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The word triangulation should haunt every parent actively raising children, and it should warn all of us to not allow our marriages to grow distant during the child-rearing years (ever, really, but especially while we’re raising children).
In a harrowing but insightful chapter of Unwanted: How Sexual Brokenness Reveals our Way to Healing, Seattle counselor Jay Stringer warns that “triangulation, or emotional enmeshment, occurs when there is a breakdown in a marriage relationship and a child is brought in to fill the emotional emptiness.” Mothers can do this with sons; fathers can do this with daughters.
Emptiness - Marriage - Husband - Wife - Child
What essentially happens is that rather than address the emptiness of their marriage, a husband or wife will turn to a child to meet the emotional needs that should be met by a spouse. Stringer calls this “a form of emotional incest” that has “profound effects on the development of one’s individual and relational self. In marriage, our parents make vows to commit their loyalty, affection and hearts to their spouses. Children do not make these vows. If you have been triangulated, it is likely your parents did not consider how the heartache and loneliness of their marriage would eventually affect you.”
Jay goes on to state, correctly, that children can become “idols” to their parents. This entraps a boy or a girl, who will feel guilty building their own life and eventually leaving to enjoy their own marriage. The diabolical payoff (early on) is a certain amount of “power and delight” over the other parent and children. “The cost of membership, though, is that your parent tends to determine what your life ought to look like.”
Mom - Become - Child - Child - Dearer
Sadly, it’s not uncommon to see a mom or a dad become “jealous” of their child when they know that child has a dearer place in their spouse’s heart than they...
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