In Defense of Love Triangles

Posted June 15, 2015 by Bekka in discuss / 9 Comments

love triangles

*Editing in to add two great posts by Gillian and Ashleigh on love triangles and why they’re awesome.

We all have tropes and plot devices that we dislike. For some it’s alpha males, mean girls, or a dead character not actually staying dead. Of course, everyone has their reasons for disliking a certain trope, and they’re all pretty much valid (unless you’re tired of see f/f romances or “diversity for the sake of diversity” or something similar, in which case go away.) And what doesn’t work for some, is another person’s crack. However, one romantic trope that seems to be universally disliked is the dreaded Love Triangle.

Typically, you can see a love triangle coming from a mile away. Key phrasing on the dust jacket alone can send up glaring red flags. I know a lot – A LOT – of readers who go running at the first sign of a romantic polygon, and I understand, to a point. But as someone who isn’t quite as invested in romances the way many readers seem to be, I’m here to tell you why I don’t think they’re the most terrible blight upon our fiction.

First of all, these are teens we’re talking about. I know that a ton of people married their first significant other, but high school sweetheart forevers aren’t typical. What is typical, is the rapid-changing heart of a teenager who is totally enamored by one boy this week, but comes back to school on Monday with eyes only for… someone else. When I was in high school, which wasn’t very long ago, it wasn’t unheard of to see couples breaking up and within days each separate half finding someone new. What was rare was to see couples stay together for years. I’ve lived both experiences and I feel pretty safe in saying that most teenagers are in fact lead by hormones and thus ride those waves from person to person, at least for a little while. This isn’t discounting the things teenagers feel – of course, it is all genuine and it is intense and I’d never for a second disbelieve any of it. These feelings are real, however fleeting, and so I find it perfectly acceptable that a teenager will have multiple romantic endeavors over the course of a book or series.

People love in different ways. I’ve heard so many times that it’s only possible to be in love once, and if you fall in love with someone else (even later in life!) then one of the relationships wasn’t Real Love. First of all, f you very much for policing another person’s relationships and trying to invalidate their feelings. Second, what works for you doesn’t necessarily work for someone else. A teenager who grows up to be a poly adult will likely go through a string of relationships that are already complicated without other people’s judgment. When you’re that young, it’s hard to put into words the things you’re feeling, especially if those feelings go against the grain of mainstream society. Now, I’m not saying that every girl who finds herself at a point of a love triangle is polyamorous, but I’d caution against passing judgment on young people growing up and getting to know themselves.

Now, for a less serious note, love triangles are just plain fun. I’m not an advocate for leading someone on or manipulating someone who loves you (but those things do happen – and often – no matter the person’s intentions.) But I do love the good back-and-forth of a love triangle. Often in YA, each boy represents a different side of the girl. In fiction, the stakes are higher, and so choosing one boy isn’t as simple as choosing who to kiss – it’s choosing which path you want your life to take. It’s choosing what kind of person you want to be. The boys aren’t just boys, but their metaphors and that’s almost always a lot of fun. And who doesn’t love a hot love interest? Why not add another! You get all the perks of YA romance, doubled.

I know I’m one of the few, but I just don’t think love triangles are of the devil the way most readers seem to. I don’t go seeking them out, but I also don’t do anything to avoid them. I don’t like them when they’re forced, but if an author is forcing a love triangle, odds are there are many other things wrong with their book and I’ll skip it, love triangle or no. A few of my favorite love triangles are from books like The Hunger Games, The Wrath and the Dawn, Throne of Glass, and Confessions of Georgia Nicolson.

What do you think of love triangles? Are there any other romance tropes that you like but everyone else seems to hate? Let me know!

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9 responses to “In Defense of Love Triangles

  1. I LOVE TRIANGLES!!!!! As long as they are well done, make me a banner and let me pick my ship so I can scream #TEAM ***** all up and down twitter!!

    Your reasons are spot on too!! I definitely agree that these are teens and it’s completely realistic IMO. I’VE BEEN THERE. It DOES indeed happen. When you are young, you don’t know who you are or what you really want yet (most of the time). You are still growing and learning and things happen. Also definitely agree you can fall in love more than once. I think there are just a tons of different kinds of being in love and different depths of love.

