Love triangle

A love triangle (also called a romantic love triangle or a romance triangle or an eternal triangle) is usually a romantic relationship involving three or more people. While it can refer to two people independently romantically linked with a third, it usually implies that each of the three people has some kind of relationship to the other two. The relationships can be friendships, romantic, or familial.

The 1994 book Beliefs, Reasoning, and Decision Making states, "Although the romantic love triangle is formally identical to the friendship triad, as many have noted their actual implications are quite different....Romantic love is typically viewed as an exclusive relationship, whereas friendship is not."[1] Statistics suggest that, in Western society, "willingly or not, most adults have been involved in a love triangle".[2]

Two main forms of love triangle have been distinguished: "there is the rivalrous triangle, where the lover is competing with a rival for the love of the beloved, and the split-object triangle, where a lover has split their attention between two love objects".[3]

History and definitions

The term "love triangle" generally connotes an arrangement unsuitable to one or more of the people involved. One person typically ends up feeling betrayed at some point (e.g., "Person A is jealous of Person C who is having a relationship with Person B who, in Person A's eyes, is 'his/her' person.").[4] A similar arrangement that is agreed upon by all parties is sometimes called a triad, which is a type of polyamory even though polyamory usually implies sexual relations. Within the context of monogamy, love triangles are inherently unstable, with unrequited love and jealousy as common themes. In most cases, the jealous or rejected first party ends a friendship—and sometimes even starts a fight with—the second party over the third-party love interest. Though rare, love triangles have been known to lead to murder or suicide committed by the actual or perceived rejected lover.

Psychoanalysis has explored 'the theme of erotic love triangles and their roots in the Oedipal triangle'.[5] Experience suggests that 'a repeated pattern of forming or being caught in love triangle can be much dissolved by beginning to analyse the patterns of the childhood relationship to each parent in turn and to both parents as a couple'.[5] In such instances, 'you find men who are attracted only by married woman but who can't sustain the relationship if it threatens to become more than an affair. They need the husband to protect them from a full women who repeatedly get involved with married men need the wives'.[6]

Common themes

A common love triangle is one in which the hero or heroine is torn between two suitors of radically contrasting personalities; one of a girl next door or nice guy type, and the other as a physically attractive but potentially hazardous person. Alternatively, the hero or heroine has a choice between a seemingly perfect lover and an imperfect but endearing person. In this case, the "too-good-to-be-true" person is often revealed to have a significant flaw, such as hidden insensitivity or lecherousness, causing the other person to become the more desirable partner.

Eternal triangle

'In geometric terms, the eternal triangle can be represented as comprising three points – a jealous mate (A) in a relationship with an unfaithful partner (B) who has a lover (C)...A feels abandoned, B is between two mates, and C is a catalyst for crisis in the union A-B'.[7]

It has been suggested that 'a collusive network is always needed to keep the triangle eternal'.[8] This may take a tragic form – 'I saw no prospect of its ending except with death – the death of one of three people'[9] – or alternately a comic one: 'A man at the funeral of a friend's wife, with whom he has been carrying on an affair, breaks into tears and finally becomes hysterical, while the husband remains impassive. "Calm yourself," says the husband, "I'll be marrying again"'.[10]


It has been suggested that if men 'share a sense of brotherhood and they allow a woman into their relationship, an isosceles triangle is created' automatically, as 'in Truffaut's film Jules et Jim '.[11] René Girard has explored the role of envy and mimetic desire in such relationships, arguing that often the situation 'subordinates a desired something to the someone who enjoys a privileged relationship with it'.[12] In such cases, 'it cannot be fair to blame the quarrel of the mimetic twins on a woman....She is their common scapegoat'.[13]

Marital breakup

When a love triangle results in the breakup of a marriage, it may often be followed by what has been called 'the imposition of a "defilement taboo"...the emotional demand imposed by a jealous eschew any friendly or supportive contact with the rival in the triangle'[14] The result is often to leave children gripped by 'shadows from the past...they often take sides. Their loyalties are torn', and – except in the best of cases – 'the one left "injured" can easily sway the feelings of the children against acknowledging this new relationship'.[15]

