but she loves him
and he loves somebody else.
You just can't win."
Alice is in love with Bob, but Bob is in love with Charlie, while Charlie is in love with Alice. Well, that's one of them. A Love Triangle commonly involves three people, love, and decisions. It can be dramatic, or it can result in Wacky Hijinx.
Love triangles are usually resolved in one of four main ways:
- The most common way is for two of the characters involved in the triangle to end up together, and the other one being eliminated through death, turning out to be unworthy of whoever they want, or stepping aside so that their beloved can be happy.
- Sometimes no one gets what they want — perhaps one character decides that neither of the people vying for them are worthy, perhaps one rival murders the other or otherwise eliminates them in a way that causes the other person to lose all respect for them. Sometimes the person that both rivals want winds up dead, and either sets up a lasting enmity between the two or leads to a double case of My God, What Have I Done?.
- Sometimes a fourth person is brought in as a Third-Option Love Interest; don't expect this option to go well with Shippers of either of the two pairings.
- Finally, there's the option of the three characters becoming a One True Threesome, or one character deciding to Marry Them All. This is a rare thing, both due to societal expectations of one person ending up with one person and because love triangles don't often allow for attraction between all three members of the triangle.
See Triang Relations for all the ways these three people can mess up their love lives.
Sometimes a Love Triangle can come to involve a fourth person, while still ultimately being called a "triangle." But more complications that result from widening it can be explored further in a Love Dodecahedron.
Expect anyone involved in the love triangle to become a Jealous Romantic Witness when they see their romantic rival and object of affection being intimate in one way or another.
- All Love Is Unrequited: Nobody seems to be allowed to reciprocate any romantic interest shown in them.
- Betty and Veronica: A love triangle with a sweet, reliable love interest, and a mysterious, exotic one.
- Betty and Veronica Switch: The Betty and Veronica trade roles over time.
- Bisexual Love Triangle: A character is divided between a same-gender and opposite-gender suitor, who represent opposite life choices.
- Cock Fight: Two guys fight openly over a girl.
- Competing with a Corpse: One corner of the triangle is dead, but their memory keeps the other two apart .
- Death of the Hypotenuse: A love triangle is resolved when one of the two suitors dies.
- Dump Them All: The hypotenuse breaks up with both legs.
- Fire and Ice Love Triangle: A love triangle with a cold, aloof love interest, and a warm, passionate one.
- Friends Turned Romantic Rivals: A love triangle where two members are friends who love the same person.
- Friend Versus Lover: A character's Love Interest and friend fight over them.
- The Gentleman or the Scoundrel: A woman choosing between a kind and noble Gentleman and a dangerous and edgy Scoundrel.
- Imaginary Love Triangle: Someone thinks there's a love triangle, even though there isn't really any.
- Love Dodecahedron: A love triangle that involves a large number of people.
- Muggle-and-Magical Love Triangle: A love triangle with one magic or supernatural love interest, and one non-magical one.
- Murder the Hypotenuse: Someone plots to kill their romantic rival.
- Pair the Suitors: The two suitors end up with each other instead.
- Psychotic Love Triangle: A love triangle where two (or more) of the participants are psycho.
- Rich Suitor, Poor Suitor: A love triangle with one rich love interest, and one poor one.
- Romantic Runner-Up: The suitor who is not chosen when the love triangle is resolved.
- Sibling Triangle: Two siblings interested in the same love interest.
- Squaring the Love Triangle: A love triangle is resolved by the "losing suitor" getting with the offspring of the primary couple.
- Triang Relations: A listing of all the possible love triangle dynamics involving only 3 people.
- Two-Person Love Triangle: A love triangle where two of the parties involved are actually the same person.
- Vampire-Werewolf Love Triangle: A love triangle with a vampire love interest, and a werewolf one.
- Anime & Manga
- Comic Books
- Fan Works
- Live-Action TV
- Video Games
- Visual Novels
- Web Comics
- Western Animation
- The main premise of the Choose Me otome audio drama series. You, as the main character in each story, must choose between two love interests vying for your attention.
- In The Fire-Bird, the Horse of Power, and the Princess Vasilissa, the princess hates the old tsar and falls in love with the archer, but the tsar insists on marrying her.
- In Anguillette, the protagonist, Hebe, loves Prince Atimir, though she marries the Prince of Pleasure Island. Hebe's older sister Ilerie competes with her for Atimir's affections, and Atimir marries her.
