How to Deal with a Love Triangle

Three Methods:Identifying Your RoleMaking a ChoiceTaking Care of Yourself

A love triangle is a sustained sexual and/or emotional attachment between two people, one of whom is in a committed relationship with another person. While a love triangle may begin with a casual, short term affair between these two people, the term generally refers to a more complex relationship. A love triangle is one of the more complicated psychological relationship issues, and yet it's also one of the most common.

Method 1
Identifying Your Role

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    Examine your place in the love triangle. There are two primary forms of love triangle: the "rivalrous" and the "split object." In the rivalrous, you are one of two people competing for the exclusive love of the third person. In the split object, you are the person whose affection is divided between two lovers.[1]
    • Split-object relationships can also be imaginary. This occurs when someone imagines that they're in love with a romantic partners they've never met, or idealizes a relationship from their past.[2]
    • You may not have initially chosen your role in the rivalrous love triangle. You may instead consider yourself a victim of another person's adultery. While this may have initially been true, if you've decided to try to stay within the relationship, you are actively choosing a role. It will help you to be honest about this.
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    Discuss what happened. While talking about or hearing about a love triangle is difficult, it is important to be open and honest.[3] Do all three people know about the triangle? While being honest about a love triangle may be difficult, it is ultimately recommended by most experts. Lack of honesty within a relationship can be corrosive and damaging to everyone in the triangle, including yourself.
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    Consider the purpose the love triangle serves in your life. All chosen relationships serve some purpose in your life, even if it’s not a healthy purpose. It’s important to determine the purpose of your participation. Does your love triangle give you the attention you desire or distract your from your life choices or other relationships? Professional counseling may help you better understand the way a love triangle is serving your psychological needs.
    • Choosing to continue a split object love triangle can provide the illusion of security, that you won't be left alone. However, sometimes a split object love triangle allows a person to fulfill more of their sexual or emotional identity than is possible with only one person. Only you can truly know the difference.[4]
    • Choosing to continue a rivalrous triangle prevents you from developing more genuine intimacy. A rivalrous triangle thrives on interpersonal drama, rather than trust.[5]
    • Knowledge of a betrayal, or the act of betraying another person, may also generate unexpected sexual excitement. Of course, this won't always be the case, but people are psychologically complex. It's helpful to be as honest as possible about your role within the love triangle.[6]

Method 2
Making a Choice

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    Consider your options. Remember that you do not have to stay in a love triangle, but neither do you have to leave. You have options, and you have choices: you can act according to what you think will be best for you.
    • If you aren't the one who initiated the love triangle, it can be difficult to not feel like a victim. However, to remain in the psychological position of a victim will ultimately cause more harm than good.
    • Victims often think in terms of "shoulds" and "rights" - "It wasn't right that she flirted with him, when she knew we were married." "He should understand that I'm exhausted because of the kids and my work schedule!" While there may be some very good reasons for explaining what should have happened, and what actions might have been "right", love doesn't operate on objectively logical basis. It will help you to set these reasons aside while you make your own decisions about how to live.[7]
    • You may not be able to leave for reasons of financial insecurity, cultural taboo, lack of social supports, or other reasons. However, if you can leave a love triangle, it's often easier to do so than to stay.
    • You may choose to seek help in making this decision. Even someone who's left a relationship due to a love triangle may benefit from professional counseling.
    • If you're the target of emotional, sexual or physical abuse as a result of the love triangle, this is called domestic violence. Seek help from a trusted friend, your health care provider, a crisis shelter, a counseling center, or the court system.[8] If you are in danger, contact your local police.
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    Take responsibility for your decision. It may be painful, but being in a love triangle does not make you a bad person.[9]
    • You may choose to stay in the love triangle. While unconventional, polyamory may be the option that works best for you, and that is fine. The important thing about remaining in a love triangle is that it's chosen by all three parties - but the same thing is true of two-person relationships as well! Consensual non-monogamy is a valid option.[10]
    • Whether you choose to leave or stay, remember that this is a choice you made, not one that's forced upon you. While finding yourself in a love triangle might not have been your choice, you have control over your response to it.
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    Explore the reasons for your suffering. Common emotional responses to being in a love triangle include confusion, guilt, division of love, constant pressure and loneliness. These are valid responses, and they don't make you a bad person.
    • Feelings do not have to be justified. They are not right or wrong. Feelings can change over time, so before you decide to act on your feelings, take some time to consider the consequences of your actions.
    • When the pain you feel upon trying to leave the love triangle is greater than the pain you feel for staying, you may take this to mean that this person is "the only one" for you.[11]But that's not likely the case.
    • Remember that the pain of leaving is not a reliable indication of true love. Your painful feelings might be based on fear of being alone, or memories of the relationship the way it used to be.

Method 3
Taking Care of Yourself

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    Direct your emotions appropriately. It's easy to blame the third party, whether that person is the unassuming partner of your beloved, the interloper to an existing relationship, or even a faithful, monogamous spouse. However, it's likely that your anger is based in rationalization of your own actions.[12] Your anger may also be covering up shame, guilt, confusion, and other hurt feelings.
    • Write your feelings in a journal, where you are safe to explore your emotions without hurting another person.
    • It's okay to cry, or to hit something soft, when your feelings are overwhelming. This doesn't mean that you're wrong, weak or bad. It just means you're human.
    • You're allowed to take time apart from the person with whom you're angry. Sometimes a short walk around the block will suffice. Other times, you may need a weekend or more apart.
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    Don't believe everything you think. Feelings of guilt and worthlessness are common among all parties involved in a love triangle. When these feelings arise, don't allow them to consume you. Instead, notice that they're present, and let them go.
    • Remember that it's your actions that matter in dealing with a love triangle. Your feelings are likely to change, but your actions can impact yourself and others forever.
    • A lot of anger comes from mourning events that have not yet come to pass. For example, thinking about lonely holidays yet to come, or being alone in old age, can be the source of much suffering. Remember that none of us can actually predict the future, and no matter what it looks like now, your life circumstances are still a work in progress.
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    Explore the factors that contributed to the love triangle. The single largest predictor of affairs is opportunity, according to experts.[13]If you don't want to participate in another love triangle, you may wish to look the factors that tend to encourage them.
    • People whose work involves a great deal of travel away from home and family report higher levels of extramarital activity. Work-related travel often causes a person to miss their partner as and provides an opportunity to meet new people.[14]
    • Situations that reduce self-control, such as drinking or drug use, frequently increases the likeliness of participating in a love triangle.
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    Move on from your relationship. While it is difficult to move on from a relationship, it is possible. You’ll want to recognize that the relationship is over and while you will feel terribly, the hurt won’t last forever.[15]
    • Don’t prolong the pain by not accepting that your relationship is over.
    • Focusing on the future by not ruminating on the past will help you to move forward.
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    Seek counseling. Talking to someone about your problems can make you feel better. Therapists are professionally-trained listeners. Seeing one can help you get to the root of your problems, overcome emotional obstacles, and make positive changes.[16]
    • If you feel you may have an addiction to sexual relationships, consider joining a 12-step program or a mental health therapist to help you better understand your behavior.
    • If you find yourself feeling violent as a result of a love triangle, immediately seek professional help from a therapist


  • Don't allow yourself to be caught up in moral judgments regarding love triangles. Condemning your behavior or the actions of another person are unlikely to be helpful in dealing with a love triangle.


Sources and Citations

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Categories: Commitment Issues