Stopping narcissistic triangulation requires first understanding how triangulation works, how it is maintained within us, and how we transcend it through a strong spiritual practice. In this article you will obtain new perspectives and tools, and ultimately gain a blueprint for overcoming the narcissist’s manipulative and destructive triangulation; in romantic relationships, the narcissistic family, and beyond.
What Is Narcissistic Triangulation?
Narcissistic triangulation is the introduction of a third person into the relationship dynamic between two people with the aim of negatively impacting the other.
Examples of narcissistic triangulation are:
- Physical: Your significant other invites someone over or to mutual events, or spends increasingly more time with that person. In other cases, the other person is a core part of your significant other’s life.
- Verbal: Your significant other talks about the other person favourably or compares you to them unfavourably. In a narcissistic family, a parent will do this between you and your siblings. In a romantic relationship, this is usually done with an ex or a potential successor.
It is important to know, however, that triangulation can either be situational, or it can be manipulative. In the situational case, the presence of another person simply happens to be a part of relating with your significant other. For example, your partner might still have a relationship with their ex-husband or ex-wife in order to keep things civilised for the children. You might have a sibling, and a natural rivalry ensues for the affection of the parent. Unless the parent plays your sibling against you, then the triangle is merely situational.
A third person can be brought up in conversation. A partner can discuss or even compare you with an ex or a sexual competitor. A narcissistic mother can compare you unfavourably with a sibling. Triangulation becomes manipulative and narcissistic when it is introduced as a way to impact you negatively or to pressure you into reacting from a place of threat or inferiority. The line between the two types of triangulation can quickly grow blurry in relationships.
In either case, whether it is situational or manipulative, triangulation can make you feel the following:
- That you are less than.
- That you are not as important to your significant other as you had hoped.
- That your significant other is a valuable commodity who you must fight to keep or please.
Why Do People Triangulate In A Relationship?
As already stated, triangulation can be situational or manipulative. Therefore, there are many reasons people triangulate. Often the triangle simply exists without anyone doing anything. Other times your significant other actively feeds it. Then you have narcissistic triangulation, where a three-corner opposition is actively and manipulatively used against you to ensure your significant other’s sense of grandiosity, control and safety.
Some reasons people might triangulate are:
- It makes them feel wanted and in demand: Having multiple people show interest makes a person feel like a valuable commodity. Telling the people about each other then creates competition and increases insecurity, making the ‘competitors’ feel inferior and unworthy. It communicates “You are not special, let alone the only one.”
- They want to control you: Triangulation can trigger a person’s jealousy and sense of abandonment. This makes them feel needy and insecure. When someone is in that state, they become desperate to feel close to the person at the centre of the triangle. These feelings of insecurity make you reactive and panicky, and so easier to control. You are always on edge, doing everything you can to ensure the person you need does not make the other person more important than you, or drop you altogether. A mother or father in a narcissistic family can also triangulate to get their way and direct their children how they want. In all such cases, it is about control.
- It helps them win an argument: If so-and-so also thinks the same way as your significant other, then that’s two against one. Often it can be dozens against one, since “everyone” thinks the same way.
- Fear of commitment and vulnerability: They keep multiple people around to avoid being ‘stuck’ in one relationship with all their eggs in one basket.
- Grandiosity: They can never make someone as special or more special than them. Triangulation keeps others feeling insignificant and tips the power distribution in your significant other’s favour.
- They simply want that person in their life: People do not need to drop others out of their life when they meet you. They have a unique constellation of connections, some of which might not make sense to you, especially when exes become friends. That means you might have company in your intimate space.
Point 6 is the key to to this entire puzzle. You may well be in a relationship with a narcissist who simply wants to control you and make you feel small. It might be a protection or coping mechanism. Your significant other might diversify their emotional interests to ensure they don’t get too close to you, and therefore avoid being vulnerable. Or, they might just like having that peson in their life. It can be tempting to simply see all triangulation as manipulative, but that is not the case. In the last example, it has nothing to do with you. Other people simply exist in that person’s life. However, even if that person is purposely triangulating you, such as is the case with narcissism, you still have the choice to decide whether it affects you.
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How To Stop Narcissistic Triangulation
Ultimately, narcissistic triangulation exists only in your mind. It is created and reinforced by the thoughts, meanings and emotions you apply to the situation. Triangulation, above all, says less about the other person than it does about you. This is a difficult pill to swallow, but it is also a doorway to enlightenment. It is a way to break codependent habits, learn the art of detachment, and above all, to deepen your connection with yourself. Yes, a triangle has three points, but every single point leads directly back to you.
Triangulation stops with you. By shifting your paradigms, perspective, beliefs and focus, you can free yourself of the triangle for good.
While triangulation can be painful, it is also a chance to move closer toward spiritual growth, freedom and actualisation. Triangulation is also a natural psychological phenomenon which narcissists exploit constantly. This makes your spiritual journey a kind of holy war when the two forces clash.
Triangulation can be a great teacher. It can help you understand that:
- We are born alone, and die alone: Accepting and leaning into this reality can help diminish the power of the triangle by bringing your focus deep into your greatest fear.
- Nobody is in our keeping: You are your own Self, and others are their own Self. Your Self is sufficient onto itself, and answers only to God.
- We always have the option of directing the focus back on ourselves: The power to shift your focus is always available to you. By focussing on your significant other and who they bring into your relationship dynamic, you are ceding control to them.
- Enmeshment stunts growth: We must constantly let go of the other person and relate to them from a healthy distance if we are to grow with them. They will do or say what they must. What is it that you must attend to?
- Control is an illusion: You cannot make the other person ‘yours’. You cannot make them give up anyone. You can only make sure you DO NOT GIVE UP YOURSELF in the panic, shame, jealousy and anger of triangulation.