- In "The Two Trees" King Niall of Leinster and King Fergal of Ulster became bitter enemies due to both loving a woman called Maeve, who deliberately encouraged this antagonism. They don't become friends again until their children have a vision stating that they're fated to marry one another.
- An Extremely Goofy Movie has one in the form of PJ, Bobby, and Beret Girl. Bobby tries to use a pick-up line on Beret Girl, and she rejects him as bluntly as possible, only to start flirting with PJ, whom she asks out after he basically says "no one would ever notice someone who looks like me" (but in such a way that it manages to surprise both of his friends). Bobby is not too pleased about this. But PJ is, enough to go through major Character Development.
- Between Manolo, Maria and Joaquin in The Book of Life. Manolo and Joaquin are both in love with Maria, but she only is in love with Manolo.
- How to Train Your Dragon 2 has Fishlegs, Ruffnut and Snotlout.
- Luca pulls off a Friendship Triangle when Alberto gets jealous of Luca's deepening friendship with Giulia. The heated emotions are there(especially on Alberto's side), but the film plays the relationships as completely platonic otherwise.
- Defied in the song Au fond de temple saint from the opera The Pearl Fishers: when two close friends realise that they have fallen in love with the same person, they vow to renounce her so they do not become enemies.
- "Hide Your Heart" by KISS has a variation of this. Rosa and Tito are together, but an (implied to be unhappy) Rosa hooks up with Johnny anyway. It doesn't end well for Johhnny.
- The song "Withered Hope" by They Might Be Giants describes a love triangle between Withered Hope, her "Soul Mate", a crook, a motorbike, and Sad Sack (who loves Withered Hope).
- Sarah Brightman has "Make Up My Heart". The singer has two great men in her life, but she wants one in her life. The whole song is dedicated to her talking about her dilemma and what one man has that the other doesn't.
- Suede's "Asphalt World": "When you're there in her arms / And there in her legs / Well I'll be in her head".
- The opening song for Macross Frontier, named Triangler sung by Maaya Sakamoto is a deconstruction of this trope. It tells of the feelings and crushing doubt that one who is in that situation might feel. An alternate version of this song is sung by Ranka and Sheryl and the version is aptly named Triangler Fight on Stage. Lyrics here.
- This is the premise of the Vocaloid song Acute. Kaito is engaged to Miku, but he's having an affair with her best friend Luka. Luka doesn't want to betray Miku, but she can't deny her feelings for Kaito. Miku eventually finds out, and the song ends with her stabbing Kaito, before trying to commit suicide.
- In "Second Boys Will Be First Choice" by The Brobecks, two boys are in love with the same girl, and the song comforts the one that she ends up not getting together with by saying that he'll find love somewhere else.
Gather 'round ye boys and girls, listen ye to my tale
Of two boys and one girl, but which one will win her
And which one is destined to fail?
Complicated situation made harder every day
Boy number two, there is someone for you
Just forget her and walk away
- "Love Triangle" by RaeLynn turns this on its head: the "triangle" is between the narrator and her divorced parents who share custody of her.
- Reba McEntire and Linda Davis' "Does He Love You" is a duet between two women who are vying for the same man, and asking the other "Does he love you like he loves me?"
- Eric Clapton's hit song "Layla" is about Pattie Boyd, who was then married to George Harrison.
- "The Less I Know the Better" by Tame Impala is about the narrator finding out that the object of his affection has hooked up with a guy called Trevor. He does not take it well.
- "Miracle" by Mac McAnally, also recorded by Crystal Bernard and Restless Heart, puts a twist on this. The male character in the song is in a relationship with two women, one of whom is pregnant with his child. But the ending of the song reveals that he's actually married to both of them and trying to keep each wife a secret from the other.
- Within The Rolling Stones, Brian Jones had been dating German-Italian actress Anita Pallenberg for two years, though their relationship had been quite volatile, to say the least. After Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were busted for drug possession in 1967, Mick, Keith, and Brian were advised that they should leave the country for a short while, so a trip to Morocco was planned. However, in Toulouse, Brian fell ill with pneumonia, forcing him to spend the next several days in the hospital. Anita and Keith went ahead and started seeing each other behind Brian's back (Keith later confirmed in his 2010 autobiography, Life that she made the first move). When Brian was finally able to join them, he was able to sense what was going on between Keith and Anita. Reportedly, Brian paid for the services of two prostitutes, and though what happened next is largely conjecture, it is agreed that there was some altercation between Brian and Anita (Keith claimed that he threw fruit at her and humiliated her, but other sources claimed that he savagely beat her). What is certain is that the next day, Mick, Keith, and Anita left Morocco, and Brian was left stranded in Morocco for the next couple days. This incident practically destroyed the friendship Keith and Brian had previously had, and it only exacerbated Brian's alienation from the Stones, which eventually resulted in him being fired from the band in June 1969 note
- Discussed in Tom Lehrer's song "Lobachevsky," in which the protagonist has written a book in a highly-specialized field of geometry.
