Love triangle

A love triangle is a romantic relationship involving three 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, familial (often siblings), or even pre-existing hatred between rivals. Addition of bisexual or homosexual characters adds many possible combinations of sexes, and of romantic and sexual interactions.

The term "love triangle" almost always implies that the arrangement is unsuitable to one or more of the people involved. A similar arrangement that is agreed upon by all parties is sometimes called a triad, a type of polyamory, although polyamory usually implies sexual relations. Within the context of monogamy, love triangles are inherently unstable. Unrequited love and jealousy are common themes in love triangles. Though rare, love triangles have been known to lead to murder or suicide committed by the rejected lover.

Love triangles are an extremely popular theme in entertainment, especially romantic fiction, including opera, romance novels, soap operas, romantic comedies, Japanese comics and popular music.

Characteristics of love triangles

In television shows, a love triangle is often prolonged for a lengthy amount of time, delaying any final declarations of love between the main character and his or her suitors that may prematurely end this dynamic or displease fans. Similarly, romance films must 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.

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.

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 his or her feelings.

A less permanent love triangle can also occur when a former lover of the main character makes an unexpected appearance to win back his or her 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 his or her 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 his or her partner.

Usually, a love triangle will end with the hero or heroine confiding his or her feelings in the suitor he or she feels is the most virtuous or has the most interest in him or her, and the chosen one reciprocating his or her love. The other suitor usually will step aside to allow the couple to be happy, or come to terms with his or her feelings, often claiming that he or she could not love the main character as much as his or her rival does. Sometimes he or she will be 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 cliché, if done well, they can provide insight into the complexity of love and what is best to pursue in a romantic relationship.

A love triangle should not be confused with a ménage à trois, a three-way relationship in which all members are romantically involved with each other instead of being in conflict over one person.

Related terms

Love rectangle

Love rectangle is a somewhat facetious term to describe a romantic relationship that involves four people, analogous to the typically three-sided love triangle. Many people use this term for a romantic relationship between two people that is complicated by the romantic attentions of two other people, but it is more frequently reserved for relationships where there are more connections. Minimally, both male characters usually have some current or past association with both female characters. These relationships need not be sexual; they can be friendships or familial relations. Both males and/or both females can also be friends, family members (frequently siblings) or sworn enemies.

Love rectangles tend to be more complicated than love triangles, often using their tangled relationships as a source of comedic humor.

An example of a love rectangle in classic literature is in William Shakespeare's ''A Midsummer Night's Dream'', between the characters Lysander, Demetrius, Helena, and Hermia. Demetrius is granted Hermia's hand in marriage by her father, but Hermia loves Lysander, and the two flee, intending to elope. Demetrius pursues the couple, and Helena pursues Demetrius, whom she has always loved. The fairy Puck, in trying to use magic to resolve the situation, temporarily transfers both men's affections to Helena. Further tampering restores Lysander's love for Hermia. Demetrius, now in love with Helena, withdraws his claim on Hermia, and both couples are wed.

Another love rectangle happens in Mozart's Cosi Fan Tutte, where female characters Dorabella and Flordiligli (siblings) are Ferrando and Gugliemo's girlfriends respectively, and by the end of the opera they "accidentally" swap their boyfriends.

For additional terms, the word "love" can be added to the front of other shapes to reflect romantic relationships involving more people, e.g. "love pentagon".

See also

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