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Triangulation is one of the favorite manipulation tools used by narcissists and sociopaths. It can also be a learned behavior that many people engage in who have grown up with a narcissistic parent or dysfunctional family dynamic. However, I think it’s important in any kind of relationship, that we learn to identify the early warning signs and red flags when interacting with people who display narcissistic and toxic behaviors. This way we can better protect ourselves from being exploited and abused and make good decisions about who we allow into our lives.

I am going to describe the 4 most common methods of triangulation used by narcissists and toxic people and the motives behind them.

Narcissists are keen observers. The can identify a kind and generous personality the same way a Great White shark can smell one drop of blood in the ocean from up to one mile away. Narcissists are also skilled observers. They main goal is to control and dominate their partners and… well, just about everyone they come in contact with. This is why the love bombing phase is so key to the narcissist’s success. No matter how confident and self-assured you are at the beginning of the relationship, the constant attention, flattery and fraudulent declarations of love that sweeps you off your feet, both literally and figuratively, leaves you off-balance and vulnerable by default.

Triangulation can be defined as an indirect form of communication where one person (usually the narcissist) acts as a messenger between two other people. Or it can be a direct form of communication where one person attempts to draw in an accomplice to gang up against a third party to further their agenda. In both cases, the messenger (usually the narcissist, but not always) will fabricate or alter a message, often incorporating a sliver of the truth, to advance his/her objective. There are as many different reasons why a narcissist might use triangulation as there are narcissists, but here are the 4 most common methods and motives.

   1. KILLING TWO BIRDS WITH ONE STONE

To obtain control, attention or adulation, narcissists will often inform their partner about how a third-party such as; a mutual friend or co-worker, etc…, who has been flirtatious with them. This third-party person is brought into the relationship to kill two birds with one stone! First, it stirs up feelings of jealousy and insecurity in their partner and subtlety warns the partner that they’re replaceable. Instinctively the partner tries harder to please the narcissist as to not be replaced. Second, it creates an illusion of desirability and encourages rivalry, both of which, fill the narcissist with narcissistic supply- adulation and control.  So not only does the narcissist get his/her dose of supply, he/she also increases the amount of power he/she has over their partner.

Emotionally healthy people do not invoke feelings of jealousy and insecurity in their partners or into their relationships, as they know these are big relationship no-nos.

   2. RECRUITING REINFORCEMENTS

One of the ways narcissists use triangulation to manipulate their partners into siding with their point of view or acquiesce to their wants and needs is by using third-party reinforcements to substantiate and their opinions. This is a form of recruiting allies when taken to the extreme is a form of bullying. The narcissist tries to manipulate anyone who may hold a different opinion or belief by using the help of a usually innocent third party, which of course, has only heard the narcissist’s rendition of the truth.

The third-party is usually oblivious to the narcissist’s ploy and believes they’re only trying to help the narcissist. Usually, their party is a relative or one of the members of the narcissist’s supporters that the narcissist uses as a tool to help settle differences and coerce their partner or anyone else into accepting their viewpoint through the use of persuasion, embarrassment, majority rules or guilt.

In emotionally healthy relationships, couples do not recruit third parties or use messengers to settle their differences. They have face-to-face discussions. They don’t strong arm the other by using a third person to help influence their partner and do their bidding for them. They respect each other and their relationship, and if they cannot come to an agreement, they will seek a qualified, unbiased third-party, such as a therapist, minister or counselor.

  3. SPLITTING

This method of triangulation involves pitting two people against each other. The narcissist does this by smearing the character of one or both of the people behind their backs. This enables the narcissist to preserve their false image and ensures they’re viewed positively among the triangle. In many instances, the narcissist will portray themselves as the victim, especially if they feel their partner is growing tired or aware of their manipulation, hypocrisy, and abuse. The narcissist will react by planning their partner’s discard by starting a full-fledged smear campaign behind their back. So by the time they dump their partner, the narcissist already has a circle of blind supporters.

The narcissist will usually seek supporters that he/she knows will always agree with them no matter what. This is how they set up their partner to look like the abuser in the relationship long before the relationship is over. For this to work, the narcissist must keep the supporter(s) and partner from sharing information, so the narcissist will usually share mean comments each has said about the other.

The narcissist uses this triangulation tactic to control the information shared between the parties providing the narcissist with the power of being the primary contact person and transferer of information.  Since everyone is communicating through the narcissist and not with each other, the narcissist can further their agenda by relaying their spin on the information between the parties.

