Relationships are complicated, but what happens when you add a third wheel? So, what is triangulation, and how can it damage your relationship?
From developing Sudden Repulsion Syndrome (SRS), to cheating, unrealistic expectations to family feuds, misunderstandings to fights, triangulation in a relationship, and interfering friends to career disputes, relationships are hard. Are they worth it though? Absolutely!
It should be easy, shouldn’t it? Boy meets girl, or girl meets boy, or boy or girl, whatever you’re into. They fall in love and live happily ever after. Is it ever that simple? Rarely. There are so many outside influences which can affect a relationship that the statistics don’t make for very pleasant reading. Let’s face it, your union is more likely to fail than it is to succeed to the happily ever after phase, if that phase even exists.
One issue which is extremely damaging for a relationship on many levels is something called triangulation.
What is triangulation exactly?
What is triangulation? It’s basically what the name would suggest, a triangle of three. This is when a third person or item is pulled into the relationship, usually to avoid interaction between the two partners. For instance, a guy might spend more time with their friend, which pulls that person into the relationship, causing a triangle. From there, the partner feels ignored and unimportant. Whether the guy realises he’s doing this or not is a personal thing, but most of the time, it’s a conscious deal.
Triangulation is a form of manipulating the other person or situation. This means they avoid direct contact or communication with the very person they should be with, over everyone else. Of course, there is already a real problem in a relationship affected by triangulation, or it can simply be that the person starting the triangle actually has narcissistic tendencies.
Talking about narcissists in more detail is a long story and something best saved for another chat, but to give you a quick low down, this is a person so absorbed with themselves that they will manipulate another person to the point of dragging them to their knees. They will also use a tactic called ‘gaslighting,’ which is literally causing someone to doubt their own sanity, not sure if they are the one to blame or not. Not pleasant, I’m sure you’ll agree, and triangulation is another classic tactic of the narcissist.
Why triangulation is a form of communication manipulation and avoidance
Triangulation isn’t just found in romantic relationships, it’s found in relationships of all types too. For instance, you complain to your daughter that she isn’t doing her homework, and she then goes to your partner and complains that you always nag her to do their homework. They basically add your partner into the mix, complicating the communication between the two of you, and avoiding direct action, e.g. actually doing their homework.
In this case, triangulation is an avoidance technique or tactic.
Triangulation is extremely dysfunctional, and it avoids positive action being achieved. If you have triangulation in your relationship to any amount, you have communication issues, for sure. That might sound harsh, but it’s a truth. The other side is that most relationships have a mild degree of triangulation within them!
If we communicated more effectively, discussed issues when they came up, and were open and honest about our feelings, triangulation would never be an issue. When these issues aren’t addressed, triangulation can complicate matters. Over time, it can cause a real wedge between partners.
A few examples of triangulation in a relationship
In a relationship, triangulation can be serious or mild. In any degree, triangulation signals an unresolved issue. A few examples of how triangulation looks in a relationship include:
#1 Having an affair, because they feel they are being ignored by a partner who is always working.
#2 Never having time for date nights, but spending time with friends in a local bar instead.
#3 Heading to the office to work late whenever an argument occurs.
#4 Goes to see friends after work or works late, hoping that their partner will be sleeping by the time they get home.
In all these situations, there is an underlying issue which is unresolved. If only the two would have communicated, then the triangulation issue wouldn’t have occurred. As you can see, triangulation can be a thing or it can be a person.
Is cheating a form of triangulation? In some ways, yes.
Cheating is a subject all on its own, and the reasons why a person cheats can only really be explained by them. Sometimes the person can’t even explain it to themselves. If the cheating occurred because the cheating partner tried to avoid an issue in the relationship, then it could be classed as triangulation.
Rather than discussing the issue and resolving it healthily, they involved a third person as a distraction, or even to hurt the other person, thus putting the relationship at risk. That is a severe example of how triangulation can affect a relationship.
Of course, milder versions of triangulation can be solved – by talking! Communication is key in all aspects of a relationship.
A partner who decides to go and see friends after work or work late because they don’t want to talk to a partner they’ve been having a lot of arguments with lately is a total distraction techniques. It is triangulation because they are involving a friend or their work as the third wheel. If they’d taken the time to simply go home and talk to their partner, put aside their differences and work on their relationship, the outcome would be more positive, and the triangulation manipulation wouldn’t be happening.
Can you see how communication is at the crux of everything?
We avoid what we don’t want to deal with
Most of us don’t like difficult conversations, but avoiding them is not a better option. Your partner isn’t psychic, and they can’t pick up what you’re thinking or feeling simply by magic vibes. You must communicate and tell them if you don’t agree with something or if you don’t like something they’re doing. Adding in a third wheel, be it a person or a thing, won’t solve the problem. In fact, it is actually much more likely to complicate and worsen the issue.
Drinking too much in order to deal with a relationship issue is a form of triangulation too. You’re involving alcohol into the equation, which blocks you speaking to your partner and solving the problem at hand. From there, things spiral out of control and your relationship could be damaged for good.
Avoiding triangulation in a relationship really is as easy as being brave enough to face situations head on and talk it out. Speaking about things we don’t want to speak about is hard, but we’re not children!