Triangulation: Death Of a Heart By a 1000 Cuts

narcissists-and-triangulationTriangulation is a passive-aggressive manipulation tactic used by narcissists and sociopaths to instill feelings of jealousy and insecurity in their partners. It’s a tactic by which narcissists can create thrilling illusions of popularity, making themselves out to be far busier and more socially-in-demand outside of the relationship than they really are. This narcissistic strategy, like all the others, slips quietly into the relationship over time so that you – the loving partner – barely know it’s happening until you start to get “that feeling”.

narcissist-abuse-consultationsWhen the narcissist triangulates, victims find themselves feeling jealous of people, places, and things that, under normal circumstances, wouldn’t warrant a second glance. If you’ve always known the narcissist to be a loner, triangulation makes it appear that you’ve been wrong all along. If the narcissist has always had “friends”, triangulation is used to milk his popularity for all it’s worth. Either way, the desired result is that you feel anxious, suspicious, and insecure about every little thing. You may even begin to feel guilty about your jealous thoughts and doubtful of your ability to act “normal”. When and if you do confront the N about your suspicions, he’ll call you delusional or needy or bi-polar and he will never admit to anything at all. He’ll look at you with a blank stare and claim he doesn’t have the slightest clue what you’re talking about… “Fine,” he’ll say, “I guess I can’t tell you anything about anyone. All I’m trying to do is make conversation with you. You’re so insecure.” And the triangulation will continue.

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Narcissist always triangulate – even if you don’t know they’re doing it. Patient as always, the N will simply do it and do it and do it until you fucking get it…until he breaks you of all that confidence and security that made you attractive to him to you in the first place.

The thing that makes triangulation so amazing is that it’s extremely flexible and can actually involve absolutely anything – even inanimate objects. My ex spent most our years together triangulating me with his cell phone…his cell phone! At any given time, his phone was either glued to his hand, hunkered down in the pocket of his jeans, locked inside his car attached to the charger, mysteriously lost (when he was with me) and then mysteriously found (after he got home), conveniently “out of the area” and unable to get a signal, turned off, out of minutes, not working properly (until a call came in), on vibrate (so that I wouldn’t hear it ring), suddenly unable to receive texts, or suddenly able to receive only texts. He always had a myriad of crazy-making excuses as to why I couldn’t see it, hear it, know about it, or get within five feet of it. In my mind, that cell phone had long legs, cute hair, and a great ass. As a bonus gesture, my ex would, during a silent treatment, even change his number, making me insane. Whether or not his phone, at any given time, really did contain the numbers of random girlfriends, I never really knew…but he sure jumped through hoops to make me feel that it did. Sound familiar? Believe me,  The Cell Phone Game is all about triangulation.

A narcissist will triangulate whenever he senses that you feel a little too comfortable in your own skin or (God forbid!) a little to relaxed within the relationship. For example, if he starts a new job, he’ll triangulate by casually mentioning – just one too many times – the bubbly receptionist and how much she reminds him of his ex or his sister or even you. He may let it slip oh-so-casually that he shared a secret with her in confidence that only you had known about or worse, in the middle of a fight he might say something like,

NARC: “See? I knew you’d act this way. Even Jessica knew it. She told me you’d do that and she was right. She doesn’t even know you and she knows you!”.

PARTNER: Really? So, you talk to her about me? You complain to her about your girlfriend and she comments? What kind of girl does that? What the fuck?

NARC: Oh, here we go. (snickers) See what I mean? I gotta learn to keep my mouth shut. Doesn’t matter who I’m talking to, you’d have a fit. We were just talking that’s all. We talk about a lot of things.

PARTNER: Really? That’s nice. Why are you talking shit about me to anyone – let alone the girls at work? Do you have any clue how that makes me feel?

NARC: Stop starting shit and I won’t have anything to talk about. I gotta get back to the office.

I had the above conversation countless times with every new job he would start. Some narcissists, like my ex, will even set the stage before triangulation so that the inevitable betrayal will have the most impact. To do this, they may claim, at first, to actually hate the very female that later will quietly become the “confidante” OR they’ll go for long periods not mentioning anyone at all and then – BANG – suddenly some person you never even heard about appears to be his best friend. Yes, the narcissist will intentionally allow us to develop a false sense of confidence and security before he smacks us back to reality.

Now, to be clear, it’s completely normal for a couple to expect to share stories and have conversations about co-workers and friends…but nothing about these conversations are normal. Everything involving a narcissist has a slightly sinister edge to it. He can take a perfectly normal behavior – such as chatting amicably with his partner about casual events – and turn it upside down. It’ll be the passive-aggressive way he slips his clues into conversations or it’ll be the inflection in his voice or the attitude with which he says it. Above all else, it’ll be the strange way that whatever he is saying is making you feel. Triangulation is intended to make you doubt not only your importance in the narcissist’s life but your importance in the world in general. It’s a master tactic in the narcissist’s pathological relationship agenda and it is intended to wreck you.

