A very important principle is the fact that triangles between three family members often represent the attempt of two members to maintain either closeness or distance. When tension exists between two family members, a natural recourse is to involve a third person to help stabilize this relationship. In the short-term, this tendency to triangulate is a frequent occurrence and appears to be a part of normal family functioning. However, if this pattern of involving a third party in order to negotiate a relationship becomes a part of the regular family functioning over a longer period of time then it is seen as symptomatic or unhealthy. Such a pattern will cause a family system to become more rigid in its way of functioning and will cause problems when the family system is required to adapt or transition to a new life cycle.
A triangle is a three-person relationship system. It is considered the building block of "molecule- of larger emotional systems because a triangle is the smallest stable relationship system. A two-person system is unstable because it tolerates little tension before involving a third person. A triangle can contain much more tension without involving another person because the tension can shift around three relationships. If tension is too high for one triangle to contain, it spreads to a series of "interlocking- triangles. (Bowen, Murray; Georgetown Family Center, 2003).
Spreading the tension can stabilize a system, but nothing gets resolved. People's actions in a triangle reflect their efforts to ensure their emotional attachments to important others, their reactions to too much intensity in the attachments, and their taking sides in the conflicts of others.
A triangle is more stable than a dyad, but a triangle creates an odd man out, which is a very difficult position for individuals to tolerate. Anxiety generated by anticipating or being the odd one out is a potent force in triangles.