TRIANGLES and the emotional process that operates within them have long been considered central to marital conflict and are well documented in the family therapy literature ( Bowen, 1966; Jackson, 1967; Guerin and Fogarty, 1972; Haley, 1973; Fogarty, 1975; Guerin and Guerin, 1976; Hoffman , 1981; Kerr, 1981; Nichols, 1984). The extramarital affair has been called "the eternal triangle," and triangular relationships have been recognized as significant clinical phenomena since the time of Freud.
Understanding triangles and triangulation in marital conflict is essential to identifying the dysfunctional process in marriage and mapping out appropriate intervention. In this chapter and the next, we will review the nature of triangles and triangulation, discuss how triangles contribute to marital conflict, and then consider a typology of the most common kinds of triangles that occur in marital conflict.
Our concept of the relationship triangle begins with Bowen's assumption that the emotional process in any dyad is unstable. Like Bowen ( 1966) and Fogarty ( 1975), we believe that this instability is tied to people's conflicting