The Most Iconic Soap Opera Love Triangles Of All Time

Whether it's the classic triangle of one person torn between two suitors or a more complex arrangement such as a love square, romantic rivalries are a staple of daytime dramas. The longing, devious machinations, and explosive confrontations that result when characters go head to head in a battle for the object of their affections have captivated and thrilled soap fans since the beginning of the genre. Love triangles encourage the audience to lose themselves in the unfolding story and root for (or against) a character's success.

From enticing promos inviting viewers to watch their favorite characters get scandalous in the heat of the day to ad campaigns promising fans love in the afternoon, romance has been an essential element to the success of soap operas. The course of true love never runs smoothly on a soap, and love triangles are just one of the many obstacles encountered on the road to happily ever after. With that in mind, let's look at some of daytime's most iconic love triangles.

Sonny, Brenda, and Jax (General Hospital)

What happened when a charismatic corporate raider and a ruthless mobster fell in love with the same beguiling brunette? For Jasper "Jax" Jacks (Ingo Rademacher), Michael "Sonny" Corinthos (Maurice Benard), and Brenda Barrett (Vanessa Marcil), the answer was one of the most iconic love triangles in the 60-year history of "General Hospital."

After coming out on the losing end of a love triangle involving Karen Wexler (Cari Shayne) and Jagger Cates (Antonio Sabato Jr.), Brenda vowed the next man she fell for would fall for her just as hard. Enter Sonny Corinthos, a magnetic mob boss with dimples to die for and a bad reputation that preceded him. Brenda ignored warnings to keep her distance, and the sexy flirtation between Sonny and Brenda soon evolved into a passionate love affair. Brenda's insecurities and Sonny's lies about the true nature of his business come between them, culminating in a heart-wrenching break-up scene (via YouTube).

Jax helped Brenda pick up the shattered pieces of her broken heart. What started as fun and games blossomed into a sexy, sweet romance. Even though she loved Jax, going as far as to marry him, Brenda couldn't put Sonny behind her. Their connection remained strong, threatening the stability and safety she'd found in her relationship with Jax and sparking a perpetual feud between Sonny and Jax despite Brenda ultimately not ending up with either man (so far).

Ashley, Victor, Nikki, and Jack (The Young and the Restless)

Sometimes, what starts as a love triangle can turn into a love square. When Victor Newman (Eric Braeden) brought Ashley Abbott (Eileen Davidson) back to his ranch to heal after she'd been traumatized, he had no idea this act would signal the beginning of the end for his marriage to his beautiful wife, Nikki Newman (Melody Thomas Scott), begin a decades-long feud with Jack Abbott (then Terry Lester), or spark a never-ending rivalry between Nikki and Ashley.

Victor and Ashley grew closer, and feelings developed between the pair. Nikki was determined not to let Ashley ruin her marriage and tried setting Ashley up with Victor's brother, Matt Miller (Robert Paucha). Jack, disapproving of Ashely's relationship with Victor and wanting to get one up on his rival, pursued Nikki. Hurt and jealous, Nikki responded to Jack's attention, and Nikki and Jack had an affair. Ashley and Victor gave in to their feelings and started planning a life together, but when Victor found out Nikki had been diagnosed with a devastating illness, he returned to his wife. Unbeknownst to Victor, Ashley was pregnant with his child, and Nikki had gone into remission.

When the dust had settled on round one of this love square, Victor and Nikki would be divorced, Ashley would be married to another man, and everyone would be in separate corners of Genoa City, gearing up for round two.

John, Marlena, and Roman (Days of Our Lives)

In 1991, a presumed dead Marlena Evans (Deidre Hall) made her way back to Salem, seeking safety in the loving arms of her husband, Roman Brady (then Drake Hogestyn). They reunited, but when all was said and done, one cherished super-couple would come to a bittersweet end, while another would become one of the most beloved signature pairings in "Days of Our Lives" history.

Dr. Marlena Evans fell in love with dapper detective Roman Brady (then Wayne Northrop) when he was assigned to protect her from "The Salem Strangler." Sparks flew between them, and the pair married. Their love was cut short by Roman's death in 1984, or so it seemed. When John Black (Drake Hogestyn) appeared on the scene, Marlena wanted to help him unravel the mystery of his past. To her joy, she discovered John was her presumed dead husband. Roman and Marlena reunited, but tragedy again intervened when Marlena was presumed dead in a plane crash.

