[Think Aloud] – #13 – Love Triangles Are Not Actually Triangles

Think Aloud explores book-related discussions encompassing reading, writing, blogging, and perhaps newsworthy content. The focus is to push the boundaries, stretch the mind, and encourage dialogue within this community. Let’s all think out loud.

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Table Topic:
Love Triangles
Are Not Actually Triangles

Abstract:

Modern love triangles should not be confused with Love-V’s.

(Disclaimer: I’m ignoring the likely origin of love triangles referencing A likes B, B likes C, and C likes A for the point to be made. The word triangle is used more a dozen+ times. I apologize if you end up hating triangles.)


Thoughts:

What makes a love triangle…a triangle?

The central point of two diverging alternatives creates a V-shape but the divergence isn’t typically connected at all; by friendship or love. If they were, many books would be promoting diversity in a negative light as it essentially shrugs off the unexplored relationship. See, the problem I have with love triangles is in the shape itself. I’m no math guru but three vertices + two edges does not equate to a triangle. It doesn’t work like that and it’s in the missing third-side that makes the concept incomplete.

True love triangles seldom exist and those that are coined as such aren’t even triangles at all; and honestly, I fault readers for this. I blame our laziness for continually defining something as a narrative gem when it’s obviously a rock. (Or vice-versa, really.) Yes, putting things into boxes have made things easier to digest but describing [what is in essence] a Love-V as a triangle restricts the possibility for real love triangles to be aptly named.

lovetriangle_lovev_diagram_edited2

(Genders are being generalized for sake of example.)

By all intents and purposes, Exhibit A is the standard “love triangle” we buy into even if both suitors have no connection (aside from scathing bitterness). While this appears in our minds, Exhibit B is what’s actually happening. When you stamp romances with the love triangle label, the perspective taking shape is one which centers on a boy/girl having two suitors of the opposite sex. This label, whether we mean to or not, is what has become of most geometric romances in storytelling; a narrow scope that diminishes sex-positive diversity and non-hetero relationships.

But what can we say about the relationship between two persons of interest in the same triangle as the origin?

Irrespective of the protagonist’s sexuality, the result will always open up the LGBTQIA dialogue with homosexuality or bisexuality at the forefront of what influences the formation of the third edge. With current love triangles being typically underscored as heterosexually-driven, the onus on comments seem to require the distinction in romantic portrayal over-and-beyond the listed genre; that is, whether or not the involved romance is part of the LGBTQIA-spectrum.

This is absurd when the opposite should be true.

The flaw in modern [heterosexual] love-triangles is that they don’t actually exist in practice. The closest it can come to what we label as a “love triangle” is if the persons of interest are bisexual. To put it in perspective (and without making it sound exclusive or anything): Love-V’s can exist for every single sexual orientation relationship but love-triangles can only be truly represented in the light of LGBTQIA.

Let me use some pop-culture examples. Take your pick: Twilight? Hunger Games? Vampire Diaries? Brangelina & Anniston?

I’m sure many have been part of the eternal debate to decide which side of the triangle you fall under. But unless there’s some unknown polygamous friends-with-benefits relationship happening, then it should be set in stone that Edward + Jacob, Gale + Peeta, Stefan and Damon, and Angelina + Anniston can be shipped but it isn’t realistic in the reigns of the narrative to do so. It would be disingenuous to label them as a love shape unless their relationship is possible. It’s in the fulfillment of relationship between both persons of interest that distinguish a love triangle between that of a Love-V.

Yet despite my belief that Love-V just sounds outright confusing and ugly, I’m not saying that you should ever stop waving the flag of feels toward shapely romances for its [often] clichéd and drama-llama writing. Instead, I implore you to send them in the right direction—to acknowledge whether or not it’s a love-letter or a love-shape—because there is a difference.

And that’s that.


Afterthought Prompts:

  • What’s your definition of a love triangle?
  • What’s your opinion on readers continually using love triangles when they’re actually trying to describe a love-V?
  • What would you like to see more of in a love triangle (or done differently); or would you just want to see less of this trope?

