I came to a sudden realization the other day as I was reading a book-that-shall-remain-nameless. In reviews for the book, people were raving and raving about the love triangle in it and how it was such an impossible choice, how much you fall in love with all the characters, bla bla bla bla bla, so I settled myself in for a good, juicy read that would keep the pages turning. Only a funny thing happened as I was reading.
I realized I don’t actually like love triangles all that much.
I know there was a time when I used to enjoy this sort of thing more, but maybe I’ve gotten too crotchety now in my old age. Maybe I’ve seen one too many situations in real life where someone couldn’t make up his/her mind between two different people and realized that it really isn’t all that romantic and exciting, it’s actually just kind of cruel. Maybe I just needed to be eating more chocolate as I was reading said book (wait, who am I kidding, I ALWAYS need to be eating more chocolate). But whatever the case may be, I think I have fallen out of love with love triangles.
I guess my major problem with love triangles is I don’t buy the concept of being in love with two people at the same time. Much like love at first sight, this is a device often used in the-land-of-story that I can occasionally buy in a book or movie but never in real life. I mean, can you imagine the Romeo-Juliet scenario playing out with people from your high school? So-and-so meets so-and-so and falls instantly in love and elopes, like, a day later and then due to really bad communication skills they end up killing themselves? Actually, that sounds like something that could have happened at my high school—home to the high teen pregnancy rates and guns on the roof and crack houses burning down across the street—but you get my point. I understand that certain dramatic license can and should be taken to make a story more interesting; if we were to write out how actual relationships usually go with every text and facebook message being overanalyzed to death, it would be duller than watching paint dry (which, incidentally, is not as bad as everyone claims). However, love triangles sometimes bother me a bit more than love at first sight or predestination or some of the other more outlandish ‘love’ plotlines because there is that element of cruelty to it.
What it boils down to is this: with VERY few exceptions, love triangles are unbalanced. You can almost always tell who the protagonist at the center of the triangle actually truly loves and who would be better for them in the long run. You as a reader/viewer may have different ideas about who YOU would choose, but it’s usually pretty clear who the protagonist actually prefers. For instance, I myself am a Spike kind of girl, but we all know that Buffy really loved Angel the most. Therefore the entire premise of a love triangle is two people who are really in love, and a third person who in most cases is a poor clueless schmuck being strung along and strung along, only to be eventually dumped and left in the dirt.
I’m not sure why I feel so strongly about this because so far as I know, I’ve never been part of a love triangle and then left in the dust—but I feel for those poor saps. If this were the case of a third party making a nuisance of themselves on someone else’s relationship, it wouldn’t annoy me so much; i.e. if you’re totally in love with Ken and G.I. Joe keeps asking you out and asking you out, despite the fact that you’ve never given him any indication that you’re picking up what he’s puttin’ down, that’s all on G.I. Joe. He deserves what he gets. But by the very nature of it being a love triangle as opposed to a love line with a random third dot floating around— at some point you had to have given G.I. Joe the eye. Made him believe he had a chance when all along you knew you were really in love with Ken. And that kind of makes you a jerk.
To be fair, there are probably some scenarios where this sort of thing works. But they are few and far between. And to be completely hypocritical, while writing this I have thought of a few love-triangle-type situations in the books I myself am writing. But I think with maybe one exception, I’m never going to try to convince the reader that the girl/guy at the center of the triangle is equally in love with both parties. Because I think there would have to be some very extenuating circumstances for that to be true (and let me tell you, the one in mine is a real doozy). And I’m going to show the consequences of leading people on and playing with peoples’ hearts and not do an easy cop-out like having a new love interest suddenly appear for the injured third party (especially in the form of a half-vampire baby) or have two of the participants of the triangle turn out to be brother and sister (you ‘always knew’ Luke was your brother, Leia? Then why did you kiss him on Hoth??? Why?!!).
So I guess what I’m trying to say is you don’t have to cut out love triangles altogether. Just… triangle responsibly. Keep a designated reader around to make sure you don’t accidentally crash into a pole or throw up on someone’s shoes—metaphorically speaking, of course. And keep in mind that if you’re marrying one guy and slow-dancing cheek-to-cheek with another and telling him he completes your world all in the same day? You’re a jerk. Just sayin’.