This is the last of the four talks I did with Paul when we spoke on marriage the first two Sunday nights at Emmanuel in Enid.
I started with some thoughts on respect. I remember when I began to realize I hadn't a clue about the real meaning of this word. We were traveling some place with our two grown daughters and one asked the question, "How can I teach my kids to respect me?" As the discussion progressed, I came to realize that respect is one of those character traits that is more caught than taught. And that began my search to understand respect and to learn what it really was and what it means in relationships.
I also came to realize that perhaps the opposite of respect in relationships is shame or shaming someone. Maybe the opposite of the definition of respect could be applied to the definition of shame, communicating no value and or no personal worth or disrespecting a person. Shaming was my modus operandi, it was my way of relating, quite unknown to me. This could be a whole course of study in itself.
The main subject of my talk was triangling in relationships, and I used these thoughts on respect to segue into saying that triangling is a form of disrespect or shaming.
A triangle in a relationship involves three people. An example is shown with this diagram. There's me, you, and another person involved in a triangle. The black arrows show how relationships should be one on one, between two people. The red arrows show an unhealthy triangled relationship. One person (Me) relating to Other and trying to get Other and You to have a good relationship. That's triangling.
Triangles in relationships develop as a self-protective reflex of the emotional system itself.
Let me attempt to explain. Let's take a couple with their son and say that the Dad and the son do not get along. Mom tries to get the two to understand and relate to each other and she explains one to the other and she ends up being the intermediary and the relationship is in a triangular system.
Triangling is a natural effort to preserve the emotional system as it is, to keep it from disintegrating. The triangler (person) is well meaning, but what happens is that triangles in relationships prevent things from getting better and improving, as well as from getting worse.
A good illustration of this is a three-legged stool, which is an unhealthy picture of a relationship. All relationships should be two-way, relating from one person to another based on the two only and not on a third person. The principle: make your relationships two-party, not three-party.
Emotional triangles are common in families, among mothers, fathers, and children. Usually two close people are closely involved and the third person is the outsider.
The underlying cause of triangle relationships developing is when anxiety arises. Often, a person can't face the problems they have with another and to relieve that anxiety, draws in a third person. That way the problems can be talked about and fretted over with another, but not with the person involved. That relieves the anxiety, but does not lead to resolution or healthy relationships. The result is two unhealthy relationships. The solution is to make sure that all your relationships are between you and the other person only and not based on negatives about a third person.
This was a major lesson for me to learn. When I quit triangling in relationships, I found that I had to own each of my relationships and tackle my problems with each person I was in relationship with. I also found I was drawing strength and emotional satisfaction by this two-against-one situation. How bad is that!
Practicing this has revealed me to me. Interesting, huh? I now concentrate on my relationships, one-on-one and leave all other relationships to the two people involved. What a novel idea! And in the process I'm learning to respect myself, respect others, and not to shame or disrepect other people. Healthy, healthy! Getting there...
Oddly, it occurs to me that this is a long way around to coming to the Golden Rule. Who knew!