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Wednesday, 12 September 2001

Unemployed Son: Triangulation, an Introduction

Written by  Michael Tobin , Sheryl Wachsman Prenzlau, Toby Klein Greenwald

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Tension and conflict in a marriage inevitably lead to a phenomenon called triangulation. What that means is that a third person, usually a child, is unconsciously drawn into the parents' conflict as a means of diffusing it. In other words, a wife who feels angry with her distant husband might compensate by becoming closer to her son. The son, who also feels his father's distance, may move toward his mother in response to her overtures to him. However, the son feels uncomfortable in his role of husband substitute and eventually acts out his discomfort, usually self-destructively.

This is exactly the dynamic that is occurring between David, Marcia and Andrew. It seems that only Andrew has a clue about the role that he has been unconsciously conscripted to fill. He tells his mother, "Don't drag me into your problems.... If you want to leave him, do it for your own reasons." Earlier he tells his mother, "Quit defending me, Ma. I can talk for myself," but Marcia doesn't hear, she continues to act as if Andrew needs and wants her to be his protector.

It's not uncommon for a parent or parents to drag the reluctant child right back into the middle of the relationship. It's as if the parent is begging the child, "Please act out so that Dad and I can deal with you. It's too hard to deal with our marriage." It's a remarkable child who can look at the parents and say, "Fight your own battles. I'm out of here."

View the Drama!

Last modified on Thursday, 21 April 2011 21:09
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Michael Tobin

Michael Tobin

Dr. Michael Tobin has been a psychologist since 1974, specializing in marital and family therapy. He is the author of numerous articles on marriage and family relationships and is the founder of WholeFamily.com. He's  been married to Deborah for 38 years and is the father of four children and grandfather to five.

Sheryl Wachsman Prenzlau

Sheryl Wachsman Prenzlau

Sheryl Wachsman Prenzlau has written a number of works of fiction for WholeFamily.com under pseudonyms and she contributed to the first chapter of the original online version of The Affair. She says, "I draw not on my personal family experience in my writing, but from my observations of real life situations." Sheryl graduated from Queens College in NY with a BA in Psychology. She has edited an anthology of children's stories and published many children's books, including a five-part series, Bible Stories for Children. Sheryl has written first person stories for newspapers and magazines. She is married, the mother of two and the proud grandmother of a beautiful baby girl.

Toby Klein Greenwald

Toby Klein Greenwald

Toby Klein Greenwald, Executive V.P. Creative Development, is a founding partner and the editor-in-chief of WholeFamily. Toby is an educator, journalist, photographer, scriptwriter, poet, playwright, lyricist, and theater director, including for populations that have experienced trauma or are at risk. She is a Playback Theater conductor and is the recipient of Israel's Ministry of Education's Egerest Award for Culture, for her work in educational and community theater. She has more than 30 years of teaching experience and has served on numerous educational think tanks. Her specialties include the creation of innovative educational programs, and teaching Creative Writing and Film to AD(H)D and LD high school students, and to senior citizens. Toby is married to Yaakov and they have six children, most of whom have made her a proud mother-in-law and grandmother.

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