November 3, 2008
By Christie Hunter: View Christie's Profile
As you begin to set boundaries in your life and relationships a number of situations may occur as those around you resist or are not in agreement with the limits you are setting. Knowing that these situations may be present better prepares you as you work to maintain these healthy parameters and establish healthier and more fulfilling relationships in your life.
What is Triangulation? Triangulation is a dysfunctional way of attempting to deal with an issue between two people by using a involving a third person into the issue who should not be there. Triangulation occurs in situations where you have placed a limit on a friendship and the other person attempts to violate the boundary by means of a third person.
An example of triangulation would be to imagine two adult siblings who are having a disagreement. One sibling decides that in order to protect herself and her family, she needs to stop sharing personal information about herself with her brother for a while, who has been using it against her. So now the brother has a limit in place- a boundary his sister has put in place that cuts off the information flow that he is used to. Rather than respecting this boundary and working with his sister to resolve the disagreement that has resulted with limits, the brother goes around his sister and attempts to establish a relationship with his sister's husband. By hanging out with his sister's husband, he can get an "in" on his sister, manipulating the boundary. This is an attempt at triangulating the situation, bringing in a third person as a way of avoiding direct resolution. If allowed, the brother and his sister's husband would establish a relationship based on an unhealthy and unresolved situation. Triangulation has as its goal a desire to maintain or even establish a relationship with a third person by means of another person. It avoids direct communication and thereby limits the chance either of the relationships has for authentic and open dialogue.
Examine your relationships to see if you may have been pulled into the middle of someone else’s relationships. Have you been asked to “help” fix a problem, or are you communicating information about a third party that should really be communicated directly, if a relationship existed? If so, look to make changes so your relationships are based on you and the other person, not on the exchange of information about a silent third person.
In some situations as you begin to set healthy limits on your relationships, you may experience some strong resistance to the changes you are making. One response to these boundaries is the complete withdrawal by the other person in the form of disownment. For someone who is not willing to accept your withdrawal of resources from the relationship the only answer may be to walk away, or disown you and the relationship you had.
This can be a very shocking and painful experience during a time when you are trying to establish more healthy ways of communicating and relating with others. Recognizing that you cannot control the reaction of others, that just as you are able to make changes and set limits, so can others, even if it is the extreme response of estrangement.
If this is the situation you are faced with, share with the other person your sadness over their choice. Let them know that you hope for the situation to be different and when they are ready to begin talking again, you are here. There is little else you can do when someone refuses to talk with you or work through the problems in the relationship. Maintaining the healthy limits you have set is very important during this time. Setting aside your limits in order to reestablish communication will only continue the unhealthy pattern of relating that you were attempting to change.
This is a difficult time as you move forward with positive change in your life, yet at the same time are faced with the loss and sadness of relationships that could be so much more. Be realistic with your expectations, but remain hopeful that the future holds reconciliation.
While there are a number of special situations you may be faced with as you begin to make changes in your relationships, this section gives you a few ideas about how to persevere through the challenges of maintaining your healthy limits. Keep in mind, the purpose of setting boundaries is not to reduce the communication in your relationships. Quite the contrary, by setting healthy limits, your relationships have an opportunity to grow and to be an encouragement to each other within the healthy and safe parameters set by all people. Boundaries define us and with a better definition, we are better able to enjoy and share our lives with those around us.