Imagine having a difficult conflict with a sibling. The conflict escalates to the point where both parties insult each other and hang up. Then it’s a race to call their narcissist parent because whoever tells them the story first wins their support. Here is how this game works: Caller A retells the story to their narcissist (leaving their faults out) to make themselves look better. Then since the narcissist has already heard the story they stick up for the original caller. When caller B calls, they choose to act like they are oblivious, ignore the conflict by saying they are not involved, or they push their own personal agenda. This is how triangulation works.
Here is the opportunity where the narcissist really shines. They believe they are doing their best in mediating the conflict but instead they make it worse. They start to pump up the conflict to the next level by saying, “well, caller A said this about you.”. This leaves caller B in a state of confusion because it’s a lie. So this further adds fuel to the fire. Another conflict is born thanks to the narcissist. You can bet that the narcissist is playing the fence for both parties making it impossible for them to talk it out.
This is very confusing but a great tactic for the narcissist to get supply for a conflict that is not theirs to begin with. The goal here is to keep the parties separated so she can gain things from them both. What do they gain? they gain attention. Narcissists are attention seekers. They love any type of attention in order to keep themselves entertained and their ego heightened. Attention is what drives a narcissist’s life. When they get tired of the conflict they simply wash their hands of it all. At the end they walk away saying, “this conflict is not mine so it’s completely your doing. I was only trying to help.”
My example above is about a narcissistic parent and her children but triangulation can happen between any relationship. Triangulation can occur between a romantic, work, family, friends, even strangers you hear about.
In a relationship, it can occur when a significant other uses his ex and his new girlfriend. The narcissist lies to both parties and to keep both parties separate for his own personal benefit. He gaslights his ex to string them along for supply(negative or positive). Prepping the new girlfriend with lovebombing. *Bonus points if the ex unleashes because it proves to the new girlfriend that “she is crazy”. This tactic strengthens the bond between the narcissist and his new girlfriend even further.
How to remove yourself from the dreaded triangle?
- Watch who you trust with your personal information. Attacks usually come from those who are closest to you. They dig for information they can use against you. Remember, narcissists are not normal people. They use people at every turn to further their agenda. If you can not find anyone to trust, seek a good therapist around your area. Therapists are a good source but sometimes you have to go to more than one. Narcissism is not a treatable condition. Some therapists do not know how to handle a narcissist because they can get manipulated by them. Which is why it is not a good idea to take a narcissist to therapy. They have perfected their mask and it is hard to knock it down.
- Be aware of anyone who gives you unwanted advice when you haven’t discussed the problem with them. These people come in form of “friends”. They are in fact called “flying monkeys”. They advocate for the other party blindly, mainly out of stupidity or they are aware of the abuse and do not care either way. Flying monkeys are a narcissist’s best friend. They are the ones that do their bidding. The flying monkeys are highly trained by the narcissist. The narcissist does not have to say much because the monkeys react for them. Many times the flying monkey takes the heat for the narcissist to protect them.
- Set up boundaries with others. When they call you offering to talk about the conflict shut them down right away. Say this issue is between me and person B. If they respect your boundary then that relationship is positive. If they get angry and protest then that person is a backstabber who gossips behind your back. That person does not respect you or your boundaries. Just keep that in mind.
- The best way to get out of this cycle is to research this topic. Do lots of soul searching, read, and receive encouragement from people who are going through/ or have been through it. Narcissism is a topic that is hard for others to relate to especially if they have not lived through it.