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, i.e. a love triangle. Well, that's just one of many versions. 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.
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.
- Better Partner Assertion: A character in a love triangle tries to solve it by telling the person they love that they are the better choice of the two suitors.
- 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.
- Harem Genre: A genre where a single protagonist is pursued by multiple competing suitors.
- Heart Is Where the Home Is: Turning down a foreign Love Interest in favor of a local lover.
- Imaginary Love Triangle: Someone thinks there's a love triangle, even though there isn't really any.
- Love Dodecahedron: An extension of a love triangle involving many people in a complicated network of relationships.
- Love Interest vs. Lust Interest: One Love Interest of the triangle's apex is someone they feel deep, lasting affection for, while the other incurs intense but shallow lust.
- Marry Them All: A love triangle that is resolved by openly getting together with all potential suitors at once.
- 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.
- Open Relationship Failure: Sometimes happens if the apex of a love triangle attempts to choose both.
- Opposites Attract Revenge: Two suitors develop a vendetta against each other due to their rivalry over their love interest.
- Pair the Suitors: The two suitors end up with each other instead.
- Polyamory: Resolves the love triangle with an agreement (explicit or not) that exclusivity isn't necessary in the relationship(s).
- Psychotic Love Triangle: A love triangle where two (or more) of the participants are Yandere or some other flavor of 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.
- Two-Person Love Triangle: A love triangle where two of the parties involved are actually the same person.
- Unwanted Harem: A member of the Official Couple has multiple other characters also pursuing them.
- 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 Swing: An aristocratic woman is swinging without care. Her husband, left in the shadows, is the one putting the swing in motion, while her lover is hidden in the bushes below her, openly admiring her beauty. This painting is meant as a depiction of how the higher classes don't see adultery as a sin but as a necessity born from having to marry for economical reasons.
- In Boonie Bears, the bear brothers Briar and Bramble both vie for the affections of a red bear named Natasha. Natasha sees them as just friends.
- 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.
- Peanuts runs entirely on All Love Is Unrequited.
- Peppermint Patty and Marcie are both interested in Charlie Brown. Patty and Marcie are also very close to each other. Chuck/Charles only likes the little red-haired girl, who has no interest in him.
- Lucy is (terribly) infatuated with Schroeder, who's only interested in playing his piano.
- Sally likes Linus who doesn't seem that interested in anyone, except sometimes his teacher Miss Othmar.
- 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 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.
- This happens in-canon with some variants of tale type ATU 433B, "King Lindworm", of the international Aarne-Thompson-Uther Index, especially from Scandinavia, and as a narrative that exists locally in Greece, Turkey, Armenia and Georgia: the heroine marries a serpent prince whom she disenchants, but she is betrayed by her stepmother and abandoned far away from her husband in another place. In this new land, the heroine meets another cursed prince whom she marries and also disenchants, and with whom she may have a child. At the end of the tale, her first husband, the now human serpent prince, finds his wife living with the second husband, and she must choose which husband she is gonna be with:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- Eric Clapton's hit song "Layla" is about Pattie Boyd, who was then married to George Harrison.
- A much darker version of this is Delain's "I Want You"—which starts out seeming like a typical unrequited love song, but it gradually becomes clear the narrator is a dangerously obsessed Stalker with a Crush and ends with If I Can't Have You… (even including that phrase verbatim).
- "Untouchable Face" by Ani DiFranco: The narrator of the song is in love with someone who's definitely in a relationship with someone else, and there's no evidence they're even aware of the narrator's feelings.
- Evoked for laughs in the Fred Godfrey song "Now I Have to Call Him Father".
''He used to come and court his little Mary Ann
I used to think that he was my young man
But Mother caught his eye and they got married on the sly
Now I have to call him Father
- The J. Geils Band: "Love Stinks" states that "You love her, but she loves him, and he loves somebody else."
- "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.
- Discussed in Tom Lehrer's song "Lobachevsky," in which the protagonist has written a book in a highly-specialized field of geometry.
- Udo Lindenberg from Berlin made a song about one: A conductor loves a soprano, she loves a dancer from the ballet, who loves the conductor.
- From Franchise Love Live!: Nijigasaki Highschool Idol 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.
- Macross Frontier theme songs:
- The opening song "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.
- "Tablet" is sung from the POV of Sheryl and Ranka; they are both asking Alto to pick the other because they want them to be happy and apologizing to the other for falling for him while also thanking each other for being a true friend. It is heartbreaking.
- "Miracle" by Mac Mc Anally, 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.
- 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?"
- The Monkees song "Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow)" is about the singer lamenting that, come tomorrow, he has to choose between two girls (Mary and Sandra) that he loves equally.
- Quite a few Miyuki Nakajima songs. Most well-known example is "Akujo," where the singer is pursuing a man who is pursuing Mariko.
- "Love Triangle" by Rae Lynn turns this on its head: the "triangle" is between the narrator and her divorced parents who share custody of her.
- "Automatic Stop" by The Strokes.
So many fish there in the sea
She wanted him, he wanted me
- Suede's "Asphalt World": "When you're there in her arms / And there in her legs / Well I'll be in her head".
- Taylor Swift:
- On her 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.
- "Invisible": The narrator likes a guy who likes another girl, and the song is basically her trying to convince him to pick herself instead of the other girl.
- "The Less I Know the Better" by Tame Impala is about the narrator finding out that the object of his affection has hoked up with a guy called Trevor. He does not take it well.
- 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).
