Relationship Reality: Part 3 Tracking Triangles

Are you communicating, or noisily stirring things?

A.  You accept where you are by facing the reality of your relationships.

We’re still working on Step 1 and assessing reality. The first part of that is looking at where you are. Who is important in your life and how do you get along? One way to determine the reality of your relationships is to use a tool that helps you recall the content of your interactions with others. I use journaling, but I confess I tend to journal more when I’m upset than when life is peaceful. I’m an angst journaler and poet. I haven’t found one poem I’ve written since I got sober! I have continued to detail my thoughts, however.

When I look back at my journaling, it is apparent to me that I just had to get some of the confusing thoughts onto paper. However, I find that now when I’m confused I tend to talk. For me, it’s easier to process thoughts and events on the outside because if the ideas don’t leave my fingers or my mouth, they just stay jumbled in my mind. So journaling is a good tool for checking the reality of my relationships. It helps me assess what is happening when there’s a disagreement or a misunderstanding.

Dancing around this conversation triangle is a lot of work. The sound of this particular triangle is clashing and jarring to the mind and heart…difficult to ignore. If this is sounding like some of your recent conversations or correspondence, perhaps you’d like to do what I’ve done and chart it out.

We can see how the emotional force of the interaction keeps us going around the triangle. Charting helps clarify the actual process and once we see it in writing, it’s easier to make choices in our conversations. Eventually we find ways to escape the triangled form of communicating altogether. The first step is identifying.

Fight Side 1: blame, shame, attack, threats, demands, insults

Flight Side 2: poor me, helpless and in need of rescue

Helping Side 3: rescue, offer of help, making excuses, solving, appeasing

You can start by examining emails or texts and place sentences under one of the 3 columns:

Fight, Flight and Helping.




You’re just being stupid about…      I can’t possibly…       I’ll take care of it.

It is interesting to see how little substance there is to the disagreements. Most of it is posturing and reacting—a forcing of wills upon one another. Using one of your recent arguments or disagreements, fill out the columns.

You’ll find that two people will play all the sides of the triangle. This is not the good guy against the bad guy concept. Two people locked into this triangle share the instrument. No one plays only one side of this musical triangle.

A quick assessment will tell you if you play the communication triangle or not. There’s good news! If so, it’s relatively easy to stop and you’ve already begun by taking a close, realistic look at where you are.