Marlena's return led to the stunning reveal that John was not Roman. Roman had been held hostage for the past few years. Marlena, torn between her enduring love for Roman and her undeniable connection to John, struggled with her feelings for the two men. She eventually gave in to temptation and had an affair with John that resulted in their daughter, Belle, the end of her marriage to Roman, and the beginning of happily ever after for John and Marlena.

Brooke, Ridge, and Caroline (The Bold and the Beautiful)

"The Bold and The Beautiful" is known for love triangles, but none caused more conversation than the one that started it all. The story of wealthy playboy Ridge Forrester (then Ronn Moss), torn between sweet socialite Caroline Spencer (Joanna Johnson) and captivating chemist Brooke Logan (Katherine Kelly Lang), took place during the early years of the show and left viewers as divided as Ridge over which woman belonged with the Crown Prince of Couture.

Ridge and Caroline were cut from the same expensive Beverly Hills cloth, while Brooke was an ambitious beauty from the Valley. When Ridge met Brooke, the attraction was instant. Despite his interest in sultry Brooke, his heart belonged to sweet Caroline. Ridge proposed but wasn't ready to leave his playboy past behind and cheated on Caroline. When she found out, she dumped him and married his brother, Thorne Forrester (then Clayton Norcross). Ridge, meanwhile, explored his attraction to Brooke, though Caroline was never far from his thoughts. The ladies battled over Ridge, and despite Brooke eventually resorting to dirty tricks and manipulations, Ridge followed his heart back to his first love Caroline. Their time together ended when Caroline succumbed to cancer, but not before asking her former rival, Brooke, and her doctor, Taylor Hayes (Hunter Tylo), to look after Ridge, igniting another triangle when Ridge and Taylor became a couple.

Theresa, Ethan, and Gwen (Passions)

Theresa Lopez-Fitzgerald (Lindsay Hartley) and Gwen Hotchkiss (then Natalie Zea) had both been in love with the kind-hearted Ethan Crane (then Travis Schuldt) for years. Gwen had years of history with Ethan, but Theresa believed Ethan was her destiny and doggedly pursued him. Ethan loved both women, but the longer he took to decide between them, the more volatile the situation became, with each woman willing to do whatever it took to come out on top.

When Ethan returned to Harmony with Gwen in tow, Theresa landed a job with his mother to get close to him, convinced he'd fall for her if they spent enough time together. Despite being engaged to Gwen, Ethan proved Theresa right and found himself drawn to the beautiful brunette, eventually ending their relationship. Gwen refused to let Theresa win and set things up so that Ethan believed Theresa betrayed him and his mother's secrets to the tabloid press. Gwen stepped in to console a distraught Ethan, and they resumed their relationship. Ethan and Gwen (Liza Huber) married, but not even that was enough to keep Ethan and Theresa apart. Gwen had his ring, but Theresa had his (secret) son. The triangle lasted over nine years, and in the final episode, Ethan (Eric Martsolf) and Theresa married, surrounded by their friends, family, and children.

Anna, Robert, and Holly (General Hospital)

Robert Scorpio (Tristan Rogers) and Holly Sutton (Emma Samms) had an unconventional courtship, but the gorgeous con artist and the suave WSB agent weren't a traditional pair. Their love seemed destined to last forever until British beauty Anna Devane (Finola Hughes) came to town.

Holly's initial romance was with Robert's best friend, Luke Spencer (Anthony Geary). When Luke was presumed dead, Robert married Holly to save her from deportation. Holly stayed with Robert even after Luke returned. Anna Devane's arrival in Port Charles threw things into disarray. Anna was Robert's ex-wife, former WSB partner, and unknown to him, the mother of his child — a little girl named Robin (Kimberly McCullough). The revelations temporarily caused tension between Robert and Holly. While they eventually reconciled, Anna's shadow loomed over their marriage. Robert and Holly relocated to Australia for a fresh start.

The love triangle took a new turn when Holly was presumed dead in 1987. Robert returned to Port Charles and eventually rekindled his relationship with Anna, marrying her in 1991. The return of a still-alive Holly in 1992 invalidated their marriage. Anna and Robert were presumed dead in an explosion shortly after. Anna and then Robert made their way back to the land of the living, but Robert has yet to pick up where he left off with either woman. Robert's unresolved feelings for Anna and Holly linger, leaving the triangle's outcome uncertain.