As to gender responsibility, evidence would seem to indicate that in late modernity both sexes may equally well play the part of the "Other Person" – that 'men and women love with equivalent passion as well as folly'[8] and that certainly there is nothing to 'suggest that a man is better able to control himself in a love triangle than a woman'.[16] Stereotypically, the person at the center of a rivalrous love triangle is a woman, whereas for a split-object love triangle it is a man, due to the same reasons that polygyny is far more common than polyandry.

Those who find themselves tempted to become the Other Man may, however, still find a cynic's advice from the 1930s pertinent on 'the emotional position of the adulterer, and why to avoid it...Did I know what a mug's game was? – No. – "A mug's game," he told me, "is breaking your back at midnight, trying to make another man's wife come'.[17]

In entertainment

Love triangles are a popular theme in entertainment, especially romantic fiction, including opera, romance novels, soap operas, romantic comedies, manga, tabloid talk shows, and popular music.


Eric Berne termed that conflictual aspect of the love triangle "Let's You and Him Fight"; and considered "the psychology is essentially feminine. Because of its dramatic qualities, LYAHF is the basis of much of the world's literature, both good and bad".[18]

Young Adult literature has seen a rise in the popularity of the love triangle story structure (such as Twilight or The Selection). But the love triangle story structure has been around since before early classic writers like William Shakespeare and Alexandre Dumas. Shakespeare's famous play Romeo and Juliet featured a love triangle between Juliet, Romeo, and Paris. Although more subtle, Dumas's classics The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers also feature love triangles strong enough to seek revenge and start a war.

Love triangles can either be relatively balanced, in which the two candidates each have a fair chance of ending up with the protagonist, or they can be lopsided, in which the hero or heroine has an obvious romantic interest in one of the candidates, and considers the other candidate as "just a friend", but withholds a confession to avoid hurting feelings. An example of this is in the Broadway hit musical Wicked, in which dim-witted Fiyero first displays affection for Glinda the Good Witch, but then falls for Elphaba, the supposedly Wicked Witch. But in this latter case, to provide necessary tension and drama, the second platonic candidate is also very often the hero or heroine's long-term boyfriend or girlfriend.

A less permanent love triangle occurs when a former lover of the main character makes an unexpected appearance to win back the character's heart, provoking feelings of jealousy from the main character's steady partner. However, this situation is usually not considered an actual love triangle since there is little possibility of the main character breaking up with a longtime partner to pursue a just-introduced character, and it is often used as only a test of the true depth of the main character's devotion to their partner. In these cases, the long-term partner has usually been guilty of neglect toward the main character and in the end the relationship remains intact with the long-term partner having learned some valuable lesson.


Usually, a love triangle will end with the hero or heroine confiding their feelings in the suitor they feel is most virtuous or has the most interest in them. (As in Twilight.) The other suitor usually steps aside to allow the couple to be happy, or comes to terms with their feelings, often claiming they could not love the main character as much. Sometimes they are written out of the love equation entirely by falling in love with someone else, or being killed off or otherwise eliminated. While love triangles can be accused of being clichéd, if done well, they provide insight into the complexity of love and what is best to pursue in a romantic relationship.

In television shows, a love triangle is often prolonged, delaying final declarations of love between the pursued character and suitors that may prematurely end this dynamic or displease fans. Some examples of these include 90210, Friends, The O.C., How I Met Your Mother, The Vampire Diaries and Grey's Anatomy. Love triangles also featured prominently on soap operas, and can span more than a decade, as famously shown by Taylor Hamilton, Ridge Forrester and Brooke Logan on The Bold and the Beautiful. Another famous soap opera love triangle was the one that occurred on General Hospital between Luke Spencer, Laura Spencer, and Scotty Baldwin. Similarly, romance films also sustain this set-up until near the film's end, although they tend to establish a more clear-cut conclusion to the romantic entanglements than in long-running TV shows.