- On Taylor Swifts album folklore (2020), the songs cardigan, august, and betty are perspectives of each teenager (Betty, James, and the unnamed girl James had an affair with) involved in a tumultuous summer love triangle.
- From Franchise Love Live!: Nijigasaki Highschool Clubs subgroup DiverDiva has the song Love Triangle. In the text we hear complains about, that the singer is in love with the directly addressed audience and that the other girl is kind or charming too. Both members of DiverDiva are singing parts of the song, heavily implying, that the other girl is the other member of the subgroup.
- One of the interpretations of the Song of Songs from The Bible, which is a series of love poems about the Shulamite and her Beloved, is that the Shulamite's Beloved isn't actually Solomon, but a shepherd, and the whole thing plays out as the story of two suitors vying for her attention. However, as hard as Solomon tries to woo the Shulamite into marrying him, she ultimately chooses the shepherd over Solomon, saying to the effect that all the money in the world wouldn't be enough to buy her love.
- The King Arthur stories largely revolve around the triangle of Arthur, Guenivere, and Lancelot. Interestingly, each of them originally came from a different story line, and merged together sometime in the 12th centuries. It's widely believed to have been the work of French poet Chrétien de Troyes, who wrote about it in his Lancelot or The Knight of the Cart.
- Greek Mythology has the triangle of Aphrodite, Hephaestus and Ares. And then there's the perpetually recurring triangle of Zeus, Hera and whoever Zeus happens to be sleeping with at the time.
- In the Cool Kids Table game Creepy Town, Veronica and Stacey are both attracted to Ethan, though he's not aware of either. Veronica is very jealous of Stacey for seemingly having the edge.
- WWE had the Triple H-Stephanie McMahon-Kurt Angle triangle, which seemed to be leading to Steph leaving HHH to be with Kurt, but this is Triple H, so it didn't.
- The real-life Edge-Lita-Matt Hardy love triangle (Matt and Amy "Lita" Dumas had been a couple both on-screen and off before she left him for Adam "Edge" Copeland, messing up his real-life marriage at the time in the process) crossed over into the wrestling world, temporarily getting Matt fired for complaining about it online and turning Edge into a seemingly unstoppable Karma Houdini.
- The most infamous & tragic Real Life example is known to be Triple H x Chyna x Stephanie. It has been noted by Chyna, Vince Russo, and Ivory that Triple H cheated when he began seeing Stephanie. Some WWE stars have also alleged the affair started as early as 1999 rather than early - mind 2000's like commonly believed. Chyna says she found out about the relationship when she discovered a love letter Stephanie had written to him, which Triple H confirmed to be true during a Howard Stern interview. Things worked out well for Stephanie & Hunter, whose relationship continued for 19 years & counting. Sadly Chyna spiraled downward with numerous project & legal setbacks. She became more bitter, and began lashing out at Vince, Stephanie, and Triple H, even making threats to the latter two. Some time later she made accusations that Triple H once hit her when they were together. Tragically while Chyna never seemed to get over what happened, Triple H was well over it and even stated that she was mainly a convenient fling while he was stuck on the road & not thinking about his future. Sean Waltman says Triple H complained about Chyna frequently and even tried to "warn" him about her when they began dating. This implies Triple H settled for her a while but was not happy or truly committed, so when Stephanie became an option, there so no legitimate contest and he still lived with & went through motions with Chyna while developing an actual relationship with Stephanie.
- Shortly after the introduction of a Love Triangle involving three of the younger characters in The Archers, the show's editor stated in an interview she gave for its 50th anniversary that it would become the basis of a major Story Arc with many years' worth of plotlines. This proved to be anything but an exaggeration.
- Mocked extensively in Terrible Writing Advice, where narrator constantly advises throwing this in, regardless of whether it is necessary, fits into the genre the episode is talking about, or if it would take too much time away from more interesting elements,to the point of it being a Running Gag. Gets taken Up to Eleven in the "Evil Empires" video, in which the narrator admits that evil empires are one of his favorite clichés, only for an actual love triangle to come in and complain that it thought it was his favorite cliché, putting him in a Love Triangle with this very trope, and The Empire.