Bill, Laura, and Mickey (Days of Our Lives)

When Dr. Laura Spencer (then Susan Flannery) began working at University Hospital, she fell for dashing Dr. Bill Horton (Edward Mallory). Bill courted her, and they became engaged. Bone tuberculosis in his hand placed Bill's future as a surgeon in doubt, so he ended the engagement. After a rebound relationship fizzled, Laura refocused on her job. She began working with Bill's older brother, Mickey (John Clarke), and they fell in love. The triangle between Bill, Laura, and Mickey dominated "Days Of Our Lives" for years.

The couple wed, but Bill, jealous and drunk, raped Laura, and she became pregnant. She gave birth to a son named Mike and passed him off as Mickey's. When Mickey had an affair, Laura turned to Bill. Mike overheard them as they made plans to be together. After Mike nearly died, a guilt-ridden Laura stayed with Mickey. When Mike confronted Mickey about his affair, Mickey had a heart attack followed by a stroke, which left him with memory loss. He left Salem and ended up on a farm, where he fell in love with Maggie Simmons (Suzanne Rogers).

Bill and Laura married and had a daughter, Jennifer Rose. Laura's mental state declined after Jennifer's birth. She was admitted to Lakewood Sanitarium for the next 17 years, as Mickey enjoyed a long, happy marriage with Maggi. Bill ended up leaving Salem and Laura behind. Laura eventually recovered and created a life for herself without Bill or Mickey.

Rick, Lesley, Monica, and Alan (General Hospital)

In the 1970s and '80s, "General Hospital" viewers were enthralled by the love square of Dr. Monica Bard (then Patsy Rahn), Dr. Rick Webber (then Michael Gregory), Dr. Lesley Faulkner (Denise Alexander) and Dr. Alan Quartermaine (Stuart Damon). 

After a misguided marriage to Dr. Jeff Webber (Richard Dean Anderson) ended in divorce, Monica zeroed in on the man she truly loved, Jeff's brother, Rick. Rick was involved with Lesley, but Monica was undeterred. She attempted to blackmail Lesley into dumping Rick. Her scheme backfired, and Rick and Lesley married despite her interference. Though she still wanted Rick, Monica (Leslie Charleson) began dating the wealthy Dr. Alan Quartermaine (Stuart Damon). After Alan supported her through a personal crisis, Monica agreed to marry him. Tempted by spending time in close quarters, Monica and Rick made love. Monica became pregnant and believed Rick (Chris Robinson) was her son A.J.'s father. Lesley and Rick divorced, and Monica and Rick planned to reunite. A furious Alan attempted to kill the lovebirds but failed. Monica pursued a divorce, and she and Rick planned to marry.

Rick and Monica's plans went up in smoke when Alan revealed not only was A.J. his biological son, but Monica had known the truth and kept it a secret. Rick broke things off with Monica and reconciled with Lesley, while Alan and Monica made a go of their marriage and lived chaotically ever after until Alan died in 2007.

Max, Tina, and Cord (One Life to Live)

When scheming vixen Tina Lord (Andrea Evans) found herself torn between captivating cowboy Cordero "Cord" Roberts (John Loprieno) and charming rogue Maximillian "Max" Holden (James DePaiva), the triangle that ensued gave viewers some of the most memorable moments in Llanview history.

Tina met Cord Roberts when she traveled to El Paso hoping to dig up dirt on her brother-in-law, Clint Buchanan (Clint Ritchie). Cord and Tina fell in love, but the materialistic Tina refused to settle down with a poor ranch hand. Luckily for her and unknown to him, Cord's biological father was the wealthy Clint Buchanan. Tina eloped with Cord but neglected to tell him what she knew, electing instead to blackmail Asa Buchanan (Phil Carey) into giving Cord a million-dollar "inheritance." It was the first of many schemes Tina would pull throughout their relationship. Her inability to stop scheming drove the couple apart. Max was slightly more forgiving of Tina's transgressions. Their friendship turned into romance as he helped her track down her son, and they eventually got engaged.