    Excellent EXCELLENT post. <3
    Crystal @ Bookiemoji recently posted…Writing Retreat + Giveaway w/ Courtney C. StevensMy Profile

  2. “I don’t like them when they’re forced, but if an author is forcing a love triangle, odds are there are many other things wrong with their book and I’ll skip it, love triangle or no.”

    Couldn’t have said it better myself. Because this is my only problem with Love Triangles. Other than that, bring it on.
    Jenny recently posted…Organized vs NotMy Profile

  3. So, so happy to read this post! I completely agree. I wouldn’t say that I really love or enjoy love triangles (I don’t actively seek them out), but I will absolutely read them. If the book sounds interesting, I don’t let it deter me. I’ve had a similar post brewing up about how I enjoy flawed characters – especially those involved in some kind of cheating/love triangle. I’ve been there. It happens. It’s real. I think it’s okay if people say “that’s not the kind of romance I want to read about,” but for me, I like to read romance that’s real. Or could happen. Or DOES happen. I also completely agree with your point about certain types of relationships; there is absolutely nothing wrong with polyamorous relationships if that works for you. People who like love triangles or are involved in them may just be exploring themselves. Again, great post!!
    Lauren @ Bookmark Lit recently posted…ARC Review: Emmy & OliverMy Profile

  4. I’m one of those people that really does not mind love triangles. I mean, I agree, these are teens, and I was one of those ‘oh my god I’ve fallen for him so quickly’ and then be all ‘nope’ a few weeks later, and it happens, and it has to be realistic, you know? I do think some are written really well, others less well, and it happens, you just gotta deal. I’M LOVING THE NEW LOOK BEKKA. I just don’t visit enough, I’m sorry 🙁
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  5. I have to admit, I’m one of those people who hears of a love triangle and goes uuuuuugh. I think they’re a little oversaturated at this point, especially because it feels like the same one every single time: that confident and mysterious bad boy and the loyal best friend who’d never showed any feelings for the MC before (and I’ve never read a love triangle with only one guy, unless you count Black Iris, which I don’t because that is way more complicated than there being a simple choice to make). I don’t seek them out; I think they make me a little wary of reading a book now.

    BUT BUT if a love triangle is done extremely well, I adore it. I just don’t like it when it seems to be in the story only for entertainment value, drama, it’s being forced upon me like I want it, or to be the one way the MC has any growth. And, sometimes they are really fun to read! The push and pull, the higher stakes, the EMOTIONS. In YA, it’s so honest and raw, and a love triangle just makes it much more intense. IF it’s done well. Some of my favorite books with this trope were The Infernal Devices, The Archers of Avalon, and The Remnant Chronicles. They were all so very different, but in their own ways, they made the stories that much better to me.

    Great post, Bekka! 🙂
    Holly J recently posted…Have You Seen This?My Profile

  6. I don’t dislike the love triangle trope. Heck, when I was in high school, I was caught up in one myself, so I think they are totally relevant in young adult literature! What I dislike are the love interests. Most of the time, the suitors seem like such duds! Or, if I do find one appealing, it’s never the one the main character chooses. I’m screaming internally, “Noooooo! You’re making poor life decisionssssss!”
    Jackie recently posted…I Got a Library Card!My Profile

    • Such a good point! I love a good love triangle because I have experiences with them, but sometimes those love interests are IRRITATING. And yeah, I toootally know how you feel about shipping the wrong ship (especially since I so often ship random f/f characters together instead of the “intended” love interests lol.)

  7. Agreed. Agreed. I used to hate love triangles, but now I recognize their worth, especially when done right. They are realistic, especially when you’re 16 and not sure what you want or need. Isn’t that what dating is all about? My issue is that there are good and bad love triangles, and I hate the ones that are bad, where it’s super obvious who the heroine/hero is going to pick. My fave YA example is in the Unearthly series, where you really get two guys who are both very very good. That’s a real love triangle to me. Not the Edward-Bella-Jacob mess.

    (More thoughts on love triangles in my Dawson’s Creek post, if you feel like checking it out:

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