Did you know that when things get tense in a relationship, it is human nature to bring in a third person do calm yourself down? When everything is lovely in a marriage, we’re often content to keep details just between our partner and us. But when tension rises, we have a tendency to pull in the first available person to listen to our countless woes.
Sometimes including a third party such as a therapist can be a great resource for a couple. But when one person in a marriage constantly relies on friends and family to vent about his or her spouse, these actions only increase the emotional distance between them and their partner. The twosome becomes a three party issue, sometimes referred to as an emotional triangle, and it can become more and more difficult to bring thoughts and concerns back to where they belong, which is between a person and his or her spouse.
Here are some of the most common people you might be tempted to “triangle” into romantic relationships. Which ones are your “go-to” third parties?
1. Your children. Children should never have to carry the weight of the conflict in a marriage, but they are often the first person a spouse turns to when complaining about a husband or wife. When a mother or father turns to their children to be the confidants for the secrets of the marriage, the other spouse is left feeling on the outside. This only increases the amount of conflict or emotional distance in the marriage, and it can create anxiety or “acting out” behaviors in the child, who feels overwhelmed by the emotional intensity.
2. Your Best Friend. Your best friend should know everything about your marriage, right? You might want to think again, if you’re constantly turning to a close friend to vent about your husband’s emotional aloofness or your wife’s irrational worries. Any friendship built on complaining about other people is not much of a friendship to begin with.
3. Your parents. Television and movies often make jokes about the mother-in-law being the third person in a marriage, always defending her son or daughter when they have an argument in their spouse. But it’s no joking matter when this alliance prevents equal and honest communication from happening. It’s difficult for any member of your family to be objective about your spouse when you constantly turn to them to share the negative and never the positive.
4. Your coworkers. Everyone knows that one person at the office whose spouse is a constant source of comedic relief in the break room. Letting off steam to your coworkers may be a quick way to bond with them, but addressing marital issues at work rather than in the relationship will only lead to increased distance or conflict between you and your significant other.
How do you escape these patterns? The easiest way is to start paying attention to your habits and direct your thoughts back to your one-to-one relationships. If you have an issue with your partner, then direct it back to them. Every relationship in your life will benefit from these practices, because relationships that are not built on blaming or gossiping or criticizing others are the ones that will stand the test of time. A friendship or a romance built on complaining about a third person will only make you more anxious and more stressed as an individual.
Fortunately, not all triangles are unhealthy! Enlisting a therapist to help direct the communication between the two of you can help you bring your relationship to a level that is more open, honest, and equal. Having a third party to help you decide when to share with each other and how to share with each other will decrease the temptation to bring anyone and everyone into the twosome.
Ready to start the work of better communication in your relationship? Let the counselors at the Relationship Center of Orange County help you take that first step. Call us today at 949-393-8662, or book your appointment via our online calendar.