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Love Triangles or Adult Sexual Triangles by Gabriella Kortsch, Ph. D., Cht definition

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Love Triangles or Adult Sexual Triangles
Gabriella Kortsch, Ph.D., CHT
One partner in a relationship is involved with a third person.

(There are also triangles that do not directly have to do with love or sex, where one person in a relationship is heavily involved with a child (for ex. a child star, and the other parent is mostly ignored) or where one partner is heavily involved with a parent (for ex. a parent that needs constant care, or an adult son who has not umbilically separated from his mother). There are also non-sexual triangles that involve friendships, for example, two buddies who are always together, and the wife of one of the buddies gets pushed to one side in favor of the friend, and there are triangles where the third party is actually a profession, or an interest, such as artistic involvement, or spiritual development.)

However, what we are going to talk about here today are love, or adult sexual triangles that involve three human beings.
Emotions Involved in Triangles:
The panoply of emotions involved in adult sexual triangles can be broad, ranging from jealousy to deep suffering and pain, to anger, rage, fear, rejection, humiliation, betrayal, sorrow, absolute and utter surprise, as well as disgust, to name only a few.

I believe it is of utmost importance to sift through these emotions, to let them percolate, if you will, for a while inside of you, in order to get to know them better. In other words, I do not believe that the first thing that you should do is look for a way to make yourself feel better. What I mean to say by that is that these situations come into one’s life for a purpose, and if we don’t pay attention to them, there will be no purpose, and then our suffering will have been in vain. We have to look at the triangle, in other words, with a degree of consciousness and awareness of its possible meaning in our lives. If we have time, I’ll talk about that a little later.

How Can We Describe the Three People? (This section is taken from Liz Greene’s fascinating book Relationships and How to Survive Them)

  1. Betrayer (a divided soul) – the person who apparently chooses to get involved in the triangle. I say apparently because unconscious compulsion often overwhelms conscious choice. Whatever is going on beneath the surface, the Betrayer is a divided soul. There is a love, passionate attraction, or need for two different things.

  1. Betrayed: is an apparent victim of the Betrayer’s inability to love exclusively. However, it is not quite that clearly cut. All three points on the triangle are actually interchangeable. They are not as different as they might first appear. But the Betrayed generally believes that he or she is loyal, and that it is the other person who is disloyal. It is someone else who has initiated the triangle. Usually we think of the Betrayed as having the hardest time in a triangle, because this is the person who generally acts out al the rage and jealousy and feelings of humiliation.

  1. Instrument of Betrayal (an apparent predator) – this person enters an already existing relationship between two people, and apparently threatens to destroy or change it. This point of the triangle usually gets a lot of bad press, being seen as “predatory” or a taker of someone else’s beloved possession. If we happen to occupy this point, we may receive only limited sympathy. The Instrument of Betrayal may, however, feel him or herself to be a victim, and may perceive the Betrayed as the predator.

There are people who move around the triangle and try all three points during the course of their lives, sometimes many times. There are other people who stick with one point exclusively, and always get

betrayed in their relationships, or always wind up playing the Betrayer. Or they are always the Instrument of Betrayal, invariably involved with people who are attached elsewhere.

Types of Triangles (This section is taken from Liz Greene’s fascinating book Relationships and How to Survive Them )

  1. Family Triangles:

Here we could talk a little about the famous Freudian Oedipal triangle in the sense that it has repercussions throughout the lifespan. These situations don’t just happen in childhood when the little boy wants to be his mama’s “man”, or the little girl wants to be her papa’s woman. The thing is that these situations keep repeating when they are unresolved and they will generally find their way into adult relationships. Where there is a repeating pattern of triangles in adult life, there is often an unhealed family triangle. Because it is unresolved we recreate it, once or many times, hoping on some deep and subconscious level that we will find a way to heal it.

So the little boy that has an unresolved situation with his mother is the man who in adult life tends to connect with women who are attached to other men. His bond with his mother will have cost him his relationship with his father, which may mean he has no positive internal masculine image on which to draw, and no sense of support from the community of men around him. His sense of male confidence and male sexual identity must rely entirely on whether his women love him. And this is a very insecure and painful place in which to live.

Severe Oedipal defeat in childhood can generate a gnawing sense of sexual inferiority in adulthood. It can contribute to many destructive relationship patterns, particularly the kind of triangle where one is hopelessly in love with a person who is permanently attached elsewhere. In this case, one would play the role of the Instrument of Betrayal, trying to knock at the door of another marriage. Or, conversely, one could play the role of the Betrayed, helplessly repeating the Oedipal defeat in that your partner is forever unfaithful to you, or you lose your partner to another.

In both instances one is unable to establish a psychological separation from the beloved parent, and a part of us never really grows beyond childhood. We may become stuck in repetitive relationship dynamics where we keep trying to “fix” the original hurt through a triangle.

  1. Defensive Triangles: an example of this would be a man or woman who needs to form an additional relationship outside their established partnership because of feelings of deep inadequacy. They may feel very insecure and frightened that if they put all of their emotional eggs in a single basket, they will be too vulnerable and rejection would be utterly intolerable. A triangle is then created as a defence mechanism. If they are abandoned by one partner, they have always got the other. That is a characteristic defensive triangle.