Tina loved Max but had lingering feelings for Cord. Standing at the altar on their wedding day, she fantasized about marrying both men. When it was time to repeat after the minister, Tina said the iconic words, "I Tina take thee Cord," bringing the ceremony to a halt, ending her relationship with Max, and putting Tina and Cord on the long and winding road to reconciliation.

Victor, Caroline, and Shawn (Days of Our Lives)

Caroline Brady (Peggy McCay) and Shawn Brady (Frank Parker) built their family on the rock-solid foundation of their marriage. But that foundation cracked when Caroline revealed her long-ago affair with the wealthy and dangerous Victor Kiriakis (John Aniston) and that he had fathered her son, Bo Brady (Peter Reckell).

Victor was a ruthless crime lord who took what he wanted without remorse. Shawn was steadfast, dependable, and a hard-working family man. The men were total opposites, but Caroline held both of their hearts. Victor made his interest in Caroline known, but despite still being drawn to her former lover, Caroline rebuffed Victor's advances. Shawn and Caroline's marriage hit a rough patch after Caroline revealed Bo's paternity. Shawn, betrayed and humiliated, withdrew from his wife. Caroline was bereft, and despite his hurt and anger at her, Victor did his best to support the woman he loved. Caroline was grateful and admitted that while she cared for Victor, she loved Shawn and was committed to her marriage.

Shawn and Caroline reconciled and remained married until he died in 2008. Even with Shawn no longer in the picture, Victor and Caroline never reunited. Victor moved on to other women, such as Kate Roberts and Maggie Horton, while Caroline dedicated herself to her family. When Caroline died in 2019, Victor was devastated at having truly lost the love of his life.

Blair, Todd, Téa, and Victor (One Life to Live)

Todd Manning (Roger Howarth) and Blair Cramer (Kassie DePaiva) were a hairsbreadth away from happily ever after when he traveled to Ireland the day after their wedding in search of Marty Saybrook (Susan Haskell). That good deed did not go unpunished, and Todd was shot and presumed dead. However, he made it home in time to witness Blair having sex with Patrick Thornhart (Thorsten Kaye).

Todd's path of revenge led him to Téa Delgado (Florencia Lozano). He paid Téa $5 million to marry him so he could secure custody of his daughter, Starr Manning (Kristen Alderson). Téa, who valued financial security after growing up poor, agreed. As they spent time together, Téa fell for Todd.

A cycle of heartbreaking betrayals and heartfelt reconciliations marked both relationships, and Todd eventually had children with both women. With a mutual love for the children bonding them, Téa and Blair went from rivals to friends. Things had finally settled down when it was discovered that "Todd" was Todd's brother, Victor Lord, Jr. (Trevor St. John). The real Todd had been held hostage for several years. The subsequent battle between the brothers, divided loyalties among the children, and the bond between Téa and Blair added another layer of conflict to the story. Ultimately, Téa's heart belonged to Victor and Todd's to Blair, but many fans still believe Todd and Téa should have been endgame (via Soap Central).

Katherine, Phillip, and Jill (The Young and the Restless)

When she took Jill Foster (then Brenda Dickson) under her wing, Katherine Chancellor (Jeanne Cooper) had no idea the ambitious young woman would steal her husband, Phillip Chancellor II (Donnelly Rhodes). The feud between Katherine and Jill that resulted from Phillip and Jill's affair raged on for decades.

Phillip and Katherine's marriage was troubled. Katherine's alcoholism, strained relationship with her son Brock (Beau Kazer), occasional infidelities, and Phillip's workaholic tendencies had taken a toll on the union. Jill's friendship provided Katherine with much-needed companionship, but the more involved Jill got in helping Phillip deal with Katherine's struggles, the closer she and Phillip became. They fell in love, and by the time Katherine figured out what was happening under her roof, it was too late to save her marriage. Katherine engineered a marriage between Jill and Brock, but the marriage was DOA because Jill was pregnant with Phillip's child.

Once he found out Jill was pregnant, Phillip wanted out of his marriage to Katherine. He flew to the Dominican Republic and obtained an island divorce. Upon his return home, a distraught Katherine drove them off a cliff. Phillip married Jill on his deathbed, but Katherine had the marriage annulled. In the following years, Jill and Katherine waged war over everything from Jill and Phillip's son to the Chancellor mansion. The duo only made lasting peace when the mistaken belief they were mother and daughter motivated them to move beyond the past.