The Bowen Center for the Study of the Family states, “A triangle is a three person relationship system.” Being the first born, my first triangle was the quintessential mother, father and baby. Nothing interrupts and changes lives more than the birth of a baby. What the relationship between the parents was before is forever changed. No matter how the originating factors are for the couple, that relationship is forever changed. For the better or not, the innocent third participant in the triangle is impacted by what that triangle does emotionally to all three.
Of all the three sides of the triangle, the relationships shift from two insiders and one outsider, always. “If the tension is too high for one triangle to contain, it spreads to a series of “interlocking” triangles. Spreading the tension can stabilize a system, but nothing gets resolved.” For instance, during my first weeks and months of life my mother and I spent most of our time together. Since we lived with my father’s parents and two adult brothers at the time, my mother and I shifted to having my grandmother be the third side of our triangle, which interlocked into the original threesome. My father, his brother Leon and my mother became another triangle that brought dad closer even to Leon as dad was now the outsider in the original triangle but an insider with the triangle of he, Leon and my mom. She hated Leon. Her jealousies knew no bounds until the day she died.
If one takes the multiple relationships they are involved with, much can be gained from an explained by examining how one feels within each experience where they are one of three. From my experience of mom giving birth to twins girls when I was six, a brother when I was seven and then another girl when I was 14 years old. Within the system of siblings alone, I am a part of a variety of triangles of emotional connection most of them the outsider. Birth order, amount of time between the births and state of the parent’s relationship can shift the ‘twirling triangles’ at an alarming rate.
I took the experience of my relationship with my parents in that first triangle out into the world and basically became the outsider of two others in almost all of them. It makes sense then, I attach to people in a detached manner. I am ready to, temporarily, shift to the insider when there is great tension between the original insiders. Conflict between two people already in relationship has always been my way in. It is a very interesting way to take a look at how we connect with family and friends through this family system point of view.
Let’s talk about it.
Debra Whittam is the author of “I'm I Going to be Ok?" For any media inquiries or questions please contact: Contact@DebraWhittam.com