  1. Power Triangles: this kind of triangle arises from the same root as the defensive triangle. The Betrayed is kept insecure through the knowledge that there is an Instrument of Betrayal waiting in the wings, which allows the Betrayer to feel more secure and powerful. Underneath, there may be enormous self-doubt and insecurity. These things are not consciously calculated, but fear of rejection may be a powerful motivating factor in many triangles.

  1. Triangles in pursuit of the unobtainable: this kind of triangle sort of overlaps with all three that we have already discussed, but there is a special ingredient in the pursuit of the unobtainable, and often the motivating factor underneath is artistic or spiritual. Sometimes, when we seek unobtainable love, it actually has little to do with human beings, but we translate our mystical or creative longings into the pursuit of those people we cannot have, those who are at a distance, or those who are in some way inaccessible. We may wind up creating a fantasy world around an unobtainable figure.

  1. Triangles which reflect unlived life: These triangles refer to a category that includes all the others we have discussed. When we look at family triangles we need to ask why we want so badly to be close to a particular parent. What does that parent mean to us? Why can we cope

  1. with relative indifference from one parent, yet require nothing less than absolute fusion with the other? In the end, inevitably, we will find bits of our own souls farmed out along all the points of the triangle – any triangle, whether motivated by family dynamics, power, defensiveness, pursuit of the unobtainable, or a combination of all of these. When a triangle enters our lives, regardless of the point of the triangle we are on, there is usually some message in it about dimensions of ourselves which we have not recognized or lived. If a pattern of triangles keeps repeating, then it is a very strong message, and we need to listen to what it is trying to tell us. That is the bottom line, and it could offer us a way to cope with the less attractive emotional dimensions of triangles.

Possible Meaning (and Resolution) of a Triangle in One’s Life:
On the surface, then, a triangle appears to be a situation where one is either being very deeply hurt or humiliated or betrayed, or where one is doing the very deep hurting, humiliating or betraying, or where one participates in the very deep hurting, humiliating, or betraying of another.

But as I mentioned earlier, if one tries to look at the situation with consciousness and awareness, it may be possible to get something of value from circumstances that are, at least superficially fraught with enormous pain. Any kind of suffering in life can be ameliorated or lessened if we can but only begin to look at ourselves more closely in the process in order to understand what we could possibly gain by it. Without this kind of consciousness, at best, all we are going to do is blame another person, get them out of our lives, and in time, go on to another relationship. But the same may occur again. Or perhaps this time, we are not the Betrayed but the Betrayer. Do you see what I am getting at? If we don’t become aware of our own part in the triangle, we will never be really free of it.

And the first step is becoming conscious of the possibility of growth that the triangle – painful though it may be – offers us. The second step, is allowing the emotions that arise because of the triangle, a place in our lives, at least for a bit. In other words, as I said earlier, don’t work really hard at trying to eliminate the painful emotions from your life, by finding new people to go out with, or by immersing yourself in positive thinking, or by resorting to drugs, alcohol, or sex, or by going out and buying a new wardrobe, or by taking a singles cruise…I mean some of these things are great, and could certainly be part of what you do later on, but first, at least for a little while, you could greatly benefit by becoming better acquainted with some of these very painful emotions, allowing yourself to feel them, and realizing that they are not necessarily a bad place to be at, and that you might learn some very important things about yourself by permitting this process to be.

I don’t mean that you should wallow in them, but I do mean that you should not just try to immediately and energetically try to get rid of them. In our society it’s almost considered shameful to feel some of these very negative emotions that can crop up in love triangles. We seem to believe that if we have these feelings, it’s unhealthy, and we should work hard at getting rid of them. I concur with the school of thought that holds that we should first allow these emotions a space in our lives in order to see what they are trying to show us. Only then is it the right moment to move beyond them.

Sue Coleridge: By Way of Pain: The Passage to Self

Greene, Liz: Relationships and How to Survive Them

Greenspan, Miriam: Healing Through the Dark Emotions: The Wisdom of Grief, Fear, and Despair
Moore, Thomas: The Dark Night of the Soul

Orloff, Judith, M.D.: Intuitive Healing: Five Steps to Physical, Emotional, and Sexual Wellness

For further information about Dr Gabriella Kortsch and her work go to

Psychotherapy, Life Coaching, Clinical Hypnotherapy, Advanced Psycho-Energetic Methods, Dr. Gabriela Kortsch, Ph.D., CHT CENTRO MEDICO ALBORAN, Avda. Manolete No. 1, Edificio Ibérico, 29660 Nueva Andalucía, Marbella, MA, SPAIN. (Opposite Puerto Banús in the yellow building on the corner of the N-340 over the Barclay’s Bank and La Tahona Café). Tel: (appointments) 34 95 281 4229, Tel: (direct line) 34 95 292 9071, Email:

© G. Kortsch, 2003, 2004, 2005. All rights reserved.

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