A Series on Love: The Triangular Theory

In my counseling practice, it’s typical for half of my cases to be couples and the other half to be individual clients. No matter who is in my office, I find myself often talking about attachment, love, sex, and the ways they affect all our lives. Although we’re still 6 months out from Valentine’s Day (yep… I’ll wait while you check your calendar), love is always a topic on my radar. So I’m launching a blog series on love: summarizing some great theories, starting some practical conversations, and (hopefully) setting you on a path for a really great V-Day in a few months!

Love is complicated. I mean, sometimes it’s pretty simple, but usually only when our brains are experiencing an emotional high. One of my most-used diagrams is of the Triangular Theory of Love. Robert Sternberg looks at loving relationships using three components: intimacy, passion, and commitment.


Intimacy is the closeness, connection, bond, and general friendship in a relationship. When a relationship only contains intimacy, it is referred to as Liking/Friendship. Passion is the arousal state that leads to romance, physical attraction, and sexual tension and consummation in a relationship. When a relationship only contains passion, we call it Infatuated Love. Commitment can be both the choice to love and the decision to maintain that love over time. When a relationship only contains commitment, we call it Empty Love.

If a relationship doesn’t contain any of the three components, it’s Non-Love, and Sternberg developed the term Consummate Love for when all three components are at play. But look at all the combinations! Romantic Love is when a relationship lacks commitment. Fatuous Love is when a relationship lacks intimacy. Companionate or Friendly Love is when a relationship lacks passion.

It’s normal for relationship to go through ebbs and flows, but the levels of each component in a relationship at any given time allows us to assess where we need to grow as individuals within out relationships. Think of a significant relationship in your life. Where are your strengths? Weaknesses? Think about where you can take some initiative, how you can verbalize your emotional needs, and where you need to draw the line in what’s important for your heart.

10 Laws of Boundaries

This is a follow-up to my Boundaries post from April 2019 where I discussed the three types of boundaries and their functions in our lives. It started some great conversations with clients and other counselors, so if you haven’t read it, start there and then come back to this post. Today, I want to expand on the earlier post by highlighting the 10 Laws of Boundaries as outlined in Boundaries (Cloud & Townshend, 2004).

1- The Law of Sowing and Reaping. One of the first things we (hopefully) learn as children is that our actions have consequences. The older we get, the more serious our choices and the more serious the consequences. There are a lot of phrases across many cultures and capture the “what goes around comes around” idea, and that’s because it’s legit. If you enable a person by protecting him from the consequences of his actions, you are intercepting his opportunities for personal growth and doing him a great disservice in the long run. It’s difficult to watch someone struggle, especially when we care a lot for that person, but struggle is what brings character growth.

2- The Law of Responsibility. Being responsible to someone without being responsible for them can be challenging, particularly in relationships which haven’t had healthy boundaries in place for a long period of time. We can be held accountable by people we trust, but they aren’t responsible for us or our choices. Love people without trying to live their lives for them.

3- The Law of Power. Power is different from control. That’s a blog for another day, but I want to highlight that what we are talking about here is having influence over some things in our lives while not having influence over others. We have power to change ourselves in many ways: our attitudes, our belief systems, our behaviors. But great peace comes when we accept that we don’t have the power to change anyone else!

4- The Law of Respect. Mutual respect for people and boundaries is crucial. We want other people to care enough for us that they will respect what we need, and it is healthy for us to behave in similar ways.

5- The Law of Motivation. My dad has given me a ton of “wisdom nuggets” throughout my life. One of my favorites is: “If someone needs an immediate answer, then your answer ought to be ‘no.’ If you don’t have time to weigh your options, then you might feel obligated to go along with something that you wouldn’t do if you had enough time to think about it.” The bottom line: if you don’t feel free to say no, then you’re not genuinely saying yes anyway. Keep your motivations in check. Love is a choice.

6- The Law of Evaluation. It’s important to evaluate whether our boundaries bring pain to people in our lives. If the pain brings growth, it is oftentimes worth sticking to. If the pain brings wounding or trauma, that’s a red flag to revisit the boundary and consider whether it needs to be changed in some way. Although we don’t have to adjust our boundaries based on their effects on others, it’s important to consider how other people hurt while we strive for safety and wellness.

7- The Law of Proactivity. It is wise to set boundaries based on our wants, needs, and desires. By using our wise minds (both logic and emotion) in this process, we can step forward confidently. Prioritizing personal values is worth it!

8- The Law of Envy. You can’t drive your own car well if you’re focused on the cars everyone else is driving. Stay in your lane! Adopt an attitude of gratitude instead of dissatisfaction. Look at yourself long enough to see where you need to make the changes that will get you where you want to go.

