Every Love Triangle Is Isosceles

When a man loves two women, or a woman two men, we get geometrical, labeling it a triangle. I am no fan of math in general, or geometry in particular, so perhaps I’m biased when I say that has to be one of the most boring metaphors imaginable for this relationship that is usually marked by pyrotechnic emotional explosiveness. You need read no further than the stories in Genesis—of Abraham, Sarah and Hagar; or of Jacob, Rachel, and Leah—to see that such triangulation breeds a swarm of rather nasty attitudes and actions. It was the famous short story author, O. Henry, who pointed out in his Schools and Schools that love triangles “are always isosceles—never equilateral.” A man does not, indeed, cannot, love two women equally, nor can a woman two men. One side of that triangle is always shorter than the others, one is always getting less while the other gets more.

What is true of human relationships is also true—indeed, even truer—of man’s relationship with God. When the monogamous becomes polygamous, when I worship the Lord but have a fling or two on the side with my idol of choice, the resulting triangle is never equally proportioned. One divinity always gets less of me, and he who gets less is always the God who demands all. Uncomely Leah becomes the patron saint of the Lord unloved.

But here is the real truth, the deeper truth about so-called “love triangles”: they do not exist—either in human or divine relationships. Love is a whole, a thing indivisible. It is not a pizza that I can cut up and divvy out piece by piece to whomever I choose. That is why Jesus says, “No man can serve two masters…You cannot serve God and mammon.” For to love is to give all of oneself to another for the benefit of that person. A “love triangle” is nothing more than selfishness masquerading as love, an attempt to multiply love that results only in its subtraction and negation.

In the end, adultery and idolatry are one and the same thing: the destruction of love.

And that is why the marriage and fidelity of Christ to his bride, the Church, is the perfect picture of love. For here is love incarnate, giving all of himself, giving love, to her who reciprocates that love.

And that also means—miracle of miracles—that you, as an individual, have the entirety of God’s love, for you have him in his fullness, in Christ, in you, the hope of glory.