Emotionally healthy people tend to shy away from the drama that splitting creates. Most people hate to be put in the middle of people’s arguments. The narcissist thrives on it. Also, emotionally healthy individuals don’t enjoy hurting others by sharing mean-spirited comments that others have said about them. Again the narcissist takes much pleasure in it. For example, the narcissist will mention to his/her partner that a family member made a very cruel comment about them and then pretend to be supportive of their partner’s anger and appear to defend them. Not only does the narcissist get to delight in the hurt expression on their partner’s face but they get to swoop in like the hero and pretend to defend their partner. This creates a lot of drama and chaos and is a potent fix of supply for the eternally bored, drama-driven narcissist.

    4. THE PRE-DISCARD & DUMP

This is the final triangulation tactic used by the narcissist when he/she has decided to end the relationship. Instead of talking to their partner about this, they will confide in people who again they know will agree with them and believe their rendition of the truth. Sometimes they will confide in people who hardly even know their partner, if at all. The narcissist will make sure to let their partner know that they have been confiding in other people, and every single one of them agrees with the narcissist. Most likely, one of the narcissist’s confidants will assume the role of the replacement partner.

After the break-up, the narcissist will openly brag about how happy they are with their new partner. And if their ex-partner acts jealous or tries to beg them back, the narcissist will enjoy the new bonus love-triangle of their own creation.

It goes without saying, that emotionally healthy people don’t talk about something as important as ending a relationship with others without discussing it with their partner’s first. It also goes without saying that emotionally healthy people don’t shamelessly flaunt their new partners right away since it would cause them to feel embarrassed about entering a new relationship so quickly.

Ironically, In Judo, a triangle choke, is a four-figure chokehold, which strangles the opponent by encircling the opponent’s neck and one arm with the legs in a configuration, similar to the shape of a triangle. The technique constricts the blood flow from the carotid artery to the brain and can cause the fighter to pass out or even die if left in the hold long enough. For the opponent to release himself from the triangle choke, he needs to tap out, or the referee will jump in to stop the fight. If you see any of these warning signs or behaviors in your relationship, strongly consider tapping out. You may lose the match, but miraculously, when toxic people leave your life, so does anxiety, depression, and hopelessness.

img_9351-1Bree Bonchay is a Los Angeles based licensed Psychotherapist who believes relationships are the currency of life. She’s dedicated to helping people heal from break-ups, recover from toxic relationships with narcissists and sociopaths and to never settle for a life less than the one they dreamed of. She is a Blogger, Advocate, Facebook Toxic Relationship Recovery Forum Administrator, Radio Guest Expert, and is the Author of the book, I Am Free.

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Copyright © 2015 Bree Bonchay. All Rights Reserved

 

88 thoughts on “The 4 Most Common Narc-Sadistic Triangulation Tactics

  1. Thanks so much for the insight! I am dealing with a narcissistic sister-in-law who has torn through all four phases after my brother passed recently. There is no one to reign her in now and she excludes my Father and I from family dinners while inviting aunts, cousins, etc. even planning reunions! I have no idea what to do other than disconnect from her completely and hope the older folks see her for who she is before she talks them out of their savings.

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  2. This is exactly how I have been treated by a scottish man i’ll call John I met threw work in the bank a few years ago. He is 46, wealth manager. He was married with two boys but I got roped in. He left his wife and moved in with me. I was useful as i own my own house in ballyhaise outside the town. It has been a couple of years of hell since. He lies, cheats, leaves and returns. All games. He has been involved with several other women in Monaghan, Cavan and Meath but denies it all. Thinks I am stupid. My brother and sister in law work for the same bank so we are useful for contacts and I think that is what he needed to establish himself. He played me off against his wife and is always contacting other women he meets from work. He travels and that allows him to cheat. He was so nice in the beginning but it was an act. He runs down co-workers, his harem, bank clients and his family behind their backs and enjoys playing people against each other. Thinks he is wiser than all. My parents hated him from the outset but I was stupid and took him back many times. He has no soul just a fake smile and the ability to mirror everyone to get supply. He blames everyone else for his problems and is never sorry. Is very passive aggressive to control you and then gets bored and starts another affair. It takes time to see the truth behind the lies. He only loves himself.

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  3. I recently ended a 8-month long distance relationship, where we say each other every month for a few days, with a man who I was already wondering about. Then he did this: We are Facebook friends and chatted for hours. After he told me for the first time that he loved me, he started “liking” every photo post on a woman – a younger looking version of me – who liked to post up to six selfies of herself a day. He had met her at a convention and she is about 25 years younger than him. Anyway, he “liked” every photo she posted. I was “liking” his posts. Because of this, eventually my newsfeed was flooded with her posts of photos of herself and his “liking” of them. Then she began to leave small comments on his posts. I found out that for about a week, he was leaving our “chat dates” by saying “brb, coffee” etc. and he’d disappear for 20 minutes or so and come back. I felt something was wrong. On my newsfeed the next day was the proof of what he was doing. When I confronted him, he accused me of being jealous, which he had said many times he would not tolerate, and also of spying on him. He knows how Facebook works. He did it on purpose. I asked him if he still loved me. He said, “The honest answer is………I can’t say right now.” I asked him if he was interested in anyone else. He said, “Nope.” I thanked him for answering my questions, which was becoming a miracle and spent the next two days emotionally calming myself to prepare to leave. I think he knew something was up, because all the sudden he got the flu and was feeling “really bad.” The last thing I said to him before blocking him everywhere was “That’s ok. You’ll be feeling a whole lot better in a couple of days.” I do not play triangulation games. If it happens, I’m gone.

