I’m going to let you in on a life pro tip: Triangulation is something you should familiarize yourself with. Once reserved for those learning about or healing from narcissistic abuse, society has adopted this one particular characteristic of Narcissists and made it common behavior.
In fact, you might be triangulating and not even know you are doing it. But what is triangulating? And what can we learn from it?
More importantly, how can we empower ourselves when we are on the receiving end of being triangulated? Keep reading and I’ll tell you.
1. We Need To Expand The Definition of Triangulation
Triangulation originally meant when a Narcissistic abuser brings in a third person in a dynamic between two people—especially during a fight. Not necessarily to establish equilibrium, fairness, or resolve; but to overpower someone through minimization and manipulation. It’s a form of “flying monkeys” (people a Narcissist will employ to pit against you, harm your reputation, etc.). It’s a mechanism that speaks truly to what a Narcissistic person does: they always need an audience.
An audience is exactly what a Narcissistic person needs to put the attention on their “gleaming qualities”, while highlighting your unfavorable qualities—even if they’re in the wrong. Because Narcissists have low empathy and high insecurity, they need outside validation to keep feeding lies they tell themselves…a delusion in which they are infallible.
However, we need to expand this definition more openly and encompassing. Triangulation is any person, place, or thing which a person uses to devalue you and invite uncertainty, jealousy, confusion, insecurity and/or doubt.
Throw gaslighting in there too and you’ll understand the primary methods of attack a Narcissist utilizes.
2. Triangulation Is Strategic
Triangulation is a strategic expression of control. For example, in a heterosexual dynamic, if a person represents themselves as monogamous with you, but has a robust number of friends of the sex they are attracted to accompanied with reciprocative flirting, vague boundaries, inappropriate interactions, imbalance of priority, emotionally and/or physically cheating—and calls YOU jealous—this is Triangulation.
We can go further: a person who believes they are in a monogamous relationship, but whose partner behaves more polyamorous emotionally or physically, was never in a monogamous relationship to begin with. They were Triangulated from the start.
It requires both people to be in agreement, understanding, and attunement of what being in a relationship is. We commonly agree relationships should have a baseline of trust, healthy interdependence, reliability, and empathy…however Triangulation forces imbalance and destruction of these very facets.
Triangulation is ALWAYS about gaslighting or minimizing your own experience, while making some other _____ more important than you. Life with a Triangulator is never about a shared experience together, but an experience AGAINST you.
3. Triangulation is Meant To Weaken Your Relationship With Self
This is the cruel and unjust experience with a Narcissist or anyone toxic who Triangulates. The primary goal of a Triangulator is to arise so much jealousy, uncertainty, and distrust that you begin to doubt yourself. You begin to doubt your worth, your intuition, your ability, your future—that you begin to make CHOICES which reflect from this place and internal standard.
No, you should never feel like you need to prove your worth to someone else. But with a toxic person who Triangulates, especially a Narcissist, you will ALWAYS be caught in this repetitive cycle.
And it’s not a cycle you ever leave satisfied or fulfilled. Relationships are not meant to be lived on the short highs of winning someone’s brief moments of love or approval. That’s not the point. Ever.
4. Cheating Is Always Triangulation
Cheating is defined differently in every relationship. For example, some may see viewing porn as cheating, while in other relationships it’s not. Others may view one-on-one dinners and drinks with the sex they are attracted to as cheating, while others do not.
With our expanded definition of Triangulating, cheating is Triangulation because your partner has allowed some other person, place, or thing to take precedence in their life—and especially over you.
What makes cheating so devastating is humans are meaning-making beings. We create meaning continuously at a subconscious & unconscious layer. Our experiences secretly tell us something about ourselves. Cheating robs shared meaning and turns it into nothing.
If most relationships are based on shared experiences, then cheating excludes a party to be left with feelings that are not real, and another party with secret “real” meaning. People generally do not like being alone.
