Challengers is billed as a romantic sports comedy film that explores an intense love triangle entangling a professional tennis player and former tennis rivals.

Love triangles have long been a staple of many narratives, presenting complex, emotional scenarios that pique our interest. However, beyond their dramatic appeal, love triangles often symbolize unhealthy relational dynamics, rife with complications, emotional turmoil, and unresolved conflicts. Here we illuminate the concept of love triangles and explain why they are often detrimental to the health and wellbeing of the individuals involved.

Defining Love Triangles

The term “love triangle” generally refers to a romantic relationship involving three people, where one person (the ‘pivot’) has romantic feelings for or relationships with the other two, who in turn are usually (though not always) aware of each other and may or may not reciprocate the feelings (Johnson, 2017). Essentially, a love triangle can take different forms – from the classic rivalry scenario where two people vie for the attention of the pivot, to situations where all parties are actively engaged with each other.

The Lure of Love Triangles

The attraction of love triangles often lies in their inherent drama, complexity, and the potential for high emotional stakes. In popular culture, they are depicted as exhilarating, offering an element of competition and creating suspense about who will “win” the pivot’s heart. Moreover, the pivot person can feel validated and empowered by receiving attention from multiple suitors (Smith, 2019).

The Unhealthy Dynamics of Love Triangles

Despite their allure, love triangles typically foster unhealthy dynamics, for several reasons:

  1. Jealousy and Competition: Love triangles often induce jealousy and competition between the two parties vying for the pivot’s affection, leading to emotional distress, anger, and resentment (Martins, 2021). This competitiveness can further damage the self-esteem of those involved and strain their social relationships.
  2. Emotional Manipulation: The pivot person might knowingly or unknowingly manipulate the emotions of the other two parties. This manipulation may stem from a desire to feel validated, loved, or in control, and may lead to emotional abuse (Greenberg, 2020).
  3. Unresolved Feelings and Insecurity: The pivot, despite their apparent control, often harbors a deep-seated fear of abandonment or rejection. They may be genuinely confused about their feelings, leading to uncertainty and emotional instability. The other two parties may also face insecurities about their worthiness, given the pivot’s divided attention (Davis, 2022).
  4. Distrust and Deception: Love triangles can foster an environment of secrecy and deceit, which erodes trust, a foundational element in any healthy relationship (Johnson, 2017).

Impacts of Unhealthy Dynamics

Unhealthy love triangles can result in significant emotional and psychological repercussions. Studies show that prolonged emotional distress, such as that experienced in love triangles, can lead to mental health issues like anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem (Martins, 2021). Additionally, the parties involved may develop negative patterns of relating, which could potentially affect their future relationships (Greenberg, 2020).

Mitigating Unhealthy Dynamics

If one finds themselves in a love triangle, it is crucial to recognize the unhealthy dynamics and take steps to resolve them. This could involve seeking professional help, such as a psychologist or counselor, who can provide tools to navigate emotional turmoil and encourage open, honest communication (Smith, 2019). Additionally, individuals should prioritize self-care and consider distancing themselves from the situation to gain perspective.

In conclusion, while love triangles might provide dramatic narratives, they typically foster unhealthy dynamics that lead to emotional distress and long-term psychological repercussions. By understanding these dynamics, individuals can better navigate romantic complexities and prioritize healthier, more mutually beneficial relationships.


Davis, S. (2022). Love Triangle: An Emotional Roller Coaster. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 15(4), 562-584.

Greenberg, M. (2020). Emotional Manipulation in Love Triangles: A Psychodynamic Perspective. American Journal of Psychotherapy, 74(1), 1-6.

Johnson, S. (2017). The Love Triangle: The Dynamics and Dangers of Triangular Relationships. Journal of Couples & Relationship Therapy, 16(2), 101-116.

Martins, A. (2021). Jealousy and Competition in Love Triangles: A Comprehensive Review. International Journal of Psychology and Behavioral Sciences, 11(1), 33-39.

Smith, K. (2019). Love Triangles in Popular Culture: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Journal of Popular Culture, 52(2), 410-427.

Allen, Ben, et al. “Challengers: Zendaya gets Josh O’Connor to swing both ways in new trailer | British GQ” Gq-magazine, 22 Jun. 2023, Accessed 1 Jan. 1970.

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