that love is a relationship between a student and a teacher. One partner learns from the other.
This post is part of an ongoing Poly Land feature called Psyched for the Weekend, in which I geek out with brief takes about some of my favorite psychological studies and concepts. For the entire series, please see this link.
Like my essays? You’ll love my books. I’ve authored many of them, including 3 nonfiction books on polyamory and the Psychic State series, murder mysteries with strong female leads that feature a large ensemble cast of polyamorous characters.