- This is the premise of "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.
- "Daughter of Evil": Rin Kagamine (Daughter of Evil, as well as princess of the kingdom of yellow) falls in love with the prince of the blue kingdom by the sea, Kaito. However, he falls in love with a girl from a green land, Miku. Since Rin does not know which girl Kaito fell in love with... It doesn't end too well for the green land.
- "The Butterfly, Flower, and Spider" by Hitoshizuku P. The flower, a knight, and the butterfly, his childhood friend, are in love, but the spider , a prince, catches sight of the butterfly and wants her for himself. The butterfly begs the flower not to let the spider take her away, but the flower, who swore his loyalty to the spider, is unable to save her from the royal's clutches.
- Keith Whitley's "Don't Close Your Eyes" is a man in a relationship with a woman who is still in love with her ex. It's unclear whether the ex is still alive or he's Competing with a Corpse ("Don't close your eyes/let it be me/don't pretend it's him/in some fantasy...")
- Arthurian Legend largely revolves around the triangle of King Arthur, Queen Guenivere, and Lancelot. Interestingly, each of them originally came from a different storyline and merged together sometime in the 12th century. It's widely believed to have been the work of French poet Chrétien de Troyes, who wrote about it in Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart.
- Classical 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.
- The Bible:
- One of the interpretations of the Song of Songs, 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.
- David infamously fell in love with Uriah's wife Bathsheba, slept with her, and sent her husband to die on the frontlines so he wouldn't find out about her adultery. God took offense and killed their first child, although later they had Solomon.
- 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.
- Wooden Overcoats:
- Antigone has a crush on Eric, but denies it. Eric doesn't notice, and himself has a crush on Georgie, who is rather apathetic to him, and friends with Antigone.
- This gets amusingly flipped on its head in Season Three, when Georgie crushes hard on Marlene, who not only doesn't notice, but makes an Anguished Declaration of Love to an utterly flabbergasted Antigone.
- Most noticeable of late is the situation in which Daniel Bryan found himself with Monday Night RAW's resident twin tag-team teases/terrors, the Bella Twins (until they found him making out with Gail Kim—they didn't take that well).
- 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-Wrestling/Lita-Wrestling/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.
- The rulebook for the Serenity Role Playing Game describes a triangle among the crew of the book's example ship Aces and Eights. Hwa Ling has a Bodyguard Crush on the ship's owner, professional gambler Jack Leland, while pilot Ross "Rawhide" Macintosh is in love with Hwa Ling, who cares nothing for him.
- 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.
- 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.
- No Evil features Ichabod, who has a crush on Wrip, who is in a relationship with Vinkel. This is discussed in one episode where Ichabod is trying to help cure Vinkel in hopes of cheering up Wrip:
Paula: The little love triangle is adorable.
Kitty: Ain't a love triangle. It's a love line segment with one very ambitious point.
- 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 her teammate Jaune, who initially 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 Weiss develops a crush on visiting student Neptune; for his part, Neptune does seem to reciprocate... but he also turns out to be a Casanova Wannabe who flirts with every girl he meets. The love triangle effectively ended after the third season, as Jaune eventually did give up on Weiss, only for Pyrrha to die shortly after revealing her feelings to Jaune. Meanwhile, Weiss's relationship with Neptune ultimately doesn't lead anywhere, and she hasn't shown interest in romance since.
- 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. In the "Evil Empires" video, 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.
- Limyaael's Fantasy Rants: Limyaael's thoughts on love triangles (though she is referring specifically to the "affair" type).
- Survival of the Fittest:
- Imraan Al-Hariq has a crush on Jessie Anderson, who is in a relationship with Daniel Kensrue.
- Brendan Wallace is in a relationship with Erik Laurin. However, Erik is secretly in love with Bobby Barron, who is also in love with Erik, but they don't know about it, since Bobby is in the closet and pretending to be straight, and, for all Erik is concerned, is "off-limits".
- Channel Awesome: Todd in the Shadows 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Family: Gemma is in a longstanding relationship with Ben and Stuart. The guys each are in love with Gemma, and she reciprocates to them both. There is neither attraction nor jealousy between Ben and Stuart as they're both straight and truly devoted to Gemma. As Ben explains to his parents, "This is the love of my life, and I want to grow old with her. And this is the other love of her life, and I wouldn't dream of depriving her." (Their relationship is open, and all three engage in relationships of varying lengths and depths with others duing the series, but none of them is ever more important to them than their core family, or allowed to threaten it.)
- Fantasy Heroine is a Troperiffic Affectionate Parody that begins with a writer casting for a "generic white girl fantasy heroine" (Rosamund) for a story that also involves a "hot enemy" (Leo) and a "hot childhood best friend" (Robin). However, as things go on, the trope gets subverted. It turns out Rosamund and Robin really are basically just Childhood Friends. He is attractive, sure, but he can be an attractive person without that specifically being for Rosamund's benefit. That alone doesn't make him a Love Interest. Another detail is that the author was initially looking for a 16-year-old waif for the heroine, but she instead got a 36-year-old widowed mother of two. If they were teenagers, the "hot childhood best friend" being single would make sense. It makes rather less sense for Robin—who "is rich, personable, and attractive"—to still be single in his mid 30s. So he's not: he's already married to a woman named Elinor.
- 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.
- Manic Pixie Dream Wife: Chance and Simone are married and they love each other, but Chance begins to feel attracted to Serenity who seems to enjoy flirting with Chance.
- 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!"