Love Triangles - Narcissistic Triangulation

Narcissistic Triangulation Explained

| What is Narcissistic Triangulation? |

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.

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The Adventures of Dan and Tina - Enduring and Recovering from Narcissistic Abuse

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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 you 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!

Here are some stories that provide good examples of real narcissistic triangulation as it happened:

There are a bunch of other examples throughout this blog and in the book, The Adventures of Dan and Tina.

Don’t let triangulation affect you! Learn to laugh it off, because it’s truly immature and pretty pathetic once you know what it is.

Read Next: Dissecting the On-Again-Off-Again Relationship

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5 comments

  • Elaine

    Wow!! It happened to me and boy did it throw me off balance and deeply wounded me. I had no clue what was going on or why this crazy stuff was happening. It began immediately after we met. He also started the relationship treating me so special then when I was hooked…. It was crazy!! Up and down constantly. Yes, “triangulating” (your article really made the why?? Now understandable!! So much or her behaviors). It affected greatly. He ended up committing suicide after a relationship of 11 years. Horrible! My life has been trying to heal now for the past nine years. Afraid to even think of another relationship! Not sure if I have energy again in a relationship. Thank you for a well written description of what this kind of behavior was and a light bulb moment!!

  • Dorna

    My ex-husband told me about 18 months and 2 children into our 20 year marriage “ … my mom said I could do better, and that I didn’t have to marry you.
    But I told her it was my choice and I wanted to”
    I never felt comfortable around his family again. And he never supported me a in front of them ever. He always made me fend for myself. And they became increasingly hostile and disrespectful.

    • Dan

      Triangulation, while driving a wedge and devaluation all in one. They’re efficient in their manipulations and abuse. Gotta give them that, I suppose.

  • I met a girl and at first she seemed to good to be true. I was head over heels for her. A month into the relationship she befriended my daughter and her mom. She would start fights with me in front of my daughter. I would go home for lunch and she would be hanging out with my daughters mom. I asked my ex to leave and she yelled at me. She screamed “I love her”. I planned to take this girl to the hospital to get surgery and when i got to her house to pick her up she had already left. I get to the hospital and there they are in the waiting room. She got my ex to take her. My so called girlfriend screamed at me right in the waiting room calling me an ass and a piece of shit I never was so hurt in my life. Later i found out she had planned this weeks before. My God I’m such an idiot I can’t believe this. She would ghost me and then come back. Now I’m looking at five years in jail because I called her on the phone. I gave her a car. I took her to a concert. I did everything I could for her. It was all a scam! I could puke! She destroyed my life and she had every intention of it. I don’t know what to do. I can’t go thru much more of this. She dragged me into hell and locked the gate behind her.

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