How Do You Live Happily Ever After When There’s A Love Triangle?

Series: Intentional Clarity

Written by Dr. Gleb Tsipursky, Intentional Insights Co-Founder and President.


How do you live happily ever after when there’s a love triangle?

Mary, an electrician, and Bob, an administrative assistant, are happily married, and have been for 5 years. They met in their high school ninth-grade math class, where they sat at the same desk. Bob began courting Mary two weeks after they met. By tenth grade, they had been going steady for 6 months. They got engaged at the end of eleventh grade, and married right after their high school graduation. They are widely known as a great couple, and get along with each other really well. One day, John was hired at Mary’s electric company. John was handsome, outgoing, thoughtful, caring – exactly Mary’s type. Coincidentally, she was asked to train him. As a result, they spent a lot of time together, told each other about their lives, and got really close. Mary was really attracted to John, and wanted to have a romantic relationship with him, and he was happy to do so.

How does this story continue? Let’s imagine Scenario 1, where Mary and Bob are a traditional couple representative of the American mainstream. Mary really struggles with what to do. On the one hand, Bob is a great husband, and she loves him. On the other hand, she’s head over heels for John, and wants to have a romantic relationship with him. Finally, she gives in to her passion. She cheats on Bob, sleeps with John, and feels terrible about it. But she can’t stop herself from going forward with John. Eventually, Bob finds out. He’s very hurt and outraged, and asks for a divorce. There is pain and suffering all around.

But does it have to be this way? Let’s imagine Scenario 2. Mary and Bob are part of the growing movement, especially widespread among young people like themselves, called polyamory. Polyamory, often abbreviated as “poly,” is the practice of having more than one romantic relationship at a time with the knowledge and consent of everyone involved. Mary goes to Bob and tells him in an open and straightforward fashion about her attraction to John. Bob is glad to accept Mary’s desire to have a romantic relationship with John, and Mary and Bob discuss how to most effectively integrate her new relationship with their current one.

Isn’t the outcome of Scenario 2 better than Scenario 1? Instead of pain and suffering, there is trust, openness, and communication. Indeed, mutual transparency, honesty, and consent are key elements of poly relationships. Polyamory is increasingly gaining prominence in the mainstream media, and poly meetups and major gatherings have been growing by leaps and bounds around the country, including right here in Columbus, OH. Moreover, research on poly relationships show that people with consensual non-monogamous relationships are happier, especially with their sex lives, than those who are in traditional monogamous relationships, and communicate more openly. A major 15-year ethnographic research project showed the richness and diversity of poly families, within which individuals form relationships with a wide variety of partners and enjoy emotional and sexual freedom. At the same time, research indicates that poly relationships continue to face stigma among the public. If our purpose is to enable all people to live optimally happy, healthy, fulfilling, and flourishing lives, as is the vision of Intentional Insights, then should we not encourage an openness toward poly relationships as one among many relationship styles?

Being open to new ways of thinking and feeling about romantic relationships is part of a broader intentional strategy of evaluating reality more clearly by re-examining our cached patterns. This term refers to habits of thought and feelings in our mind that we absorbed uncritically from the social environment around us, as opposed to conclusions we arrived at by our own intentional reasoning. So if we were creating the best ways to thinking about romantic relationships from scratch, would it not make a lot of sense to orient ourselves toward decreasing stress and suffering, and instead increasing transparency and openness? Thinking probabilistically, openness and acceptance of poly relationships as one among many mainstream relationship styles is going to be the most likely outcome of this reasoning process. Re-evaluating our cached patterns of thought and feeling enables us to see reality more clearly, make more effective decisions, and achieve our goals, thus helping us gain agency in romantic relationships and other life areas.

● What are your thoughts about optimal romantic relationships?
● How do cached patterns of thinking and feeling impact your approach to relationships?
● What steps can you take to think about romantic relationships more effectively, and to encourage others to do so as well?



To avoid missing out on content that helps you reach your goals, subscribe to the Intentional Insights monthly newsletter.

The generosity of readers like you made this article possible. If you benefited from reading it, please consider volunteering or/and making a tax-deductible contribution to Intentional Insights, as well as buying our merchandise. Thank you for being awesome!

Recent Posts 10

A Pastor Walks Into a Room Full of Atheists

A Pastor Walks Into a Room Full of Atheists

July 18, 2016

How and why you should find community in diversity

Revenge for the Orlando Shooting Spree!

Revenge for the Orlando Shooting Spree!

July 11, 2016

What is the best path forward after the Orlando shooting spree?

How a Calculator Helped Me Multiply My Giving

How a Calculator Helped Me Multiply My Giving

July 5, 2016

How do you know where your gift makes the biggest impact?

 Online Video Course: Finding Meaning and Purpose in the Workplac

Online Video Course: Finding Meaning and Purpose in the Workplace Using Science

June 27, 2016

Help yourself and others find meaning and purpose in the workplace!

The Panama Papers Reveal the Solution to Global Suffering

The Panama Papers Reveal the Solution to Global Suffering

June 20, 2016

A fraction of the money stashed away in tax havens can relieve global suffering

How To Protect Yourself From False Beliefs

How To Protect Yourself From False Beliefs

June 13, 2016

Discover science-based strategies to see the truth in any situation!

The Healing Arts Initiative Scandal Shows The Need For Effective

The Healing Arts Initiative Scandal Shows The Need For Effective Altruism

June 6, 2016

We can solve the problems in the nonprofit sector by being savvy investors.

How To Avoid Impulsive Temptations

How To Avoid Impulsive Temptations

May 30, 2016

Think your way into willpower!

Why You Don’t Think You’re Beautiful

Why You Don’t Think You’re Beautiful

May 23, 2016

How our minds fail in thinking about beauty standards.

Trump Feels Your Anger and Anxiety:  How Neuroscience Helps Expla

Trump Feels Your Anger and Anxiety: How Neuroscience Helps Explain Trump's Triumphs

May 16, 2016

Puzzled by the election results? Neuroscience helps provide some insights.