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Evaluation In Marital Therapy: Triangles

Today, we will continue the series on the evaluation and treatment of  marital conflict examining another part of the marital dyad. Triangles, a term coined by Murray Bowen, refers to the idea that a two-person emotional system is unstable. When under stress, partners tend to draw in a third party to stabilize the relationship. Meaning, the relationship stress that one is enduring is put on an outside party. 

We are following along what Philip J. Guerin, Jr. Leo F. Fay, Susan L. Burden, and Judith Gilbert Kautto wrote in The Evaluation and Treatment of Marital Conflict. The authors discuss how 6 triangles, and triangulation, serve to externalize the conflict. Triangles that have one member outside the family include extramarital affairs and social networks. Triangles that occur within the family include in-laws, children, stepfamily, and primary parental figures.

In a sense, triangles can appear to relieve stress and benefit the couple. This relief is temporary. Over time, those positive changes can become a distraction from an issue the couple would benefit in the long run by identifying and working through them. Often times, these triangles indicate that there is an inadequacy in the relationship that the couple is ignoring.

What is your relationship experiencing?

Do you find yourself going to friends to decompress about a marital issue instead of confronting your spouse with respect and assertiveness?

Are you seeking emotional connection with someone else online that you miss getting from your spouse?

Have you stopped making time for your partner and instead invested any spare time into work or a child?

If so, there might be a triangle that is attempting to stabilize the stressful conditions of your marriage.

Give Amy Wine Counseling Center a call at 832-421-8714 if you have questions about our marriage counseling services or if you would like to schedule an appointment with one of our counselors on staff.


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