In Defense of Love Triangles

If I have one hill to die on, this is it.

I’ve talked about this before and I’ll open this damaged box of mine by saying even as I defend the concept of the trope that I cannot think of an example of it that I like or does it well according to my standards. But that’s all I’m defending; the concept. Not any of the arguments about the objectification and portraying being an unwanted object of desire while two people fight over you as something to envy but just the idea of multiple characters liking one character and it not resulting in happiness for everyone involved.

I think that’s mainly what I want when I think about love triangles. I want to see someone “fail” and have me actually feel for them. One of the problems with the trope I’ve always had is that it’s never really a shock who the main character chooses. One love interest always has more screen time, is more involved in the main plot if the romance is a side piece, and is often clearly the writer’s darling. I get the allure of the trope for most is not so much in seeing who loses but in seeing the conflict that arises from it but, personally, I like unrequited love and I would like to see that emphasized more. Or, if not that, I like the idea of having the potential to explore these kinds of relationships. The “there was a will they/won’t they phase with us but we’ve moved past it”.

That’s also why I cannot jump on team “solve love triangles with polyamory” despite the fact that some readers think that’s what I did with Olaf/Mikolaj/Justyna in The Night Court. While Mikolaj was definitely obtuse and jealous at the beginning, this doesn’t fit my own requirements for a “successful” love triangle because the point was always that these three were going to end up together and so no one fails. And besides, I don’t want every attempt at romance in a story (in regards to a “good” love triangle) to end with people in a romantic relationship so the whole “don’t worry! We’ll all just date” misses the mark for me. This is a very long-winded way for me to say I want to see more characters end up miserable.

But yes. I do.

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