Obviously I’m not here to make you change how you go about your day but I hope to have made you think about the misused label to describe so many romances. And to be frank, I’m pretty guilty of it too!

As always, just remember to think aloud.

Cheers,
Joey

Also special thanks to Shelumiel @ Bookish and Awesome and Savindi @ The Streetlight Reader for being part of the beta-read experience (because we all need guidance sometimes).


Post Inspiration:

So…this idea came to me after the other think aloud where I talked about Instalove In Post Apocalyptic Settings and why it should be realistic to get with everyone.  Not to mention a few months ago I looked at The Diminishing Utility of Love Triangles. Both of these were in the same realms of topic….but this post, on the other hand, was more of a thought that started as love triangles not really making a lot of sense to me when the two characters of interest were rarely connected. Then my brain was like wut? and everything above happened.

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64 thoughts on “[Think Aloud] – #13 – Love Triangles Are Not Actually Triangles”

  1. OMG Yes. I’ve had very similar thoughts a while back. For the most part, I stick with the general definition, since I don’t feel like making people think I’m crazier than I already seem by pointing out the triangle isn’t exactly a triangle. Semantics.

    The traditional love triangles I’ve read I’m pretty sick of, not that I’ve come across a lot (usually when I see an obvious one coming up in the synopsis I put the book down), but I’ve been dying to read an actual triangle.

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    1. But being a sheep (among all the other sheep) inhibits progress. We’re as good as dead if we remain stagnant! With people waving the “lgbt is the new black” flag, love triangles deserve equal representation too, I’d say. I think if you can find a contemporary YA that deals with any of the LGBTIA spectrum with a Love-V then you’re guaranteed to find that proper triangle. I’ve been told Andrew Smith’s Grasshopper Jungle has a love triangle via bisexual character. So that’s something!

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      1. Very valid points, I agree, though equal representation to me is not so much as important as realistic representation, if that makes sense. With so many poorly executed hetero love-Vs out there that leave readers meh, the LGBT community could really use that one well-done, convincingly portrayed love triangle, and it’s probably hard to come by. The community at its current state is still one that will suffer from badly written love triangles. But I’m probably drifting away.

        I’ve no idea about Grasshopper Jungle, but that certainly sounds like something!

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        1. That’s fair. I just think part of what I hope to see is just having that openness in fiction to explore those tropes–good or bad. Because if it’s not represented at all, then it’s as good as nonexistent (well, I’m stating the extreme…but it kind of feels like that).

          Obviously it’s difficult to discern what’s “good” but you gotta take the bad with diversification. The good stories with well-represented love triangles will come. You just gotta find them I guess.

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    1. You have to push the boundaries however you can and with whatever capacity you can do it from. Seconds will pass and forward is the only way we can go; so any glimpses of thought-for-progress should be accepted–right or wrong.

      Well…that’s the hope at least. All I can do is try, right?

      These topics are definitely more fun for me than talking about e-readers vs paperback or most generic topics (not to discredit those as being lesser topics–they just aren’t me and what I want to achieve).

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  2. Hmmm… some interesting topics you’ve got here!

    Well put in acknowledging the proper use- or rather the misuse of the term “love triangle” when its technically a “love- v”. I’ve never really put that much thought into the term because it was widely used by the population.

    Awesome topic!

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    1. Please, I always bring the interesting into your world and hopefully maybe you’ll be able to throw some caution into the wind considering you read so many contemporary romances!

      Although I’m wondering if there’s a better term for love-v because it sounds so blah. Got any ideas?

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  3. Yes, yes, YES! I definitely went on a rant about this in high school one day. My friends ignored me. Apparently I ramble a lot about things they find pointless? Anywho, I’m glad someone else is FINALLY pointing this out! And it was very excellently demonstrated by the way; I LOVE your drawing!

