Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Triangulation syndrome

I've been reading this book, "Unwanted" by Jay Stringer. There's more to the title and I'll try and post it on the site's recommended books. He talks about how sometimes a parent can make a child their idol and become enmeshed emotionally and sometimes more, than with their spouse. I'll quote the paragraph that jumped out at me and got me thinking about me and dad.

"The other way childhood triangulation affects marriage is when you have separated from your parent, but then find yourself incapable of creating an intimate, lasting connection with your spouse. In this example, you find yourself resistant to deep connection, fearing you will be trapped or used all over again. You project onto your spouse that he or she is asking you to play the same enmeshed role your parent did. Once the projection is made, you feel justified, once more, to pursue unwanted sexual behavior."

I suspect the reason for my attachment problem which I shared with my wife, (who btw says explains a lot), is because my dad began using me for his physical intimacy in place of mom. I made no demands, laid no expectations on him and wasn't likely to complain if he wasn't interested. While I felt special and pleased with the secret attention and would imagine it was more than it was, it came at a price. 

Now that I see this I need to work on how to repair it if possible. I may just need to help on this one. I've carried it for a long time. 

Just my thoughts


Mark said...

I firmly believe "triangulation", due to its subtle and seeming harmlessness, is an often overlooked form of sexual abuse. Often, thought not always, it may not involve any sexually abusive touch, but places the child in the role of a spouse, on an emotional level. I have also heard this form of abuse called "parentification" of a child, and "emotional incest."
Like you, I recently read a book that dealt exclusively with this type of abuse, (not the book you mention) and was amazed at how I identified with what the author was saying.I saw that this type of abuse had ramifications in my current life, that I had been clueless in seeing. In my case, I was parentified primarily by my mom. I saw her as my protector, but also someone I needed to protect, make happy, solve her problems, listen to her sharing her marriage problems. All of that further robbed me of being able to be a child. It forced me into the role of an adult, specifically, it forced me into the role of her husband, my dad, on the emotional level. Since reading the book, I am facing that damage, and also finding that I do not feel as emotionally needy in my friendships with men. I also am being able to set firmer boundaries, and learning that sometimes I can set a parameter with a friend, and not passively wait and yield to whatever parameters of friendship he may set.

Thanks for sharing this vital post.

Roger Mann said...

Indeed, Mark, I was astounded at the connections it portrayed that so resembled my dad and me.
This is something I never considered but explained a lot of what I was feeling but couldn't put a name to. Thanks for your comment.