Everywhere you look you can find triangles. Being the only naturally rigid structure, they’re what the world is built on. They are a combination of beauty and simplicity, but perhaps that’s just my engineering background coming through. Yet their simplicity belies the strength and complexity of the structures they can create.
Murray Bowen was a 20th Century American Psychiatrist with a particular interest in families. He was one of the main players in the development of family therapy and understanding the family as a system, noting how it affected members either positively or negatively
Bowen’s Family Systems Theory seems to revolve around relational triangles; the smallest stable unit for an emotional system. Emotional triangles have a variety of shapes, but one of the most common is where one person, in order to manage their relationship with someone else, draws in a third person.
Depending on what they’re like, relational triangles can be either good or bad for the primary relationship.
A typical example might be the way we off-load. If someone has annoyed and frustrated us we may “let off steam” with another friend. The way that friend responds can be either constructive or destructive to the primary relationship.
Our friend may simply reinforce our feelings of frustration and disappointment, magnifying our dissatisfaction and perception of unfairness. This will be to the detriment of the primary relationship.
Conversely, if they gently challenge us to consider our own part in the situation and the other person’s perspective they may well help to strengthen the relationship.
There are two important questions here:
- What are my friends like? Do they help me strengthen my marriage?
- What kind of a friend am I? Do I help strengthen the marriages of my friends or do I, unwittingly or otherwise, devalue and weaken marriages?
Make a decision today to spend time with people who support your marriage, and to help others strengthen theirs.