Triangular Theory of Love: “Vicky Christine” “Barcelona”

Category: Movies
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 Interpersonal communication happens when two individuals are close to one another. It is the way that humans’ express feelings, thoughts, and ideas to those around us. This is verbal and non-verbal and while it is mostly face-to-face, it can be over technology and written notes. These include tone of voice, gestures, body language, facial expressions, and other actions during a conversation. These notions define a relationship. Some of these concepts involving interpersonal communication includes Love Language, Marital Typologies, Triangular Theory of Love, and Social Exchange Theory. These concepts are exemplified in Vicky, Cristina, Barcelona where each theory can be expressed in each person’s relationship with one another and with themself. In Vicky, Cristina, Barcelona we can see all these concepts portrayed through the characters especially Vicky and Christina’s characters. Both women are friends and yet opposites of one another. Christina shows passion, sexual freedom, and impulse while Vicky represents tradition, monogamy, and stability. All the characters in Vicky, Christina, Barcelona show Love Language, Marital Typologies, Triangular Theory of Love, and Social Exchange Theory in some form.

One way we can see Vicky and Christina’s character differences is in Marital typologies. Although not married, they show it through their romantic relationships. Marital typologies are classifications of marriage and study of differences among relationships. Marital typologies group similar types of marriages together in order to bring clarity to the study of marriage and provide a language that describes similarities and differences between those marriage types. To bring order to marital typologies, they have grouped together institutional marriages and compassionate marriages with further break down in order to include all variations of marriages.

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Institutional marriages emphasize the separate roles that a husband and wife has. In traditional style of marriage that has the husband being the primary wage earner and wives being the homemaker and child caretaker seen as subordinate to the desires of their husband. Companionate marriages are more modern and have the wives earning an income along with the husband and the husband assisting with the care of the children and there is a mutual agreement that they are equals. The three institutions are conflict habituated, devitalized, and passive congenial. While the two companionate are vital and total. Vicky and Doug have a institutional style of marriage. They are Institutional Passive-Congenial. They are classified here because they are married with commitment and intimacy but do not have the passion of other marital typologies. Often, they do it for stability and status, which is very much like Vicky who craves stability and Doug who is materialistic and is constantly talking about assets, homes, and other money-making ventures.

Throughout the movie, there never seems to say that there was passion in the beginning of the relationship. If there had been, they would be devitalized. Judy and Mark would be classified as devitalized. They once had passion as mentioned in the movie, but years of being together has faded this. But they do have the Passive-Congenial trait of being for status and wealth now. They both have a traditional martial type because the husband is the one earning a wage, while the wife is expected to take care of children, as mentioned by Judy to Vicky that she will not need a career when they are married because he will be making money and she can take care of the kids. Their relationships now are simply for rank and status in society. Juan Antonio and his ex-wife Maria Elena were conflict habituated. In their relationship they argued constantly, nag, complain, criticize, and peace to them was disturbing. Whenever they were together there was yelling and violence.

The triangular theory of love is broken down into three parts: Intimacy, Passion, and Commitment. Each component shows different parts of love. Intimacy involves feeling close to the person in the relationship including communication and support. Passion demands for feelings and desires regarding physical attraction, romance, and sexual impulses. The last being commitment, which includes the time that the two people are together and its longevity. Nonlove has none of these components, romantic love has intimacy and passion, liking is only intimacy, fatuous love is commitment and passion, infatuation is just passion, companionate love is intimacy and commitment, empty love is only commitment, and consummate love is all three. Vicky and Doug have intimacy and commitment but lack passion in their relationship, so they are companionate love. They are interdependent and have feelings of affection and intimacy. Their relationship would be successful and stable. Judy and Mark are empty love. They have commitment but all passion and intimacy has vanished due to years of commitment with a lack of upkeep on those two components. Many times, people are only in these marriages due to commitment to the relationship and fear of leaving. Juan Antonio and Vicky have an infatuation with each other. They have passion but lack any intimacy or commitment. Juan Antonio and his ex-wife had passion and intimacy but lacked commitment due to their on and off relationship. Juan Antonio and Christina also have passion and intimacy meaning they both had infatuation love. Juan Antonio, Christina, and the ex-wife’s relationship was also passion and intimacy but lacked commitment. Their relationship with one another lacked commitment and was either only a short period of time or on and off.

Social Exchange Theory is a functional way of approaching the way those within a romantic relationship behave in romantic relationships. It shows how those people debate the worth of the relationship in terms of costs and rewards. Social Exchange Theory focuses on the give-and-take parts of between-people relationships. In this theory they determine the risks and the benefits. If a relationship takes a higher cost, such as money or love, than rewards, such as reciprocated effort, then this could cause problems and lead to one person within the romantic relationship. The dynamic between costs and rewards can drive relationship decisions in terms of staying together, moving forward, or terminating the relationship.

