Poly Advice for the Mentally Ill: Avoid the Drama Triangle

Standard poly advice: The drama triangle is bad.

If you aren’t familiar with it, the drama triangle goes like this:

Ashely, Brenda and Charlene are part of the same polycule. Charlene does something that upsets Brenda.

Brenda to Ashley: Charlene did x and I’m so upset!
Ashley to Charlene: Brenda is really upset because you did xy. I think that was inappropriate and…
Charlene to Ashley: WTf! I didn’t to y!
Charlene to Brenda: Why did you tell Ashley I did y! I didn’t do y and now Ashley is mad at me because of something you said!
Brenda to Ashley: Why did you Charlene I’m upset about y? Charlene did x. Why do you have to go causing trouble?

And round and round it goes.

This is an extreme example. The drama triangle may not seem very drama-filled at first. And it is rarely intentional. Brenda wanted a shoulder to cry on, she didn’t want Ashley to fix things. Ashley wasn’t trying to make problems, she was trying to help. If miscommunication hadn’t happened, Ashley may have helped, right?

Maybe in the short term. In the long term, the drama triangle undermines honest communication. It also sets up an unhealthy dynamic of Ashley ’rescuing’ Brenda from Charlene. Sooner or later the whole polycule blows up.

Which is why standard poly advice is, just don’t fucking do this.

Poly Advice for the Mentally Ill: When Mental Illness prevents one of your partners from communicating, it is sometimes okay to step in.

Last night, my partner Michael hit a mental infinite loop. Something C did upset him, and he needed time to process. But he and C has plans to spend time together. Ever see a computer given circular directions that it cannot complete? That’s what Michael’s brain did.

Need time before I talk with C about this.
Supposed to spend time with C tonight.
If I tell C I need space, I will be cancelling our date night.
I cannot cancel our date night without telling her why.
Need time before I talk with C about this.

Eventually, he managed to break the loop and talk with C. If he hadn’t, he would have stood her up because his brain broke.

If he hadn’t broken out, there was a simple solution. I could step in and let C know what is going on. In fact, when Michael hit that mental loop, I tagged C on Skype and had just started explaining when he managed to break out of it. As soon as I realized he’d broken out of the loop and was talking with C, I stepped back and let them hash it out.

I was telling C about Michael needing to cancel their date because he was upset with her. The drama potential in that just kind of screams at you, doesn’t it?

But when Michael literally can’t tell C what’s going on? Better C hears from me “Michael needs to reschedule your date night (additional details as necessary).” Going silent and leaving someone in the dark is (almost) always the worse option.

As a routine thing the drama triangle is a recipe for disaster. But sometimes it is that dreaded lesser of two evils. Use it only when necessary and cut the cycle as soon as possible.

As a side note, I just want to say that C is seriously awesome for putting up with both of our shit.

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