    Interestingly enough, I’ve known more TRUE love TRIANGLES in real life than I’ve read in fiction. Oh, college. How I learned so much from you that had nothing to do with classes >.>

    ~ Liza @ Classy Cat Books

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    1. I just remembered WHY I ended up leading a rant about what a love triangle actually is. One of my friends suggested that one our mutual acquaintances was caught up in a love square because she had 3 pursuers. I suggested that it was really more a love 3-pointed-asterisk with said acquaintance in the middle.

      ~ Liza @ Classy Cat Books

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      1. Haha oh the joys of watching the drama (and perils) of young relationships. Buuuuuuut I love viewing drama as long as it doesn’t happen to me (I’m super rude like that) so I hope you had a lot of fun with it (maybe?!)

        I have also considered love-squares before but I think a true square (oh goodness don’t get me started on another shape) can’t have 3 vying for 1 person. I’d say you’re on the money with it being a asterisk. Squares, I find, should have two “protagonist-y” characters + 2 persons of interest.

        But that’s just my thoughts!

        Like

    2. If love triangles (or V-shape romances) are pointless than so is anything romance-related (which I bet they’d not agree with).

      But I am certainly glad you were able to make sense of my babbling because even I have to double-take several times reading this wondering “brain, is this all you can vomit?”

      It’s interesting that you’ve experienced (within close proximity) more “true” love triangles IRL than in stories. But I do agree that the scope of culture in university (and the people you meet) would prove for some great stories to be had with love triangles!

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  4. Ha! This is totally true. I guess readers would likely choose an easy cop-out instead of actually defining what a real love triangle is. Hence, our modern day perception of a love triangle. But like everybody else, I choose to use the faulted term (forgive me). Or maybe I’ll just call it the Love V.

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    1. Yeah, we’ll probably all end up going back to calling it love-triangles (because boo change). Can you think of another name other than Love-V? It doesn’t quite roll off the tongue like it should. Maybe that’s the problem for the term to be more accessible…

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  5. I’ve been using this term and I never realized until today , how wrong I actually was. To be honest not many readers ( including me) would think of not joining the last two points in the love V together , because it’s what instinct and maths has taught us.
    I would love to never see or read about Love V’s . It would be really interesting to see how a real Triangle works out.
    Thank you for a really good post Joey .

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    1. Well I’m glad I sparked some thought in how you perceive romances haha. I think there’s a time and place for any kind of romance, it’s just that we’re so drowned in “modern love triangles” that sometimes we just need to see a different perspective (that perspective being true love-triangles).

      Thank you for reading this post and getting inspired (hopefully)!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. This was really interesting to read because it points out one of those things that could have been, and maybe should be, obvious (but then, I also defend that I was never good at geometry). I do wish we saw more real triangles, of either variation that you touch on in your post, and fewer love-Vs (which almost sounds like a killer robot).

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    1. Yeah, I wish there was a better name for it but I couldn’t think of anything…so I guess I’ll settle for Love-V (sounds like love…which reminds me of lovey dovey…which cannot be good but also so incredibly accurate of some romantic portrayals).

      Anyhow, I’m probably still at fault for labeling romances at love-triangles but maybe I’ll try out using Love-V’s instead and see if it sticks haha. I encourage you to try it out too!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Great topic!
    I’ve always recognized that love triangles are V-shapes like you said. I’ve really only read two books where there was a true, true love triangle where attraction went in two directions between 3 people. You bring up a great point that love triangles can take on different shapes.

    However, I still use the term “love triangle” in my reviews of how to describe a situation where the protagonist (usually) is caught between two love interests. Those relationship dynamics create the V but the entire situation of being torn because of “love” is what completes the triangle to me. A love triangle to me isn’t the same as an “attraction triangle”.

    I think it’s important that you can’t forget about the relationship between the two POI competing for love. While it isn’t an attraction between them, they still have a connection to some degree and I think that can also contribute to the forming of the “triangle”.

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    1. Might I inquire which two books those are that have true love triangles? I’m always looking to expand that TBR pile.

