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.