- The triangle is ultimately in your head: It only seeps into your heart and body if you let it. Reject it. Call that person out. Or simply see it for what it is, and divest your emotions away from it and into Self growth instead.
- We should compare our current Self to our previous Self, and not to others: Every day is an opportunity to connect deeply with our True Self and let it guide us toward growth. Triangulation distracts us from this accessible reality by drawing us into the ego-based duality realm. Less than, more than. Special, not special. Mine, not mine.
- You have an unhealthy desire to be the ‘special’ one: This comes from childhood, where the first triangle emerged between your mother, father and you. Understand that your emotions usually stem from this time. Yet you are no longer a child. Having the focus of your parent meant life and death when you were a baby. Now you are an adult with numerous resources. You can always develop more resources, both within and without. Your significant other is important, but they are not the difference between life and death. Those existential feelings are not from the present moment, but from the past. You needed to be special to survive. Now, you are inherently special, but you do not need another person’s complete focus and positive regard to access that. It is there either way. And there is a way to find it.
Inner Freedom From Narcissistic Triangulation
Overcoming narcissistic triangulation begins within. A spiritual approach to breaking the triangle includes the following:
- Self-Rememberance: Orient with your world. Notice the details around you. What objects are there in the room you are in? What can you hear, feel and smell? Orienting with the world around you allows you to shift your focus out of your mind, where duality rules. You stop comparing and analysing, and start being. From this place of neutral observing, you will notice your current emotional state. Allow those feelings to arise. Sadness, grief, shame, anger. Regardless of what you feel, allow it to come up. Now ask yourself: Who is noticing these details? Who is feeling these feelings? In this awareness you will remember your Self. There is no more triangle in your mind. There is simply you and your feeling Self, i.e. Your True Self. And by asking the question of who is feeling and noticing, you introduce your Higher Self into the fold. A new triangle emerges, one that serves you rather than crushing you.
- Centering: Bring your focus inside your body. Allow your muscles to relax, breathe deeply into your belly and chest, and then allow the exhale to center you. Keep repeating this over and over until you get a sense of inner anchoring and calm.
- Self-Comparison: Stop comparing yourself to the other person in the triangle. Start comparing your Self to your previous Self. What growth have you noticed in your life since a month ago? A year ago? Five years ago? Practice this often. Every time you feel less than or threatened by another person, bring your focus back within and celebrate where you are and where you have come from. Master this, and you learn the essence of spirituality.
- Die before you die: Reflect on death. What might death be like? How do you feel about it? Does it terrify you? Intrigue you? Inspire you to live fully? Think about it. Read about it. Fall into it. All reaction to triangulation is a desperate clinging to escape death. Death of a relationship. Death of your self-worth. Death of your specialness. Transcend it all by meditating on and accepting death.
Outer freedom From Narcissistic Triangulation
Everyone has the freedom to do what they want. You cannot control them, and you cannot control every outcome. However, freedom is not free. It comes with consequences. A person can find someone ‘more special.’ A significant other can cheat and leave you behind. But if you drop the triangle regardless, at least you are living on your own terms. You are no longer being crippled and controlled by another person’s manipulation or circumstances.
With narcissistic triangulation, you can only choose from two options:
You control each other, and limit your relationships to each other. You use triangulation to control each other. You lash out whenever you feel insecure or threatened. You panic, feel anxious, and try to snoop around on the other person to feel secure again. You feel terrible about yourself and fight for the acceptance and approval of the other person.
There is another way: You let go and accept the consequences. Your parent might yap on about how great your sibling or cousin are. Your partner might have feelings for others, or have awkward close encounters before deciding to pull away. They might cheat. You might be left for someone else. Ultimatley, you need to accept that you have no control over that. We all have the freedom to live on our terms, and connect with whoever we want while agreeing to a set of boundaries and rules. Your significant other might slip. You might slip. You have to live with this possibility while trusting and hoping for the best. This is the nature of freedom.
Putting A Stop To Narcissistic Triangulation
Until you have done the inner work, you are always susceptible to narcissistic triangulation. When it is done with malignant intent, you will be bashed around by it. When it is situational, your sense of security, serenity and agency will be gradually worn down.
When a narcissist triangulates and you have done the work, it will cease to impact you. You can speak out firmly when they introduce another person into the relationship dynamic in a hurtful or manipualtive way. You can simply bask in your own serenity and peace while they focus on the other person. From this place of power, you can then look over what is left of the relationship with calmness, and simply act, rather than react.
Walking away is always an option. Either the person is being grossly manipulative, or the situation is simply untenable for you, especially when it comes to exes. But first ask yourself: What inner work can you do? Can you truly be fine with yourself alone? If not, then why? Can you tolerate the presence of ‘outsiders’ in your intimate space? If not, then why? Can you feel sufficient and worthy even when others enter your relationship dynamic? Why do you need to be ‘special’, i.e. the only one? Is it possible that such a rigid two-person world can grow stale, and become a breeding ground for resentment? Do you not think that some flexibility and trust in yourself and others can create space for wonder and growth to enter into your life?
Regardless of whether you are alone or in a romantic relationship, in a narcissistic triangle or out of it, ask yourself: Can I direct my focus within every single day, and grow from that place? Do that, and you will discover the greatest triangle of all: You, your True Self, and your Higher Self. There is no more empowering dynamic that you can develop. And there is no other way to stop narcissistic triangulation.
To begin the journey toward recovering from narcissistic abuse, check out my book, How To Kill A Narcissist. In the follow-up, How To Bury A Narcissist, I delve deeper into the narcissistic family and Self-actualising after narcissistic abuse. If you need support in cultivating healthy, empowered relationships, then Transformational Life Coaching might also be helpful.