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  4. This was and is my life, I wish i had known about my Narcissist 16 years ago. I am now divorced after 15 years of marriage to a case book narcissist. You would think that would be cause for celebration, but I had children with him so it will never be over and now I have to watch my children suffer through it. If a man beats you there is something you can do about it but when you describe emotional torture they look at you like you are crazy it couldn’t possibly be that bad. But it is nothing less then a nightmare without end.

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    1. Uuuggg….i am going through the same thing with my daughters and their dad! I promise you though…it does get better as we get stronger! My daughters are doing great (they are in their late terns though to) they have set their own boundaries and learned from everything that i have taught them about narcissistic behavior and what to watch out for. I share with them and talk with them. Mostly I have gotten stronger and healthier. They see that and it will be ok…i do know what mean about the visible abuse compared to the emotional beat down that a narcissist can inflict…you can’t show anyone the proof and it literally drove me crazy…all the way to therapy….let me tell you one thing for sure that i know…you are dealing with something evil…but there is hope!!! Pray until you can’t pray anymore…god prevails!!

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  5. So glad that the stbxnh “is done with me and filed for divorce” cause boy dealing with that man has been draining to the tenth power. This was good. I hadn’t heard much about triangulation so when someone mentioned it, I had to read about it. This gave me more insight and appreciate it.

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  6. Personally I never reacted to his triangulation efforts (at least I don’t I remember I did – he told me about a lot of women that he claimed were “so pretty” and “very interested” in him- there was is this one “amazingly pretty” Thai girl at his work who he claimed asked him if he wanted to take her out on a date…).
    I’ve always thought it was kind of immature, I am not a jealous person so he never really got to play his game.
    So he was talking about all those women but God forbid if once in a blue moon I posted something on my (male) FB friends site- then he got really nuts.
    I now believe he tried to control me with his fits out of nothing and it even kind of worked: sometimes I was about to write something (totally innocent of course) but untimately left it alone because I knew the Narc would -unpon reading it- go crazy and accuse me of being unfaithful.

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  7. In dealing with a narsisist, I’ve found triangulation also extends outside the world of romance, i.e , pitting friends of the narc against one another in order to make others ‘fight’ for the narc’s attention. In this particular case, the narc used social media platforms like Facebook to pay attention to certain friends while ignoring others. I noticed a PATTERN of the narc responding to certain posts and being non responsive to others. It was interesting to note this narc ignoring the easier prey…those with a big heart and more empathetic, but responding to others who also had more narc tendencies themselves or were newer narsisistic supply.
    The zinger of all this werror the responses by the narcsissits friends (those who got a response from the narc) were partaking in a battle of words to try to prove to the narc that they cared about the narc the most and we’re in awe of them. This is a classic example of kids fighting with one another to be ‘teachers pet’, or in this case ‘Narc’s Pet’. They wanted the narc to value and pay attention to them more than other friends. In my mind, it’s fascinating to watch the narc set this up, and social media is the perfect platform to do so.
    It is and was intentional on the narsisist’ part.
    I’m sure they get great pleasure over people fighting over them.

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  8. I was vulnerable to a Narcissist after my fiance died in 2012, looking back I see that I needed the conflict/drama to have something to focus on other than the grief. He had so many exes and talked to every one of them. His “harem” the well of constant attention. He would say “Whats the big deal” in the meanest way whenI complained. I received the love bombing, tried to break up with him one month in after we started fighting over money, he would spend his whole paycheck over the weekend taking us out to dinner etc then borrow money from me by weeks end. He said “You cant break up with me, Im fuc##ng in love with you.” So I stayed even though I knew something wasnt right, couldnt put my finger on it. After 3 years I was finally able to close the door, he cheated on me with one woman, without shame told me about it, then went out and got a new girlfriend, she was worried bc she hadnt heard from him while we were on vacation. Once I talked to her and compared notes, (told her he was done with me) I knew I couldnt live this way anymore and worked on closing the door. He even messaged my new boyfriend told him we were having sex!! Thankfully the new bf knew he was messed up and believed me. I went no contact and that worked, now in a HAPPY healthy transparent relationship and glad I didnt fall for the ex’s tactics to make me doubt myself, told me I was “drama, crazy, insecure, a stalker….” and on and on.

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