      I’m probably in the same boat with you in labeling romances at ‘love triangles’ for the sake of leaving it accessible for others.

      It’s an interesting point you bring up regarding the friendship/not-friendship connection shared between both characters of interest that still make it a viable love-triangle.

      I’m going to play devil’s advocate for a bit (for discussions sake!) and ask for you to elaborate on whether or not POV plays a factor in your description of a love triangle. I understand that complexities of love validate the triangle forming…but the way I’m currently seeing it, it’s generally catering to the protagonists only. (Meaning, it’s their love triangle–not a love triangle that could fit for one of the characters of interest.)

      To elaborate, consider if one POI loves the protagonist + another person (let’s say character-added-for-drama). Wouldn’t that be their love triangle then?

      What i’m getting at is: is it possible to have one single universal love-triangle for a single book? Or is it all based on perception?

      (I apologize if this is off topic but spurring debates is so fun haha!)

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      1. Haha no worries playing devil’s advocate! It makes discussions more fun!

        You know, the name of the second books escapes me ATM but the one book I read was No One Needs to Know by Amanda Grace. But now that I think about it, I suppose it isn’t a true love triangle because the two of the characters are twins–but they do share a “love connection” even if it isn’t passionate love. It isn’t a stellar book but it’s a light, quick read.

        In terms of perception (if I am understanding your point correctly) I think that everyone who is within the triangle can call it their love triangle. That’s the beauty of a triangle right? It’s symmetrical–or at least in my eyes it is–but that can also be debated. Perhaps its more of an isosceles triangle when it really is only a V between three people?

        One book I read, One & Only by Viv Daniels, the protagonist is the “other woman” and it is the guy POI (who we don’t get the POV for) who is torn between two girls. I still consider that heroine in a love triangle even if she isn’t the one who has to choose between two people. It’s still a situation where three people have to make a decision that excludes one person from the equation (though in “true” love triangles that might not be the case or at least that’s how it seems to work in really bad erotica novels haha).

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        1. That’s interesting you bring up the actual type of triangle shape haha. I’d imagine most triangles are scalene than isoceles. It’s always unfair to one of the parties (who get shafted and cast aside so much easier than the other suitor…).

          I think one problem I run into concerning the “other character” not being the one who gets to choose is that what if said other character has another choice as well? Imagine if a Love-V changes into a Love-Z. Would it be the case that a character can be in multiple triangles? How can the “other character” claim to be part of the main triangle when their second suitor is outside of that relationship.

          (I hope that makes sense–I might have to make a new post about this Love-Z LOL.)

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          1. The “Love-Z” haha I love it! You’re totally right though, just because you are a part of one triangle doesn’t mean you can’t be a part of another. Each character is a pivot point in my mind so I don’t discount the idea that there is a second love triangle out there that is connected to the original.

            Perhaps a love Z is a better way to describe it. You know, when I come across that situation in books I refer to it as a “love square” or “love polygon”. I find they become too complex and they really turn me off of a book.

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  8. Surely if the two suitors are bros (or broettes) then it is still a love triangle? Maybe? Although there have been many occasion where I have been disappointed that the twist to every love triangle isn’t that the two male suitors are actually doing it :p

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    1. HAHA BROETTES. That’s wonderful omg.

      You bring up an interesting thought on bromances (and the female equivalent). And since I’m all for bromancing, I guess that could be a viable reasoning for the triangle formation. Geez, why didn’t I think of that extra variable in this post! Perhaps it’s a story to be written and you will be the one to write it!

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  9. THERE’S A REAL LOVE TRIANGLE IN FANS OF THE IMPOSSIBLE LIFE BY KATE SCELSA AND IT IS GLORIOUS. 😀 😀 It comes out in September!! Other than that I can’t think of any YA with a real love triangle rather than a love-V, and honestly, I’m dying to read more. I read plenty of fanfiction with real love triangles aka OT3s… As someone who has always pushed for more bisexual characters in YA and tries her best to raise awareness of whatever bisexual characters do already exist in YA, real love triangles are something I’m very much interested in seeing. Real love triangles also involve polyamory as well, which is something I’d also love to see more of in YA.

