Love Triangle…Love Quadrangle?


Ready for a little ‘love geometry’ lesson? You’ve heard of a ‘love triangle,’ right? That’s when A is married to B and B has an affair with C. You’ve got a triangle. A is connected to B connected to C.

OK. Let’s add another person to make this a quadrangle (square). A is married to B who is having an affair with C while A is having an affair with D. Now we’ve got A connected to B connected to C connected to D.

Now this is an interesting love-life arrangement for several reasons. First off, I like to think of this as a symbolic expression of ‘victimless infidelity.’ What I mean is, everybody has somebody in this arrangement.

Both spouses are having affairs while they are remaining married to each other. Now, the kids might not like this much, but as far as the spouses are concerned, they both have a source of satisfaction outside of the marriage.

Another interesting attribute of this particular marital arrangement is it’s ‘relatively stable.’ By stable I am referring to the fact that both spouses are attempting to solve their marital problem by seeking something they feel is missing in their marriage outside of their marriage.

Unless they are playing some kind of game with each other, neither one of them has to hunt around, or hire an investigator, to find out what the other spouse is up to. Since both spouses are having affairs they might intuitively know that this is the solution to their marital difficulties they both have chosen. In some cases it might even have a degree of unspoken or even spoken agreement built into it.

The last feature of this marital arrangement I’ll focus on is it’s demonstration of the fact that some people stay married, or even get married, for reasons other than being in love.  Now let’s see if we can compile a list of what these ‘other reasons’ might be: financial security, children, personal gain, physical security, public relations, sentimentality, obligation, family expectations, and career advantages.

There are probably a bunch more I haven’t thought of yet. I suspect that the ‘quadrangle couple’ is keeping the marriage going because of one or more of these advantages to staying married.

Like the traditional ‘love triangle’ the ‘love quadrangle’ is on a timeline dictated by the extent to which the two lovers the spouses are having affairs with are willing to continue a part-time limited love relationship. Like always, these ‘angular love relationships’ tend to last longer with less turbulence if the lovers (the people each spouse is having an affair with) don’t fall in love with their married counterparts. If they’re there for sex, money, prestige, a good time, friendship with benefits, part time ‘boy-toy’ or ‘girl-toy’ action, or some such motivator there will predictably be less conflict and the probability of greater endurance.

This kind of marital arrangement is not for someone looking for true love. Like always, true lovers predictably makes a mess out of quadrangle arrangements like they make a mess out of triangular ones. We shouldn’t be surprised, the poets and novelists keep telling us this is what true love does.

As soon as one person in the quadrangle falls in love and wants exclusivity, as true love tends to need and demand, the arrangement starts to fall apart at the seams. Like I said, some people get married for reasons other than being in love. I think it’s good to know what you’re looking for in your love-life.

Comments? Welcome. Dr. Tom Jordan

Dr. Jordan

Dr. Thomas Jordan is a clinical psychologist, certified interpersonal psychoanalyst, author, professor, and love life researcher.

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