The Geometry of Cheating: Triangles


Unfortunately, many people experience infidelity as either the cheater or the partner of the cheater. This post will highlight the dynamics of cheating, based on Bowen’s concept of triangulation.

A triangle occurs when a person goes outside their primary relationship in order to fulfill emotional or sexual needs. In fact, triangles are not exclusive to physical affairs. Some individuals triangulate with their pets, children, parents, and even memories of an old flame. The underlying factor here is that one of the partners will be left feeling like the odd man out.

With regard to emotional or sexual affairs, one partner is redistributing their energy, actions, anxiety onto a third person. Triangles easily indicate deficits in the primary relationship- whether it be lack of communication, intimacy or passion. Paradoxically, triangles guarantee that no one is getting their needs met, yet the third-party helps stabilize and even maintain the primary relationship. In other words, for some individuals, infidelity keeps the primary relationship intact, for a time. Overall, there is no resolution all around.

Therefore, triangulation, an underlying factor of cheating requires that partners in the primary relationship recognize relational deficits and work toward improving them.


Technology and Cheating: Opportunity

Research suggests that 21 % of men and 11% of women will be sexually unfaithful in their lifetime. In fact, these percentages are quickly rising and the gender gap is getting smaller.

As mentioned in a previous post, social media sites such as Facebook are quickly becoming a catalyst for betrayal.

One factor that contributes to infidelity is opportunity. Having an opportunity to cheat with someone who is emotionally or sexually available, is a major predictor of cheating.

Technology, including texting and social media, substantially increase a person’s opportunity to cheat. Texting and emails allow for covert, private communication, while social media sites allow a person to reach out to an old flame instantaneously.

This topic is explored in a 4 minute clip on NPR. You can listen to the brief segment here.

Although there are a plethora of factors that contribute to cheating, opportunity is a poignant one to be considered.