Triangulation and narcissism is a powerful toxic behaviour often seen in dysfunctional families, office politics and manipulative romantic relationships.
The manipulator will act as a toxic messenger between two people creating damaging misinformation and disharmony.
Triangulation as a form of emotional abuse and it is not just limited to families but can occur in any type of relationship.
Triangulation is a strategy often used by covert narcissists (CN). The CN will bring another person’s presence into the dynamics of the relationship and become the puppet master between the two, who are both unsuspecting targets. This other person can be anyone, from an ex-lover, neighbour, colleague, relative or a complete stranger.
The covert narcissist then acts as a messenger between two triangulated individuals, often there is limited or no communication between them except through the narcissist.
Why do Covert Narcissists Use Triangulation?
While triangulation can appear in different forms, its primary purpose is to cause pain and insecurity by playing targets off against each other and gain power and advantage over supposed rivals by manipulating them and creating conflict.
A covert narcissist may appear charming and helpful but underneath they don’t respect you, nor do they care about your feelings. They need to feel special and to be in control. They have no empathy for how their actions cause pain in others. Sadly the drama and disruption caused by the pain as their targets suffer ‘feeds’ their desire for control.
A covert narcissist uses Triangulation and narcissism to manipulate you. The more you feel insecure and distracted, the more in control a narcissist is.
How to Recognise Triangulation?
Triangulation is a form of emotional abuse that keeps victims distracted and confused, so it is not always easy to recognise. Especially if it is executed in subtle and gentle ways.
- A colleague may tell you that a senior director was unhappy with your work or punctuality – when nothing at all was actually said
- Your partner may express concern that a family member ‘commented’ negatively on your weight, leaving you uncomfortable and angry with them
- A friend may ‘share’ that a mutual friend struggles to cope with your over spending and lack of sensitivity when splitting the bill, but she is ‘too embarrassed’ to say anything
- Your boyfriend tells you about a young girl at the office party who kept throwing herself at him and how ‘stressful’ it was
All of these tactics are designed to keep you on guard, unhappy, unsettled and to create confusion bad feeling and division between both sides. Why didn’t my friend tell me that I was over spending? I’m so hurt that ‘X’ would comment on my weight gain like that – she always seems so warm and genuine? It is confusing and unsettling to experience.
You may suspect that you have become a target of a narcissist’s triangulation if you increasingly feel drained and unsettled around your friends, perhaps like you are never good enough. You feel insecure and confused about your work relationships.
Most commonly, in romantic relationships, a narcissist will use triangulation to threaten you with the possibility of being replaced or that other members of the family are more important. Your CN partner may seem to tell you about other women who keep flirting with him, an ex-girlfriend whom he just keeps ‘running into’, or that his mother’s need for his attention are greater than yours.
How to Deal with Triangulation
If your romantic partner uses information from or about another person to create hostility and pain this is triangulation. A kind, loving and supportive partner/friend/colleague will either:
- Keep negative or hurtful information to themselves and defend you rather than use it to hurt you
- If appropriate, suggest that the unhappy parties discuss things directly
- Never construct hurtful misinformation or lies about anyone
If you feel that Triangulation and narcissism have happened (or is happening) to you, it is important to understand that this was not your fault and you have been manipulated. Most people do not see it or realise it has happened until after the event.
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