Doing Life Together

Doing Life Together

How To Get Out of a Relationship Triangle


Reader Question: I am in the middle of a big argument with my mom and sister. The issue is between me and my mom but my sister sides with mom and the two of them gang up on me. I am always the outsider. We haven’t talked for 6 months and now my mom wants to bury the hatchet and talk to me again. Nothing ever gets resolved or talked about and I am tired of this. I’m sure something else will come up and she and my sister will gang up on me again. How do I change this?  No one ever says they are sorry but me. 


The question is about a mother, daughter, sister problem, but the principle of getting out of the middle applies to all relationships.

A. You are in something called a relationship triangle. Triangles involve 3 people. When two people have difficulty communicating or dealing with conflict with each other, a third person is brought in to deflect the difficulty. Your sister is that person for your mom. Instead of dealing directly with you, she gets your sister to side with her and justify her position. This is an unhealthy triangle because the two people who need to address the conflict, don’t.

In terms of forgiveness, Christ told us to forgive 70 times 70–in another words, to keep on forgiving. So choose to forgive your mom and sister. But in the future, you need to respond differently. Make sure that you ONLY communicate with the person involved in a conflict. When your mom pulls in your sister, refuse to deal with her and say, “This is between you and me. I’d like to solve this. When you are ready to talk to me and not my sister about this, I am ready.”


You break up triangles by  dealing directly with the person involved in the conflict. This often create tension because people don’t like changing familiar patterns even when those patterns are dysfunctional.

Finally, you can’t control what other people do. If your mom and sister gang up on you, you confront it and they stop talking to you, that’s their choice.

But leave the door open for their re-entry. Repeat your position to only deal with the person involved, not the third party.

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