Popular music

The love triangle has been a recurring subject in many popular songs through the years. These "love triangle songs" include, but are not limited to:

Bob Dylan provides a violent outcome to "the sexual intrigues of Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts, in their various ménage à trois manifestations".[19]

Real life

  • The Bloomsbury Group often produced some unusual forms of love triangles, as with that involving Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant and the latter's lover, David Garnett.[20]
  • Warned off a love triangle by one of his prospective partners, Einstein conceded to her that "You have more respect for the difficulties of triangular geometry than I, old mathematicus, have."[21]

Related terms

Ménage à trois

A love triangle should not be confused with a ménage à trois, a three-way relationship in which either all members are romantically involved with each other, or one member has relations with two others who are reconciled to the situation instead of being in conflict. Ménage à trois is French and directly translates to "household for three" meaning it is usually composed of a "married couple and a lover...who live together while sharing sexual relations". This differs from a love triangle because each participant is equally motivated purely by sexual desires. The ménage à trois may be considered a subset of 'The Sandwich...a straight three-handed operation...which may be operated with any assortment of sexes: three men, three women, two men and a woman ("Ménage à trois"), or two women and a man ("The Tourist Sandwich")'.[22]

There is also the possibility of 'a ménage à trois powered by the passion of hatred'.[23]

See also


  1. ^ R. P. Abelson/R. C. Schank, Beliefs, Reasoning, and Decision-Making (1994), p. 223.
  2. ^ A. Pam/J. Pearson, Splitting Up (1998), p. 149.
  3. ^ Deidre Johnson, Love: Bondage or Liberation (London, 2010) p. 6.
  4. ^ David Cooper, The Death of the Family (Penguin 1974) p. 49
  5. ^ a b Johnson, p. 6
  6. ^ Robin Skynner/John Cleese, Families and How to Survive Them (1994) p. 268-9
  7. ^ Pam/Pearson, p. 148
  8. ^ a b Pam/Pearson, p. 166
  9. ^ Rose Macaulay, The Towers of Trebizond (1990) p. 66
  10. ^ G. Legman, Rationale of the Dirty Joke Vol II (1973) p. 400
  11. ^ Rebecca L. Copeland ed., Woman Critiqued (2006) p. 228
  12. ^ René Girard, A Theatre of Envy (Oxford 1991) p. 4
  13. ^ Girard, p. 323-4
  14. ^ Pam/Pearson, p. 168
  15. ^ Virginia Satir, Peoplemaking (1983) p. 181-4
  16. ^ Copeland, p. 47
  17. ^ Legman, p. 432-3
  18. ^ Eric Berne, Games People Play (Penguin) p. 108
  19. ^ Neil Corcoran ed., Do You, Mr Jones? (London 2002) p. 55
  20. ^ Hermione Lee, Virginia Woolf (London 1996) p. 381 and p. 540
  21. ^ Quoted in W. Isaacson, Einstein (2007) p. 361
  22. ^ Eric Berne, Sex in Human Loving (1970) p. 173
  23. ^ Belinda Sterling, The Journal of Dora Damage (London 2007) p. 190

External links

Alien Love Triangle

Alien Love Triangle is a 2008 comedy-science fiction short film directed by Danny Boyle. It was filmed in 1999.

The film was originally intended to be one of a trilogy of 30-minute short films shown together. However, the two other films, Mimic and Impostor, were turned into full-length features, and the project was cancelled.The film had its world premiere as part of the closing ceremony of the smallest theatre in the UK, La Charrette, on 23 February 2008, an event organised by Mark Kermode of The Culture Show. Kenneth Branagh attended the screening. The film's only other recorded screening was shortly after the premiere, at the Kenneth Branagh season at the National Media Museum, again with Branagh in attendance.