    Honestly, I have no problem with people using the term love triangle as they normally do because we all know what it means; for poly love triangles of the type where all three are involved with each other emotionally/sexually we could in fact use the word triad (as many poly people do).

    Anyway, great post! 😀

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    1. Oh, is that right? I actually mentioned Fans of the Impossible Life, but I wasn’t so sure ’cause I haven’t read it and was just taking from the synopsis. So I thought the connection between Sebby and Mira is “best friends.”

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    2. Thanks for the heads up on that TBR-add! I’ll definitely have to check it out (especially with it being released on my month of birth).

      I’m curious though (and you may or may not be able to answer this), how often do you see Love-V’s/Love trianglse in LGBT books. Or for clarity: what’s the chance you’ll see a male/female POV with two suitors of the same sex (= for the true triangle)? I’m just curious since I don’t really read that many in this genre.

      And haha yes! Fanfictions are wonderful for that. Man, I haven’t read a fanfic in forever but I remember reading the most random dodecahedron romances way way back.

      It’s interesting to me though that you seem very aware with this lacking concept of a “true” representation of love triangles. I’m loving this! And yes, I’d have to agree that polyamory is a variant that does work in favour of this trope; and if it’s in YA, it is in the hopes that readerships don’t cast it off as unrealistic and sleazy (because as much as it can be well written–the audience might not be able to reciprocate this interest).

      And haha–when you say “Triad” I’m literally imagining a mafia-triad.

      Like

  10. This is an awesome topic and as I read this post it really opened my eyes to realise how we misuse that term! I agree that the term ‘love triangle’ isn’t accurate but at the same time I think that people have become so accustomed to the term that the meaning has slipped. But I think, the ought this post, we don’t have to change the name for our ‘love-vs’ but we can use love triangle with the conscious thought of what we actually mean by it, whether it be a relationship between all three characters or the classic V.

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    1. I definitely don’t want to push the idea that we’re all “wrong” but instead to change the thinking that it can be different; that it can be seen in a different light.

      You’re right that we’ve grown comfortable to these labels in various multimedia outlets that I’m surprised that the meaning really has shifted from its origins (A -> B, B -> C, C -> A). I don’t have proof of that being the legitimate meaning but it makes the most sense if we remove the possibility of LGBTQIA as not being a “big trend” way back when love triangles were introduced to ease understanding.

      Just to play police a bit: but a problem that arises with consciously rationalizing a meaning like a ‘love triangle’ is that it goes back to what you said before–that we become accustom to accepting what it has evolved into on a very basic level that it’s easier to say “oh, okay, I get what it means” without truly sympathizing what it really means (if that makes sense?). That’s what I fear: that we’ll go back to our old ways and just see it as eager semantics that won’t hold true.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Reblogged this on What Am I Reading? and commented:
    An amazing post on the rarity of actual love triangles, but the overuse of the term love triangle. I admit that I’ve used the term love triangle/quadrangle/polygon when I’m simply trying to convey the message that one person has obtained the interest of multiple suitors. Now I want to read a book that actually executes a love triangle and not a Love-V.

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    1. I’m happy that you enjoyed this read!

      I think we’re all pretty guilty of using it without thinking much about it as it is extremely easy to take for granted the big picture [meanings] without considering the nuances in detail.

      From this thread alone, there have been welcome additions shared about some “true” love triangles stories:
      – “Fans of the Impossible Life” Kate Scelsa
      – “Grasshopper Jungle” – Andrew Smith
      – and perhaps many more in the future as this thread evolves!

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  12. HAHAHA. I’ve been saying that for years but my friends keep side-eyeing me when I insist that love triangles are missing a romantic link to complete the triangle. Except I see them more as see-saws or pendulums, which fits in with the MCs’ indecision between two love interests.

