What is Relational Triangling?

1 Corinthians 7:32-34 – I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided.

John and Susan were married in their late twenties. John had a group of male friends who grew up together, went to college together, and lived together while they were single. His friends were godly, fun to hang out with, and genuinely brothers in the biblical sense of the word. 

After getting married, Susan started getting jealous of John’s time with his friends. Every Thursday night, he was out playing basketball with them. It seemed like every professional sports season had them getting together to watch a game or two a week. 

John loved his wife but had not made the healthy shift in priorities from a single man to a married man. Susan asked him to meet with her and their pastor. John explained that he wanted to stay close to his brothers and also wanted to be close to his wife and so he was torn with how to spend his time. The pastor explained to him that his brothers were a friendship relationship but that his marriage was a more sacred and higher priority covenant relationship. 

In Christianity, marriage is a sacred covenant between a husband, wife, and their Lord. For the Christian, marriage has two elements. First, there is the covenant that includes prayers and vows to God. Second, there is consummation where the two become one flesh. This sacred view of marriage is completely antithetical to our culture, which holds a low view of sex and marriage. 

Counselors refer to the relationships that form as “triangling” or “triangles”. A triangle is an emotional unit of three people. Triangles keep you in the family or friend group, enmeshed and unable to leave your father and mother, or in this case your “brothers”, to begin a new family with your spouse. 

Triangles can be good or bad. Sometimes a “good” or at least understandable triangle forms when a child chooses to care for a sick or injured parent or sibling or the family has to stick together to survive in times of war, depression, or immigration to a new nation and so triangles form. 

Sometimes a “bad” triangle forms when the cultural demands of the family require enmeshment, there is financial manipulation between family members by controlling people with money, or children are trying to save their parents’ broken marriage, which leaves them unable to focus on their own marriage. In the case of John and Susan, he had a triangle with him, his wife, and his “brothers”. He was feeling torn by his loyalties, and she was feeling jealous of his priorities. 

We will look more at relational triangles in the next devo.

What people have you known that set a good and godly example of covenant marriage? What lessons can you learn from them?

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