Bizarre Love Triangle

"Bizarre Love Triangle" is a song by the English rock band New Order, released as a single in 1986 from their fourth studio album, Brotherhood (1986), which reached the top five on the US Hot Dance Music/Club Play Singles chart, and No. 5 on the Australian ARIA Charts (No. 1 on the Victoria state chart) in March 1987.It failed to make the top 40 in either the United Kingdom (only reaching No. 56) or the US Billboard Hot 100. In the United States, the song reached No. 8 on the Hot Dance Music/Maxi-Singles Sales chart, but failed to chart on the Hot 100 during its original 1986 release. However, a new mix included on The Best of New Order was released in 1994 and finally made a brief appearance on the Billboard Hot 100 in the number 98 position in 1995.

In 2004 the song was ranked number 201 in Rolling Stone's "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time".


Bláthnat ("Little flower"), sometimes Bláthíne, is a character in early Irish literature, a king's daughter, wife of the warrior Cú Roí and the lover of his rival Cú Chulainn.

Brotherhood (New Order album)

Brotherhood is the fourth studio album by English rock band New Order, released on 29 September 1986 by Factory Records. It contains a mixture of post-punk and electronic styles, roughly divided between the two sides. The album includes "Bizarre Love Triangle", the band's break-out single in the United States and Australia; it was the only track from the album released as a single and as a video (although "State of the Nation" was included on the CD edition).

The album sleeve, created by Peter Saville, is a photograph of a sheet of titanium-zinc alloy. Some early releases came in a metallic sleeve.

Dan Sullivan (EastEnders)

Dan Sullivan is a fictional character from the BBC soap opera EastEnders, played by Craig Fairbrass. Dan appeared on the show as a regular from 7 June 1999 to 10 July 2000 before returning as a recurring character from 26 February to 16 August 2001. He became central to a storyline involving a love triangle between himself, his lover Carol Jackson (Lindsey Coulson) and Carol's daughter Bianca (Patsy Palmer) - whom Dan embarks on an affair with. Over the course of his story arc, the character developed an intense feud with archenemy Phil Mitchell (Steve McFadden); the events of their escalating conflict led to Dan getting conned out of his share of The Queen Victoria, before ending up being framed and wrongfully imprisoned for Phil's shooting. Dan departed from the show after kidnapping Mel Owen (Tamzin Outhwaite) and holding her ransom in order to get revenge on both Phil and their fellow nemesis, Mel's husband Steve (Martin Kemp).

Dream Street (film)

Dream Street is a 1921 American silent romantic drama film directed by D. W. Griffith, and starring Carol Dempster, Charles Emmett Mack, and Ralph Graves in a story about a love triangle set in London, and based on two short stories by Thomas Burke, "Gina of Chinatown" and "Song of the Lamp". The cast also features Tyrone Power, Sr.

The film, released by United Artists, was poorly received in its day and critics still consider it one of Griffith's worst films.

Episode 7202

"Episode 7202" is the 7202nd episode of the Australian soap opera Neighbours. It premiered on Eleven on 1 September 2015. The episode was written by series producer Jason Herbison and directed by Declan Eames. It is Neighbours' first three-hander in its thirty-year history. Typically episodes of the show feature the ensemble cast and multiple on-going storylines. "Episode 7202" focuses on the conclusion to a long-running love triangle between Lauren Turner (Kate Kendall), Brad Willis (Kip Gamblin) and Terese Willis (Rebekah Elmaloglou). Herbison hoped the episode would be memorable for viewers, while Gamblin was grateful that he, Elmaloglou and Kendall were trusted enough with it.

Kendall thought the love-triangle was the perfect storyline to use the three-hander style and Elmaloglou said the consequences would be felt for a long time within the show. The episode was filmed in early June 2015. It is set in just two of the six houses on Ramsay Street. The actors described the filming schedule as "pretty busy" and a "collaborative effort". The episode was preceded by an online bonus scene titled "Before Dawn". "Episode 7202" received a positive reception from television critics, with one calling it "an ambitious move" and another dubbing it a "landmark episode" for the show. For his work on the episode, Herbison earned an AWGIE Award for Best Script for a Television Serial.