In Vicky, Cristina, Barcelona, Vicky exemplifies Social exchange theory in her relationship with Doug. She is practical and traditional. She has no tolerance for drama in her relationship but that comes and the extent of lacking passion. Vicky wants stability with Doug because he is decent, successful, and committed. But their relationship lacks romance and passion. In the movie, Vicky needs to determine if the rewards such as stability, success, and commitment, outweigh the cost of lack of passion and materialism of Doug. Vicky and Doug are the younger version of Judy and Mark’s relationship. Judy and Mark also have a pleasant marriage but lack passion. Judy notices that their relationships are similar, and she warns Vicky to find passion in her life and not marry because of comfortability. In 20 years, Vicky and Doug will be Judy and Mark. Judy, in the movie, ends up cheating on Mark to regain some of that passion and spark into her life. To her, the cost of a passionless marriage is outweighed by the rewards of stability and success, but she still seeks that passion in others. The reward outweighs the costs of leaving Mark and beginning again.

Much like Judy and Mark did, Vicky and Doug hope to advance their status in society as a team through material items, those material items to Vicky, along with stability, mean more to her than passion. Judy warns Vicky multiple times throughout the engagement to find passion and Vicky finds it a little in Juan Antonio. But when she almost gets shot by Juan Antonio’s ex-wife, she is confident in her decision that stability is more of a reward than passion. Vicky wants stability over change. In Christina and Vicky’s relationship they have rewards and costs. They have been friends for a while which includes the reward of stability but the cost for them is they are very different people. They lead different lives and have different values, morals, and beliefs. The cost in their relationship could be the lack of similarities. When it came to Juan Antonio, they both wanted to do very different things. For Christina, she wants rewards like passion and freedom. In her brief relationship with Charles, stability and money do not have as much of a reward as that passion and freedom, for her the cost did not outweigh the reward.

Love language is an important tool and concept used by many today. It shows the way that a person likes to experience love in a romantic relationship and shows how that partner shows love. These love languages are broken down into five main components. Words of affirmations, Gifts, Acts of Service, Quality Time, and Physical Touch. Words of affirmation are using words to compliment a person such as “Thank you for being amazing,” or “You look wonderful tonight.” Gifts are receiving a gift from one’s romantic partner. Acts of Service is doing something for one’s spouse. Quality time is spending time with one’s spouse.

Lastly, Physical Touch is holding hands, kissing, cuddling, etc. Love Language is important in order to understand one’s partner. While each person’s love language was not specified in the movie, it can be deduced. Vicky felt that her and Doug needed more time together and valued their time spent with one another she probably likes feeling loved by Quality time spent with one another. Doug, on the other hand, was materialistic and valued material objects more than Vicky. When gifts showed up for them because of their marriage, Doug was more intrigued with the gifts than Vicky. With Judy, it can be deduced that she values physical touch. In the scene when Vicky and Judy are speaking together, she mentions how her and Mark have not been intimate in a while showing she values the intimacy of a relationship. Juan Antonio seems to appreciate physical affection. This is shown as how he is constantly kissing, touching, and showing physically how he loves his romantic partner in the movie. Vicky, Christina, Barcelona shows Love Language by showing how they interact with one another, how they show love, and how they like to be loved back.

Vicky, Christina, Barcelona expresses the different interpersonal communication concepts such as Love Language, Marital Typologies, Triangular Theory of Love, and Social Exchange Theory in some form. Christina and Vicky especially show these concepts through their character differences. Christina shows passion, sexual freedom, and impulse while Vicky represents tradition, monogamy, and stability. One way we can see Vicky and Christina’s character differences is in Marital typologies. Vicky and Doug have a traditional Passive-Congenial marriage and show the long-established typology of marriage. Christina on the other hand is not in a long-term marriage but shows that she idolizes freedom, something a marriage will not have. In Triangle Theory of Love, it is shown how they all have different components that define their relationship. Vicky and Doug have intimacy and commitment but lack passion in their relationship, so they are companionate love. Judy and Mark also are empty love. Juan Antonio and Vicky have an infatuation with each other.

In a great way, Social Exchange Theory is established in the movie in Vicky and Doug’s relationship. Vicky had commitment and intimacy but lacked passion which comes at a cost. By the end of the movie, she realizes that commitment and stability are more important to her than passion and change. While each person’s love language was not specified in the movie, it can be seen in the different actions and expressions throughout the movie. Judy is shown valuing physical touch in one scene, Doug shows appreciation for gifts, and Juan Antonio shows his love for showing physical affection. Throughout Vicky, Christina, Barcelona it can be shown the four different concepts of interpersonal communications as mentioned above. 

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Triangular theory of love: "Vicky Christine" "Barcelona". (2021, Oct 20). Retrieved from