Deutsch: Leere Liebe / Español: Amor vacío / Português: Amor vazio / Français: Amour vide / Italiano: Amore vuoto

Empty Love refers to a type of love characterized by commitment without intimacy or passion. In the context of psychology, particularly in the theory of love developed by psychologist Robert Sternberg, empty love is one of the possible components or states of love that can exist within his triangular theory of love. This theory posits that love can be understood in terms of three components: intimacy (emotional closeness and connectedness), passion (physical attraction and sexual consummation), and commitment (the decision to remain with another person and plans made with that person). Empty love emerges when a relationship has commitment but lacks intimacy and passion. It's often exemplified by relationships that continue out of habit, societal pressures, or shared responsibilities, such as co-parenting, rather than emotional connection or sexual attraction.


Empty love, as defined within Sternberg's triangular theory of love, represents a unique and often challenging state of a relationship. This form of love is characterized primarily by a sense of duty, obligation, or a decision to stay together, sometimes despite the absence of emotional warmth or physical attraction. It may develop over time in long-term relationships or marriages where the partners feel a strong sense of commitment to each other or their shared lives, including children, financial assets, or social standing, yet have lost or never developed a deeper emotional or physical connection.

In some cases, empty love might serve as a transitional phase of a relationship. For example, a couple may start with a fuller form of love that includes intimacy, passion, and commitment but find that over time, the intimacy and passion fade, leaving only commitment. Alternatively, a relationship might begin with empty love, with the hope or expectation that intimacy and passion will develop over time.

The presence of empty love in a relationship is not necessarily indicative of its demise. For some couples, this phase can be a foundation upon which to rebuild the other aspects of love, particularly if both partners are willing to acknowledge the issues and work on them together.

Application Areas

In psychology, the concept of empty love is applied in various contexts, including relationship counseling, therapy, and research into the dynamics of romantic relationships. Understanding the presence of empty love can help professionals and individuals identify the areas of a relationship that may need attention, improvement, or acceptance.

Well-Known Examples

An example of empty love might be found in marriages where the partners have remained together for many years out of a sense of duty, for the sake of children, or because of financial or social reasons, despite having little to no romantic or emotional connection with each other.

Treatment and Risks

The primary risk associated with empty love is the potential for dissatisfaction, unhappiness, and emotional distress for one or both partners. This can lead to a range of emotional and psychological issues, including depression, anxiety, and loneliness. Treatment options might include couples therapy or individual counseling, where strategies to reintroduce intimacy and passion into the relationship are explored, or, in some cases, assistance in coming to terms with the dissolution of the relationship.

Similar Terms or Synonyms

Similar terms or related concepts include:

  • Companionate Love: A form of love characterized by deep affection and commitment but lacking in passion.
  • Platonic Love: A close relationship in which there is no romantic or sexual desire.


Empty love is a phase or type of love within Sternberg's triangular theory of love, characterized by commitment without intimacy or passion. It reflects relationships where partners remain together out of duty, habit, or obligation, rather than emotional connection or physical attraction. Understanding and addressing empty love can be crucial for the health and satisfaction of long-term relationships.


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