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  • Lynn Catalano

Narcissistic Triangulation

What is triangulation?

Triangulation is the term for the manipulation narcissists love to use on their victims. This is when the narcissist will pit one person against another, who usually know each other. This often happens with a narcissistic parent and their children or between friends.

The narcissist will attempt to eliminate communication between the parties making themselves the intermediary. It may appear in different forms, but all are about divide and conquer, or playing people against each other.

Why do narcissists love to use it?

Narcissists love to use triangulation in an effort to gain control and attention while playing the “victim” role.

People who suffer from narcissistic personality disorder frequently use triangulation to intensify their feelings of superiority, and minimize and devalue other people, all while keeping potential competitors off-balance. This manipulation looks and feels a lot like basic bullying.

Narcissists use triangulation when they feel insecure or have suffered a narcissistic injury. They will do what needs to be done in order to feel better about themselves and gain control of the situation.

What should you do if you’re being triangulated?

First of all, pay attention. Realize that you are the victim of the triangulation. Be aware when your narcissist asks you to tell the other person unpleasant messages or being asked to attend conversations that don’t involve you.

Recommended simple phrases to use to start withdrawing from the triangulation include:

  • “I don’t want to become involved in that.”

  • “I feel uncomfortable being present during this conversation and am going to leave now.”

  • “I would prefer it if you discussed this with her directly.”

  • “ I am happy to discuss this with him later, but how do you feel about this?”

I recommend the following to cope with this manipulation:

  1. Don’t take the bait

  2. Respond mindfully, don’t react

  3. Set boundaries

  4. Surround yourself with people who listen and support you

  5. Take care of yourself- practice self-care

I wrote about this in my book Wrecking Ball Relationships: How to Identify, Live With or Leave the Narcissist in Your Life.”

“Kim, a wife, and mother of four children who works outside the home makes sure each child participates in sports and activities. Kim told me she’s struggled with a mother-in-law who behaves like a covert narcissist. She shared a story with me where her mother-in-law employed the tactic of triangulation. After a year and a half, during which the mother-in-law/grandmother (Anne) gave Kim’s family the Silent Treatment, Anne reached out to Barb, Kim’s youngest daughter. This seemed strange as Kim has four children and Anne only texted Barb. The text said, “I’m going to ask your dad if you can come over to my house one day.”

The eleven-year-old Barb responded with, “Okay.”

Anne then texted her son, Barb’s dad, to ask if she can pick up her granddaughter Barb one day to come to her house.

Barb’s dad texts back, “I’m sure all the kids would like to see you (Anne). Why don’t you come to our house, and you can spend time with all of them?”

Anne doesn’t respond. Later, Anne sends Barb a text saying, “I asked your dad if you could come over and he said no. I hope to see you soon and please remember how much I love you.” This is a classic triangulation strategy where the narcissist tells one person something and tells another person something completely different. The goal is to plant seeds of disharmony, creating a wedge between people, often family members. Eventually, they isolate and even pit two people against each other. This tactic allows the narcissist to always be the savior – the peacemaker. It’s as if they need to create drama just so they can mediate it and be the pacifier.”

If you’ve suffered narcissistic abuse, you need to pay attention. If you do nothing, if you don’t address this trauma, it will bleed into every aspect of your life affecting how you show up for everything. The trauma takes a toll on your mental, emotional, and physical health. I know at the worst points in my relationship with my father, I had terrible insomnia, gastrointestinal problems, skin reactions, and more. This is why it’s so critical to talk to someone. But not just anyone. You need to find someone who’s familiar with narcissistic personality disorder. You see, I didn’t get here by accident. I didn't set out to become a narcissistic abuse recovery coach. But after I’d suffered this kind of abuse, I realized that my story and my experience could help so many people who’ve suffered similarly. When someone tells me about their struggles and their story, I’m not just understanding. I really get it. I’ve been there. I’ve felt those same emotions, that same rage, and loss.

I can help you.

Don’t suffer in silence from narcissistic abuse, let’s talk. Click here to book a free session with me. Don’t wait another day.

You can find my book “Wrecking Ball Relationships” on Amazon and

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