Girl next door

The girl next door is a young female stock character who is described as "sweet, ordinary, and caring," and lives right next door. They are often used in romantic stories whose male protagonists are caught in a love triangle between two women and will usually choose the "girl next door" he grew up with rather than a more well-off or beautiful woman with fewer morals. Other times, this character ignores the hero for another male character, despite being the object of his affections.The masculine counterpart is boy next door, who is also described as "wholesome, sweet and shy".

John Hodge (screenwriter)

John Hodge (born 1964) is a Scottish screenwriter and dramatist, who adapted Irvine Welsh's novel Trainspotting into the script for the film of the same title. His first play Collaborators won the 2012 Olivier Award for Best New Play. His films include Shallow Grave (1994), Trainspotting (1996) A Life Less Ordinary (1997), The Beach (2000), The Final Curtain (2002), and the short film Alien Love Triangle (2002).

Kris Fisher

Kris Fisher is a fictional character from the British Channel 4 soap opera, Hollyoaks, played by Gerard McCarthy. The character first appeared on-screen in September 2006 and left in August 2010 after McCarthy quit the show. He is noted for his storylines involving the PEP drug, a bisexual love triangle, his outlandish personality and being the only permanent cross dressing character in a British soap opera. Following his departure, it was announced that McCarthy would return in November 2010 for a short stint.

Love Triangle (game show)

Love Triangle is an American dating themed game show–talk show crossover broadcast by Game Show Network. Hosted by Wendy Williams, the show premiered on April 11, 2011 and aired its final episode on August 28, 2011.

The series focuses on a single dater who is involved in a romantic relationship with two different people. Through a series of personality and lie-detector tests, the dater observes the level of compatibility between himself and each of the suitors before eliminating one of the suitors at the end of the episode.

Marvin the Album

Marvin the Album is the Australian alternative rock group Frente!'s debut album, released 24 November 1992 (26 April 1994 outside Australia), and recorded in 1992 at Platinum Studios in Melbourne, Australia. Music videos were made for the tracks "Accidently Kelly Street" [sic], "Ordinary Angels" and "No Time", each of which were also released as singles. Additional videos were made for "Lonely" and "Bizarre Love Triangle" when these tracks were appended to the international release.

Sonnet 154

As the last in the famed collection of sonnets written by English poet and playwright William Shakespeare from 1592 to 1598, Sonnet 154 is most often thought of in a pair with the previous sonnet, number 153. As A. L. Rowse states in Shakespeare's Sonnets: The Problems Solved, Sonnets 153 and 154 "are not unsuitably placed as a kind of coda to the Dark Lady Sonnets, to which they relate." Rowse calls attention to the fact that Sonnets 153 and 154 "serve quite well to round off the affair Shakespeare had with Emilia, the woman characterized as the Dark Lady, and the section of the Dark Lady sonnets". Shakespeare used Greek mythology to address love and despair in relationships. The material in Sonnets 153 and 154 has been shown to relate to the six-line epigram by the Byzantine poet known as Marianus Scholasticus, who published a collection of 3,500 poems called The Greek Anthology. When translated, the epigram resembles Sonnets 153 and 154, addressing love and the story of Cupid, the torch, and the Nymph's attempt to extinguish the torch.

State of the Nation (New Order song)

"State of the Nation" is a 1986 single by New Order. Like most songs by the group, it was composed by all of its members (Peter Hook, Gillian Gilbert, Stephen Morris and Bernard Sumner). However, unlike other New Order tracks, the title is included not just in the regular song lyrics but even in the chorus; as well, the lyrics are specific and direct in attacking "deprivation" and making social commentary rather than taking a more esoteric or metaphorical approach. The protest song has appeared in several releases by the group including in the popular singles compilation Substance.

