Triangular Relationships

A triangular relationship occurs when one of the members of the couple becomes intimately related to another person, and cannot leave either one.

An essential characteristic of the love triangle is the incapacity of the one initiating it to choose one of the other two persons.

The ambivalence in the feelings towards the other two persons is what produces the phenomenon called “love triangle”.

In the classic situation of the “mistress”, the rules were defined by the man, relationships were stable in time, and the roles were fundamentally defined.

It was common that the wife would know about the existence of the “mistress”, but would try to make believe that she did not know, or that she wasn’t affected.

In some cases, the wife even took special care to make sure that the husband would look especially well-groomed when he was to visit “the other”.

In the majority of cases, having a “mistress” was a symbol of high socioeconomic status.  A goal of sorts for many men.

In the epoch of “machismo”, it was unusual for a woman to have one or more regular lovers outside of her marriage, even in cases of great wealth.

The role of the “mistress” appears to be the product of the traditional “machismo”, whereas triangular relationships appear to derive from women’s liberation.

In the phenomenon of the “mistress”, both women tend to be passive.  In the love triangles, the women who participate actively demand their rights.

In love triangles, it is increasingly more frequent that women start this type of relationship, presumably to act upon their recent status of “liberated” women.

The economic liberation of women tends to produce more the phenomenon of the love triangle.  In past decades, the classic “mistress” was more frequent.

An interesting piece of information is that almost half of all mental health-related hospital admissions are associated to marital problems as the precipitating cause.

Love triangles produce a lot of emotional pain, especially to the one initiating them, even more so than to the other two participants, even if this seems unbelievable.

As the interaction between the initial two people develops, one of the two will feel unsatisfied with some aspect of the behavior of the partner.

Looking to fulfill these satisfactions outside of the couple is what permits the possibility of the love triangle.

The love triangle is usually started at random, without the intention of permanence.  It occurs when it is wished to satisfy a need that the partner does not fulfill.

The love triangle generally occurs when one of the partners looks for a complement more than for a substitute for the current partner.

Once the relationship with the third person is started, the powerful ambivalent feelings which develop maintain the triangle.

The one that initiates the triangle, when with one of the other two members, thinks about the other, and vice versa.  That is the reason why there is always suffering.  There is never full satisfaction.

What happens is that the other two persons are complementary to the axis person.  Individually, they do not fully satisfy the emotional needs of the axis person.

In the love triangle, frequently the axis person or principal one alternates the two complementary persons, depending on the equilibrium of the leading forces at that moment.

Alternating between the two partners occurs as a need, for the two persons are made complementary.  There is no desire to lose either one.

The person initiating the triangle is generally never totally satisfied with either one of the other two of its members.

In the love triangle, the two complementary persons always have the hope of being the ‘triumphant” one.

That hope is what maintains the love triangle.

Nevertheless, promises made by the axis person are rarely made good for very long in triangular relationships.

These promises only serve to postpone the impending break up with one or both of the complementary partners.

The axis person in the love triangle is even capable of inventing a momentary fight with the partner that is gaining too much control, to then go back with the other one.

What is really curious is that the axis person becomes convinced that the other person is the “true love” and thus justifies the return to the previous partner.

The axis person does not appear to understand the cause of his or her emotional rebounds.

Even when the one initiating the love triangle abandons and/or gets divorced and marries the other person—an indicator of permanency in the decision—he or she keeps on thinking about the previous partner.

Frequently, he or she turns back to the previous partner, and the process is restarted.  Such is the nature of the love triangle.

The axis person maintains in equilibrium the two complementary persons and the principle of alternability.  The love triangle is perpetuated in this manner.

The duration of a love triangle depends on the equilibrium of the forces between the members that compose it.  It may be of indefinite duration.

The way to prevent the possibility of a love triangle is by not starting a new relationship prior to ending the current one and the necessary period of emotional grieving is over.

To prevent becoming engulfed by the maelstrom that is a love triangle, one of the complementary members has to radically abandon or discontinue the triangular love relationship.

Traditionally, women rarely start a love triangle, but tend to maintain it once it begins.

On many occasions, economic or social status factors tend to have incidence in the maintenance of love triangles.

The fear of facing a life without the original partner oftentimes makes the person tend to maintain the love triangle.

Even the children are used as an excuse not to break the original union.

Once the original partner learns that he or she is in a love triangle, he or she will maintain it when he or she does not immediately terminate his or her participation in it.

The hope to prevail in the affection of the axis partner is a powerful motivator in the maintenance of the love triangle.

The least painful solution to escape the consequences of the love triangle is that the three live together, but this practical solution is rarely accepted.

The coexistence of the three solves the immediate problem for the axis person of the love triangle, by not having to suffer immediately, but he or she is the first in rejecting this solution.

Nevertheless, the postponing of the decision to break with both complementary persons will only imply chronic suffering.

The person who initiates a love triangle generally ends up losing the other two persons.  If the axis person remains with one of the other persons, the relationship tends to be marked by a sense of loss.

The longer the duration of the love triangle, the greater the suffering will be for all involved.

Psychotherapy with a clinical psychologist can help you face the difficult life problem, full of suffering that is a love triangle.  Do not wait any longer.  Learn to Live Better ®!


© 2006 Angel Enrique Pacheco, Ph.D., C.Psych.  All Rights Reserved.





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