Narcissistic Triangulation Explained
| What is Narcissistic Triangulation? |
This is something I get asked about a lot. Maybe I should create a FAQ page. For now, I’ve tried to answer this question for the DanandTina.net blog.
Narcissistic abuse takes many forms. Some of the more common devious tricks of a narcissistic abuser are gaslighting, humiliating and belittling and triangulation. This article will explore what triangulation is – what it looks like, why emotional abusers do it and how it affects a victim.
You may have heard the term, “love triangle,” which usually describes two people pursuing the same fickle love interest. This is a form of triangulation – whether it’s deliberate or not. In the simplest terms, triangulation is the introduction of a third party into a relationship of two. It might be to create unease and jealousy. Maybe it’s to settle an argument. For a narcissist, it’s always about control and extracting supply. There is little on Earth that will provide narcissists more validation and ego-boosting supply than having two people fight over them.
Triangulation can work against more than one target. A narcissist with multiple suitors might introduce two of them to each other to put them both off balance at once. Sure, one might decide the narcissist isn’t worth it and leave, but when it works out for the narcissist, each of them will work all the harder to please the narcissist, having seen their competition. Sparks could fly, too! Narcissists dine on drama and if it’s about the narcissist, it’s delicious! They love to be at the center of attention, with all the world revolving around them, and dancing to their manipulative cues.
My ex was an expert at extracting narcissistic supply via triangulation. She was able to get two men (who were apparently friends) fighting each other over her in a bar after only knowing her for ten minutes. Nom nom nom! She was having a feast!
A narcissist has numerous ways to triangulate and it’s not always about creating “love triangles” (but it may often be). They might just bring another person’s name into a conversation. “I told your aunt about our argument and she agrees with me,” is one common sort of example.
While she was stinking drunk, my ex, Tina once attacked my long-established sobriety to try to settle an absolutely insane argument. She could have not been more wrong by anyone’s measure, but in an attempt to make me doubt my judgement, she said, “My mom overheard our conversation and she asked me if you started drinking again.”
“My Dad doesn’t like us being together, but I told him how much I love you, so it doesn’t matter” is a particularly devious example. Here, the narcissist undermines her victim’s sense of security and plays the savior at once. While playing attacker and defender, both, she creates an illusion that it’s “you and me against the world.” So, triangulation is used to make the victim think there is a special bond with the narcissist.
Triangulation can be used to make a person feel inferior. “Oh. You need help moving that heavy thing I asked your to move for me? My last boyfriend used to manage it himself.” Or, they can insult you by proxy. “My girlfriend Jean told me she thinks you’re getting fat.”
The best defense against this kind of manipulation and psychological abuse is knowledge and ability to recognize it. Once you realize it’s happening, it becomes laughable instead of hurtful or anxiety-inducing, because triangulation is really a child’s weapon. It can’t hurt you anymore once you see it as it is!
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