What is Narcissistic Triangulation? Understanding the Positive & Negative
Narcissistic triangulation – what’s that all about? Let’s talk about positive triangulation first.
Triangulation is a tactic narcissists use to employ a third party by bringing them into the relationship (superficially or otherwise) in their attempts to belittle, confuse, or worry you, create jealousy, fear of loss and causing you to vie for their attention and affections.
So triangulation involves three people – the narcissist, their victim, and the ‘third party’ who gets drawn into the drama, usually in a covert operation orchestrated by the narcissist. And I should point out at this time, that the narc can have several of these triangles operating at any one time.
However, not all triangles are the same – there are, ironically, two sides to triangulation – positive, and negative.
Positive triangulation is the tactic narcissists use to gain favour with other people - it could be your family, your friends, their family and friends, work colleagues, ex-partners, future potential partners, and even complete strangers. Basically, just about anyone in your life, and in their life, will be a target for them to build a web of lies and deceit about you so that they can gain more narcissistic supply or fuel from all concerned. They use this positive triangulation to make themselves seem like angels, and paint you as unstable, crazy, difficult, demanding, and a thousand other things that are simply not true about you. This helps them gain sympathy – aka fuel – from the triangulation target, and it goes a long way to explaining why their subsequent smear campaigns against you can be so successful. They are so charming, convincing, and believable, that they can completely discredit you, even to people who you believed would never fall for such lies. Yes, even family and ‘best friends’ have been duped.
Positive Triangulation like this is also used to make you feel inadequate, inferior, and worthless. For example, when your narc openly flirts with another right in front of you, or when a parent openly praises your sibling but never praises you. Very few people, when they are receiving praise, will EVER consider that it’s at someone else’s cost… 99% of the time, they will just enjoy the compliment. In the case of flirting, if the flirting narc is attractive, there’s also a hidden agenda and they’re probably looking at their next tasty narcissistic snack…
And of course, you realize that this new person could be a threat to your relationship, so it sparks the fear in you that you could lose your partner. Obviously, this takes place when you are still in love and though confused and distressed most of the time in the relationship, you’re still not ready to let go. You’re afraid to lose this partner because you’re still hanging on and hoping for a return to the golden days.
So what can you do if you’re dealing with this? The harsh reality is that you have to open your eyes and see what the narc is doing to you. If they regularly flirt in front of you, that’s a huge red flag. Someone who loves and respects you just doesn’t behave like that.
Research triangulation and start looking for the correlating behaviours in your relationship. Look for evidence. And once you find it, you’ll realize that this kind of behaviour is not going to stop. Narcissists are incapable of changing their behaviour and everything they do is geared to getting supply, and destroying you in the process.
Your only answer is to get out. I know that’s not going to be easy, but it is the only answer. No matter how long you’ve been in the relationship, no matter how scared you might be, you have to plan your exit strategy because if you don’t, you will spend the rest of your life in misery. You can’t be happy in a relationship with a narcissist. And I want you to know that there IS a way out. There is always a way out.
However, while you’re planning your exit strategy, what you CAN do during this stage is to IGNORE the flirting. Don’t let the narc see that it’s upsetting you. Put on your poker face! By doing this, you deprive them of fuel and if you can perfect your poker face, they may at least let up on this particular tactic.
Everything that is happening to you is a reflection of your deep inner beliefs about what you deserve. Subconsciously, you are attracting this relationship because deep down, you don’t love yourself enough. You don’t believe you deserve better. You may have very low self-worth and a hurting inner child who needs your love.
Realising this, and coming to understanding and accepting it, is a big step… but it’s at the core of everything, across the board of narcissistic abuse as far as I’m concerned. If you loved yourself unconditionally, and had an unshakeable sense of self-worth, you would never, ever become a target… or a victim of a narc. You’d send them packing at the first sign of disrespect. What I want to do in my posts is help you to understand that, and help you get your self-worth back.
Negative Triangulation is when there is an important person in your life who the narcissist sees as a threat – for example, your child, a parent or a best friend. The narc can’t bear to see you giving your time and attention to anyone else, so they will do everything they can to disrupt, corrupt and destroy that relationship. They will try every trick in the book to drive a wedge between you whoever the person is who’s important to you.
And it doesn’t matter if you’re caring for a sick or elderly parent… the narcissist hates illness and weakness of any kind and they have absolutely no compassion towards the sick… so if you’re in this kind of situation, the narc’s hatred of you for caring for a sick person will intensify. Which seems ridiculous, but then everything about a narcissist is ridiculous. Remember one of the core traits of NPD is the need to be the centre of attention, so anytime you have to give your time and attention to anyone else, you’re taking it away from them, and they can’t bear this.
When they identify this person, they will do everything in their power to undermine this person in your eyes, including lying about things they’ve said about you. They’ll make you feel guilty or stupid for spending time with them, and if you hold your ground, they will find multiple ways to punish you. This often gets so wearing that you eventually give in and stop seeing the person just to get them to stop.
So what can you do about it? Firstly, learn about it, know the tricks the narc will play, familiarize yourself with them, and know that nothing you try to say or do will change them. You can’t reason with them. You as a person deserve to have the freedom to spend time with anyone you wish to spend time with, and this is not something that should be censored by your significant other. Know this! Know that you should not need anyone’s permission or approval to have friends, or other people in your life who need you. Be willing to stand up for yourself and don’t give in to ridiculous demands.
But, as with all narc relationships, your only true chance of finding peace is to get out. So once again, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, my advice is to plan your exit strategy. Find the way out. And remember what I always say about self-love and self-worth… if you can learn to love and value yourself for the unique person that you are, you’ll never be a victim of any kind of abuse again.