The Duel (The Office)

"The Duel" is the twelfth episode of the fifth season of the American comedy television series The Office, and the show's 84th overall episode. In the episode, Andy learns his fiancee Angela is having an affair with Dwight, and the two challenge each other to a physical fight to win her affections. Meanwhile, Michael travels to New York City for a meeting with David Wallace, where Wallace seeks managerial advice from Michael due to the poor financial condition of the fictional company, Dunder Mifflin.

The episode was written by Jennifer Celotta and directed by Dean Holland, the show's long-time editor making his directorial debut. It featured the conclusion of the love triangle between Dwight, Andy and Angela, a subplot that had been going on since the end of the fourth season. David Wallace's meeting with Michael marked the show's first acknowledgment of the economic crisis facing much of the globalized nation at the time of the episode due to the financial crisis of 2007–2010.

"The Duel" was seen as a defining episode for Andy Bernard, who is portrayed in a more sympathetic way than he has been seen in previous episodes. Ed Helms was particularly praised for his performance. Several bits of dialogue were improvised, especially during the duel scene between Andy and Dwight. That scene was shot over the course of six hours in an exterior parking lot set, with Helms and Wilson providing their own stunts.

The episode received generally positive reviews, and was largely described as an effective conclusion to the love triangle subplot. According to Nielsen Media Research, "The Duel" was seen by 8.35 million viewers. During its original American broadcast, it received particularly strong competition from the CBS drama series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, which that night featured the final appearance of actor William Petersen.

The Fairly OddParents (season 8)

The eighth season of the animated television series The Fairly OddParents first aired on Nickelodeon on February 12, 2011, with the episode "Love Triangle". This season began airing in the United States even though there were still several Season 7 episodes that had yet to be broadcast, including the aforementioned season premiere's preceding lead-in episode, "Spellementary School". The season ended on August 5, 2012.


In human sexuality, a threesome is sexual activity that involves three people at the same time. Threesome can also refer to a love triangle, a three-way romantic relationship. Though threesome is most commonly applied to a casual sexual activity involving sexual activity among three participants, a threesome may also be found in a long-term domestic relationship, such as polyamory or a ménage à trois.A threesome is a form of group sex, but involving only three people. It may occur more frequently in private situations, such as spontaneous sexual activity among three friends, or arranged in a community of like-minded swingers or planned as a once-only experience; and rarely in anonymous settings, such as at orgies or other sex parties. Among swinging couples, one of the two partners is often the driving force and the other is more passive-supportive of the addition of additional sex parties. Some couples use a threesome as a way to develop a love triangle (ménage à trois).A threesome is a common element of sexual fantasy. It is commonly depicted in pornography, but very rarely in mainstream cinema.

Triangular theory of love

The triangular theory of love is a theory of love developed by Robert Sternberg, a member of the Psychology Department at Yale University. During his time as a professor, Sternberg emphasized his research in the fields of intelligence, creativity, wisdom, leadership, thinking styles, ethical reasoning, love, and hate. In the context of interpersonal relationships, "the three components of love, according to the triangular theory, are an intimacy component, a passion component, and a decision/commitment component."Sternberg says that intimacy refers to "feelings of closeness, connectedness, and bondedness in loving relationships", passion refers to "the drives that lead to romance, physical attraction, sexual consummation, and related phenomena in loving relationships" and decision/commitment means different things in the short and long term. In the short-term, it refers to "the decision that one loves a certain other", and in the long-term, it refers to "one's commitment to maintain that love."

William Oefelein

William Anthony "Bill" Oefelein (; born March 29, 1965) is an American test pilot instructor and former NASA astronaut who, on his only spaceflight, piloted the STS-116 Space Shuttle mission.Oefelein gained media attention on February 5, 2007 when fellow astronaut Lisa Nowak was arrested in Florida and charged with attempting to kidnap his girlfriend, U.S. Air Force Captain Colleen Shipman. Nowak later pleaded guilty to felony burglary and misdemeanor battery. Oefelein admitted to a two-year affair with Nowak, and he and Nowak became the first astronauts ever dismissed from NASA. Following the dismissals, NASA created its first astronaut Code of Conduct.

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