More importantly, being alone with false feelings which have no recourse.
5. Triangulation Makes A Toxic or Narcissistic Person Feel Superior
Superiority is the essence of Triangulation, a form of grandiosity. It’s being a puppet master of someone’s experience, reputation, emotions, self-understanding, and self-acceptance. By keeping others low, a Triangulator can “feel” in charge of their life and destiny.
Notice I put “feel” in quotation marks. Toxic and Narcissistic people have a deeply troubled relationship with the experience of feeling. They diminish their own feelings—through denying, deflecting, and projecting—while doing the same to yours.
They are hugely incapable of being alone with themselves…the loneliness allows those feelings of inferiority creep to the surface. In the company of others, they can be “busy” and put more of their attention on something outside themselves. Remember the formula, high insecurity and low empathy?
Their lack of empathy allows them to feel superior in social settings/experiences, but broken when alone. Because they need an audience to define and affirm their identity delusions, they are motivated and seek confirmation bias for the parts of themselves they only want to look at. Here’s a useful truth: toxic and Narcissistic people usually do NOT seek therapy on their own. Instead, they send people into therapy. Guaranteed.
If a person does not value mental health, what makes you think they’ll value YOUR mental health?
6. Consider This About Triangulation & Jealousy
Jealousy is a natural human experience, is a range, and is found in nature. Don’t believe me? For any warm-blooded pet owners, they usually see this with their own pets when introducing a new member to the family: either a baby or an additional pet.
We can also see this in the wild when animals compete for resources, mates, food, and/or especially their parent’s care. And often, nature is very cruel in these circumstances.
Toxic and Narcissistic people use your natural jealousy to their advantage. They inflame and cause hyperactivity of this experience within you. This is done consciously or unconsciously. In fact, the jealousy they arise within you is the very desire they want from themselves.
What does this mean? They want to feel in control. They want to feel desirable. They want to feel powerful at all costs. They want to feel opportunistic. They want to feel superior. They want to feel recognized. They want to feel noticed. They want to feel praised. They want to feel good—real good—at your expense.
Your reactive energy is what they want from within.
The basis is, they want to FEEL and are actually jealous of YOU for having feelings they themselves have deceased, shutoff, and atrophied.
Toxic and Narcissistic people are jealous of YOU for having a connection to your most inner-self. Because they lost that connection. Connection requires empathy. And they’ve abandoned growing & nourishing this in their life.
If you are authentic and true, this will inflame the Narcissist, because it forces them to be in touch with their reality: authenticity requires accountability of ourselves, the good and bad, Narcissists can only admit to owning one side. Care to take a guess?
If you find yourself being Triangulated, you are not alone. Society at large has adopted this model for modern human connection and activity. In dating, we know this as multiple dating in abundance while ghosting at a whim. In monogamous relationships, we know this as having inappropriate boundaryless interaction, communication, or connection to others where it can escalate easily & secretly advance to emotional/physical cheating.
Triangles need 3 points of contact to work. Your power is dismantling the structure of the triangle entirely, by stepping out. Enforcing boundaries. And going no-contact.
Narcissists have their ways to get “flying monkeys” activated against you. It’s not an easy road. But you can conquer this with truth. Truth in knowing who you are, knowing what you’ve been through, and knowing where you want to go—most importantly, putting action towards the visions of the future.
Part of healing is embracing your experiences with empathy. It’s okay if you’ve at one point invited a toxic or Narcissistic person into your life. Sometimes we’re even born with them, which is the hardest of all. Give yourself the empathy a toxic or Narcissistic person could never give you. The one you’ve probably argued for days, demanding, pleading, begging, crying, and painfully hurting for.
Empathy, kindness, and gentleness are incredibly necessary on your journey. Even if others can’t give it to you…it doesn’t mean you don’t deserve it from the one person you need it the most from:
Be gentle, stay well, & vibe well,
Best of luck!