Love Triangles – When Do They Get The Thumbs Down?

Love Triangles Thumbs DownG’day booklovers! As I mentioned last week, Top Ten Tuesday is on a bit of a hiatus at the moment, and while I could continue picking my own topics to post on, I thought I would take the chance to do something a little different instead.

Since love triangles have been on my mind lately (thank you, Serena Jones!) I decided to explore the topic a little on my blog. Last week, I posted about what love triangles were and some of the different forms they take in Christian fiction (you can read that post here), so this week I thought we could talk about why it is that so many people are wary of, or even avoid this particular trope. Having been involved in many discussions about them recently, I’ve collected some of the most common complaints below:

1. It’s overused/clichéd 

You don’t have to look very far to begin listing popular books, movies, and TV series that feature love triangles. The Hunger Games, Twilight, Gilmore Girls… The list could go on. (But since I don’t actually watch a lot of TV/movies—as in, I’ve only read/seen one of the three series listed above—I’d just be pilfering other peoples lists! 😆)

I don’t know about you, but it seems TV series seem to be particularly prone to the overuse of the love triangle trope. The fact is, nothing keeps viewers hooked like an unresolved love triangle, but…yeah. It gets a bit old!

2. When it’s angst for the sake of angst

Sometimes a love triangle is thrown in simply for the sake of tension, or to show just how desirable the hero or heroine is. Puh-lease! Readers can smell those a mile off. Well, this reader can, anyway. Give me a decent story—one where the triangle is realistic and contributes to the characters’ growth—or forget it. I don’t have time for drama queens!

3. When the character ends up with the wrong person 

Is there anything worse than investing your time and emotions in a book/show/movie with a love triangle, only to have the main character end up with the ‘wrong’ person at the end? Ugh! Who wants to go through that?!

4. When it makes the character seem lacking in judgment

The easiest way to ensure readers/viewers are happy with the character’s choice is to make sure only one of the choices is really suitable. It can be done, and done well, but unfortunately that isn’t always the case. And then you end up wondering how the main character could have even considered the second contender in the first place. It’s hard to be rooting for a character when you want to slap some sense into them! Figuratively speaking, of course…

5. When it makes the character seem wishy-washy or indecisive

We all understand the need to take time to make certain decisions and choices—and really getting to know someone does take time. But there also comes a point at which ‘taking your time’ makes a character look weak rather than mature and responsible.

6. Someone always gets hurt

If you’re a person who reads to escape (or who has seen the fall-out of a love triangle in real life), this may resonate with you. When there really is a tough choice to make, someone is going to get hurt. And some of us just aren’t looking for that kind of angst in our books.

7. When the character is leading on two people at once

This is a particular concern for Christian readers. If we’re going to read about love triangles, we don’t want a situation where one character is toying with two people’s affections (or playing them off one another in some kind of fantasy power-play), but neither do we want a situation where someone is seeing two people at once without either of these people being aware of the other. The exception to this would be a story where the consequences of such behaviour form a part of the main character’s personal growth, but again, that’s painful for all characters involved, and not every reader’s cup of tea. It’s difficult to do this and have the reader remain sympathetic to the main character.

8. When it makes you wonder if the character takes commitment seriously

This becomes a particular concern when the character is already in a relationship when the love triangle develops, and I confess it’s one of the things that can sour an otherwise good story for me. A lot depends on how the characters handle themselves in this scenario. Are they honest with and faithful to the person they are currently in a relationship with (in thought as well as action)?  Do they treat both parties with respect? For me, it also depends on whether this new interest springs primarily from physical attraction and ‘chemistry’, or a friendship (either new or pre-existing) that is developing into more.

Again, there are times when authors will want to show the consequences of poor choices, and if poor choices are shown with realistic consequences, then that can work. But it doesn’t always happen that way, and it’s really hard to get behind a character when you’re wondering how long it will be before someone new catches their eye. Again.

9. When it causes you to wonder if the character will remain faithful in marriage

This is an extension of the previous point, but can be an issue particularly in stories where the characters are engaged already when a third person comes onto the scene. For many Christians, an engagement is as serious as marriage. You’ve had time to consider whether you are prepared to commit to marriage to this person, and you’ve decided the answer is ‘yes’. To renege on that commitment can cause readers to wonder what may happen in the future if this character’s commitment was tested once they’re actually married.

This is another situation where so much can depend on the way in which the author handles the characters and the story. We know people find themselves in this situation in real life, so we don’t want to ignore that, but in Christian fiction it needs to be handled Biblically and with care, not just used as a complication to the characters’ happily-ever-after.

Did I leave any out? What turns you off love triangles?

About Fiction Aficionado

Homeschooling mum, word lover, reader extraordinaire, and follower of Christ
This entry was posted in Christian Romance, Contemporary Romance, Historical Romance, Romance, Romantic Comedy, Romantic Suspense and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Love Triangles – When Do They Get The Thumbs Down?

  1. Carrie says:

    ooo all of these! yes! Particularly I hate angst for the sake of angst and the character being wishy-washy/leading them both on equally. And really – it makes my heart hurt in general b/c as you said, someone always gets hurt.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Amy M says:

    I don’t like it when the love triangles involve family members (i.e. two sisters or brothers vying for the same person). No matter the person chosen, the family dynamic is going to suffer and sometime cause irreparable damage. Plus, it’s EXTREMELY uncomfortable for me to even think about my sister having once been affectionate with my now boyfriend/husband. YUCK!. Just. YUCK!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. honeybeerosewritings says:

    The only time I did not like a love triangle was with Shatter Me trilogy by Tahereh Mafi because all three lead characters did not have consistent personalities and the changed to quickly. Other than that I love love triangles.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. courtney207 says:

    I think you’ve covered all the reasons readers don’t like them!!! When they are done really well, they can work (like with Sara Ella’s Unblemished series).

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m covering the thumbs up next. 🙂 I’d love to hear any points you think I should include!


      • courtney207 says:

        Oooh! I think they work well when both “possibilities” have genuine, unselfish interest. And when the reader doesn’t have a clear reason not to like one of them (like the almost-triangle in Susan May Warren’s The Wonder of You with Amelia’s old friend). Or, even when secrets/true identities are not totally revealed ( Austenland the movie comes to mind, though I haven’t read the book).

        Liked by 1 person

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