    Your point about how a true love triangle necessitates an LGBTQ set-up is a very important one. I think this is something the term “love triangle” in the heterosexual sense does somewhat sideline.

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    1. One day…when love triangles affect them, they’ll know that they were misusing the term (and then they’ll be like, dang I should have listened to ABC person).

      I think that’s part of the problem and why it’s so easy to dismiss these issues–cause they seldom see it for the problem it could be. It’s like if they had a nickname since forever and then suddenly get told that it’s actually something derogatory (well, maybe that’s extreme). Unless they’re confronted with such a a first-world problem then we’ll just all live that ignorant lifestyle out of ease.

      It has come to my attention that most people have failed Kindergarten geometry. Like, it’s a triangle. What you describe is not a triangle. I don’t know how simpler it can get LOL.

      Like

  13. This is so funny! I’ve never actually thought about it, but you’re totally right that it’s not actually a triangle. But now I want to read a book with an actual love triangle because that would be really interesting … hmmm …

    Oh, wait!! I did think of one actual love triangle – in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. Viola is in love with Orsino, but she is disguised as a man. Orsino is in love with Olivia, but when Viola is sent to Olivia to bring her a message of Orsino’s love, Olivia falls in insta-love with Viola (who she thinks is a man)! So, see Shakespeare came up with an actual love triangle many many moons ago!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

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  14. Hahaha! Great perspective! I was just thinking about this the other day as I was reading a book, that has somewhat of a love “triangle”. Except it really isn’t a triangle. It only is in theory. Love it!

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  15. So this makes a LOT of sense, with a V being a much more appropriate shape. However, aside from non-heterosexual attraction being able to form a love triangle, do you think it can be argued that the shape can be a triangle if there are strong emotional connections between all three characters that can be impacted by two out of the three people involved? For example, if there’s a female protagonist torn between tow guys, and both guys like her but are really good friends, and their relationship will be destroyed/betrayed if one of them ends up with the girl, then can that constitute a “love” triangle of sorts?

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    1. From your example, I think you can definitely argue “love triangles” not having a fully formed “lust/love” third side but as long as they’re connected then it’s completely viable. I think a point to note is that so often there aren’t fully fleshed out relationships between the two-guys, which semantically speaking, would never result to a triangle under any circumstance. But I’d say bromances can definitely count (if vying for a female lead) even if it doesn’t fall under the ought-to-be traditional triangle.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. This is a really good topic to think over, and incrediby accurate. I am so over “love triangles” for just this reason. They’re inaccurate. I actually had this same discussion with a friend before. Most conventional of triangles in film and books don’t truly exist. What also annoys, is when a romance is described as a triangle, but the protagonist is only really interested in one of the suiters. The other is just ridiculously pining away.

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    1. It’s even worse when a triangle is suggested and the other suitor who was never even involved to begin with is sacrficed (in death or just cast aside) and viewers ought to feel emotional for the loss.

      And people wonder why I enjoy supporting characters more than the main cast…haaah.

      Like

  17. YES! I’m so glad to see this post here, it really made my day! I’ve tried and tried to make everyone around me understand that the typical love triangles we talk about are not ‘triangles’ at all! They just don’t understand 😦 Or maybe I’m really bad at explaining stuff…
    You definitely did a great job, though! Especially with that diagram… that was a great idea!
    (This is the first time I’m visiting your blog and I’ve already totally fallen in love with your ‘Think Aloud’ posts… they’re sooo cool!)

    Like

    1. It’s difficult to shift ways of thinking when we’ve grown so accustomed (and comfortable) to one method–so I understand the feels in having difficulties in explaining a different way to look at “love triangles”. But hey, a lot of the community seems to have your back in that regard though :)!

      I’m glad you enjoyed the discussions! It’s all the more worth it when I can write something that resonates with readers of all kinds.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes.. and the difficulties include people looking at you like you’ve just grown a head or something… *sigh*
        Of course I enjoyed, these discussions of yours are brilliant! Keep them coming!

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