- In Brawl Universe, This is Played For Laughs and Played Straight with Sheik and Zelda. They are initally the same person, so they fight over Link's affections. Link himself has feelings for Zelda, but has to deal with Sheik as they travel to find the whereabouts of Zelda.
- In Red vs. Blue, Lopez-Sheila-Caboose would form a "weird, horribly disgusting love triangle" if Sheila was more aware of Caboose's feelings for her. (Note: Sheila is the Blue Team's sentient tank, Lopez is the Red Team's robot, and Caboose is an idiot).
- RWBY had one with Pyrrha having a crush on Jaune, who only saw her as a friend at first, while Jaune had a crush on Weiss, who was indifferent towards him. Later complicated further in season two, when Neptune is introduced as a Love Interest for Weiss.
- EVERY SIMS MACHINIMA EVER (Parody) plays this trope for laughs. Ella and her best friend since infancy Chloe both like the same boy. When asked to study with Brandon, Ella contemplates this for all of a few seconds. She ends up going for plot reasons. After all, it wouldn't be quite as interesting if she didn't.
Ella: It was obvious that Chloe liked Brandon, so I was torn.
Ella: I went anyway for drama.
- Played with in Echo Chamber. Nominally, there is one between Tom, Dana, and Zack, but Tom and Dana hate each other, and Dana barely acknowledges Zack's existence.
- Charlie in KateModern is the object of both Gavin and Steve's affections. Initially she dates Gavin and considers Steve a creep, but this changes over time.
- Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog: Doctor Horrible is in love with Penny, who is in love with Captain Hammer. Who in turn dates Penny just to piss off Doctor Horrible. Neither "wins", she inadvertently dies.
- Todd in the Shadows from Channel Awesome loves fellow reviewer Obscurus Lupa, in an an increasingly creepy way. Since then, real events have added The Nostalgia Chick who doggedly pursues Todd, despite his dismissive lack of interest in her. When Lupa and the Chick review a film together, Todd shows up to screw up another attempt at asking Lupa on a date, and her angry response leads to a Cat Fight with the Chick. The third trailer for To Boldly Flee suggests that addressing this situation will be one of its subplots.
- ROB, Mrs. Crabtree, and Mr. Crabtree in 80's Dan.
- In The Cry of Mann, Jouglat is attracted to Agent Martinez, who is attracted to Berry.
- A Very Potter Musical includes a love triangle between Ron, Hermione, and Draco.
- It's said that, during the production of Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam and Heavy Metal L-Gaim, co-creators Mamoru Nagano and Yoshiyuki Tomino not only had huge Creative Differences note , but were also rivals for the affection of one of the seiyuus, Maria Kawamura. Kawamura chose Nagano over Tomino, they're Happily Married up to this day, and Tomino is said to still be kind-of bitter over it.
- There was a rather public one between three very famous manga authors: Kousuke Fujishima (Ah! My Goddess, You're Under Arrest!), Yoshihiro Togashi (YuYu Hakusho, Hunter × Hunter), and Naoko Takeuchi (Sailor Moon). Takeuchi chose Togashi over Fujishima, and they're Happily Married (with two kiddos!) to this day.
- In 2015, a Chinese news story about a guy, his girlfriend, and his ex-girlfriend had gone viral. Apparently, the man broke up with his old girlfriend in order to date a new girl. But the ex-girlfriend wouldn't move on. She nagged the guy for 4 months. This made his current lover uncomfortable which in turn led to her nagging him too, putting him dead center of a love triangle. Fed up with it, he had the 3 of the meet near a river to talk out their issues. What Could Possibly Go Wrong? Shockingly, the 2 girls began to argue furiously. Eventually, the current girlfriend said something that made the ex girlfriend snap and she made her throw herself into the nearby river asking for him to save her. And his current girlfriend, worried he might save and acknowledge his ex again, threw herself in too, asking him to choose. Ultimately the poor guy dove in and saved his current girl and took her to the hospital after she was hit by a boat while he had his brother call the fire department to get his ex out. Fittingly, a common Chinese custom would be to ask a man who he'd save from drowing, his mother or his lover.
- Amongst the many examples of graffiti found in Pompeii is the story of Successus, Severus and Iris played out on the wall of a bar, starting with a somewhat passive-aggressive dig at Successus by Severus that described the situation, followed by Successus' reply and then Severus' response to said reply.
"But I love him!"
"I am so conflicted!"