9- The Law of Activity. Lean in when you’re solving problems. Boundaries are easier to set before there’s an issue rather than trying to backtrack after someone has overstepped. Without boundaries, a passive person is more likely to be dominated by a more aggressive person. It’s a good thing to assert what you need, especially with people you love. Boundaries require action, and often that means allowing people to reap what they’ve sown.

10- The Law of Exposure. No one will know our boundaries if we don’t communicate them! If it’s not clear, then it’s not working. These conversations can be difficult, but worth it. Boundaries allow for consequences without nagging; if you’re nagging, then you’re working too hard.

Which ones are easy for you? Which ones are more difficult? If you’re looking to establish new boundaries, you can start by saying ‘no’ to small things without trying to justify your response. One step at a time, friends!


Cloud, H., & Townsend, J. S. (2004). Boundaries. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

When Father’s Day Is Difficult

“Happy Father’s Day” doesn’t apply to everyone. There are many situations— death, estrangement, unfulfilled dreams of being a father, and more— that may leave a person feeling a tangled ball of emotion this weekend. If you’d like tips on how to survive this Father’s Day or how to support someone you care about over the weekend (including alternative e-cards), check out optionb.org!

Resources for Veterans & Families

At the beginning of May, Wounded Warrior Project hosted the Veteran Support Conference to open up community dialogue about veteran-friendly organizations, provide insight into the military community, and share resources for our vets. Attendees were able to hear firsthand experiences of transitioning back to civilian life, including the hope that comes with community support.

This community dialogue has inspired me to create a list of resources for our local military members and their families. Let’s spread a message of hope this week of Memorial Day! Visit my Military Resources page to learn more.

Essential Oils and Mental Health

Today’s guest blogger, Melody, has graciously agreed to answer some questions about essential oils and their potential uses to combat some common mental health concerns. Please check out our instagram collaboration to see all of the tips she’s dishing out this week! Melody is an oils user, lover, and educator. She and her husband, Danny, live in the sweetest place on earth- Hershey, PA- with their kiddos (ages 4, 6, and 8). Their family has known Jess and her husband since their college days together at Geneva.  When she’s not teaching about oils, you can find her serving at their church, helping out in their kids’ classrooms, chatting with a friend or two at Starbucks, and if it’s a really good day – on the beach with her favorite book! Melody’s family spent over a decade in full-time ministry with Young Life but has recently done some job transitioning– it’s been a crazy but good ride.

Ask Melody your essential oil questions here: @TheSweetestPlaceToLearn

I (Jess) started using essential oils a few years ago and I recommend some blends for clients, but I’m far from an expert. How did you (Melody) get into essential oils? I started using doterra’s oils about 2 years ago because I was determined to find a way to keep myself, my husband, and our 3 kiddos healthier over the Fall and Winter months. I was a complete oils skeptic but I was also desperate so I reached out to my cousin who had offered to share some samples with me if I ever wanted them. Low and behold…they worked! Winter #1: countless visits to the dr (if they had frequent flier points, I’d have earned myself a free vacation). Winter #2: 1 trip! After that, I was all about educating myself and my friends and family about how incredible these oils are!

A lot of people have heard that things like lavender can be calming. Can essential oils actually help support mental health? Absolutely, especially for mood and pain issues. Using oils aromatically, topically, and internally can help support mental health in a variety of ways. I’ll share more about this during our story posts on Instagram, but the short answer is YES!

Who can use essential oils? ANYONE! You, your friends, your kids, even your pets. There are correct ways to use them, and this is where that education comes in. The more you know, the more empowered you are to help yourself and the ones you love. It’s why I’m committed to supporting my members every step of the way.

Why did you choose doterra? Good question! There are so many oils out there today so this is a very important topic. After tons of research I was thoroughly impressed by doterra’s sourcing (all over the world- the plants we use come from the countries where they grow natively), testing (the most tested oils on the market, and you can see all the test results!), their commitment to sharing education, and also their price points and rewards (so so generous). I could go on and on about this question!

Check us out on instagram this week for specific ideas for your mental health support! @JGageLPC & @TheSweetestPlaceToLearn

Where can people learn more? Melody loves to share information about oils, so you are welcome to email her your questions at thesweetestplacetolearn@gmail.com. Her doterra members know that she’s there for them. She takes it very seriously when someone decides to try oils for the first time. She knows you’re going to need some guidance for a little while, so she’s got a few resources set up for you to make you successful and to make sure the investment you make in your health goes a long way! Check her out on facebook and instagram, or look at her doterra page and doterra blog to browse some resources!