A narcissist will triangulate you with a girl, a guy, his mother or some other relative, a co-worker, a newly acquired acquaintance (that you will never meet), the landlord, a neighbor, the bartender, his boss…it goes on and on. The possibilities are endless. The sky’s the limit! And this person he speaks of may not even be his next target…or maybe she is…you’ll never know for sure. As a distraction to the whole thing, he may even triangulate you with one person while he cheats on you with another. More often than not, this other person will have no idea they’re even being used to triangulate. It’s all a glorious mystery! The intention, as always, is to ultimately trauma bond you to the madness. The narcissist will never let you relax. Ever.

Triangulation may manage down your expectations of the relationship to the point that you become quietly complacent. I became very quiet in the last few years, tangled up in cognitive dissonance and confusion. After all, the last thing I wanted to do was make a big deal about nothing. His words, however, intentional or not, were my biggest clues as to what he was up to. By listening carefully instead of letting it all get to me, I slowly turned his ploy to my advantage. I learned how to read my narcissist like a book. Good or bad, I simply listened, storing information in my organized brain like I would in a file cabinet. Then, later, when I was alone, I’d pull out the files one by one and obsess about the phantom competition. It was a vicious cycle.

zari - narcissist-abuse-supportFor those who’ve never been involved in this type of relationship, it’s hard to understand the dynamics of the triangulation strategy. Since there’s rarely proof to support our case, we often sound like jealous whiners with nothing to whine about. The sad fact is that triangulation becomes just another part of the nonsense that victims become addicted to. When, in fact, it should compel us to leave, it does the exact opposite. We instead become obsessed with holding on to our “position”. We completely forget what is and isn’t a “normal” part of romantic human interaction. Being subjected to this weirdness day after day changes who we are as a person – inside and out. It’s the death of a heart by a thousand cuts and yet another inexplicable reason why the aftermath – the emotional collateral damage – of narcissist abuse is so traumatic. Think about it and think about your life.

No one forces us to ride emotional roller coasters. In true love, there is no competition, real OR implied. Get a new attitude and take your power back. Life is so short and you deserve to be happy!



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  • playnejayne

    October 23, 2017 at 1:23 pm Reply

    This post was very helpful. Amazing how a narcissist can hide behind so many people and use them to triangulate including those close to you, friends and people you don’t even know. etc to being harassed, ridiculed, picked on. They can turn something that was nothing into something that wasn’t even an issue and make it one. They will use any bit of information about you or what you have said and turn it into something that was none of their business in the beginning.
    Not many people understand the dynamics of how these people work. Even those I know in the counselling profession are so blinded by these people with god complexes. They go to the point of reaching these people you know. They will take everything you’ve said and use this information how they want to. It may not even be an issue but they will make it one. Narcissists like to be the messenger in between people to be in control of everything. They are so clever and adept at creating situations to make you feel the feelings mentioned in this post and to make you appear irrational and the one with the problem. If anyone has spent any considerable time with one you know there is something not right with them. It’s even interesting when they bring your children into it and tell them they need to help their mother when you’ve been divorced for considerable years. They will set up situations to make you feel certain feelings. This is exactly right, you find yourself whining when in any other normal case you wouldn’t whine then they turn this on you and before you know it everyone has the same opinion. They are very clever at making it appear like a concern. Counselling there is a therapy called exposure therapy but if not done correctly can cause more trauma which has been my case. They use something they know nothing about and like to make themselves appear professionals in this field and take it upon themselves to FIX you. Not to help but humiliate and it has been used to the extreme causing me public humiliation to apparently stop me from doing things they think they feel I’m doing is not the right thing to do and made me feel so much worse about myself. I’ve been harassed online and had accounts broken into something I find so personally wrong. Narcissists do things because they believe they know what is right for you when indeed they don’t. I carry feelings of hating myself and the humiliation I have endured has caused worse anxiety than I have ever had before. They don’t stop they continue until you can’t sleep, the anxiety is constant and the negative thoughts that go around in your head everyday because they lack empathy. The triangulation’s and everyone having had their 2 cents worth and having an opinion about you when they don’t understand the dynamics of these people or yourself for that matter. They have been the whingers all along and project everything onto you and manage to be free and maintain a good public image with everyone. When you were never like this before. I found they go to great lengths to provoke situations deliberately to make you feel jealous when you would generally never act like this before. They also like to depict you as a hypocrite and set situations up to make you appear one through triangulation. They don’t stop. They use triangulation to get across everything they want to get across. They will do everything to pick you to pieces using others and eventually you feel worse about yourself than you ever did before. Everyone sees you as a whinging whining person. A simple opinion they will say was complaining and blow it out of proportion. You find you’re not allowed opinions about anything. They will take an opinion as whinging and use that as well. You find yourself not knowing what it is that you’re allowed to do or say and end up afraid to talk to anyone in fear of being shut down completely or ridiculed for having an opinion although they’re allowed to.. Everyone has an opinion about you without really understanding how these people work. They are allowed to earn an income and live freely but they will do stop you from having any financial freedom. This is soul destroying. Being around these types of people does change who you are without a doubt and they are draining to be around. You end up feeling worse about yourself than you have ever and wonder why your brain feels like mush and you can’t make a decision to save yourself or know what it is you want for yourself as they like to control you through triangulation. When you’ve had it done for over 14 years you feel like just an empty shell and people judge and make comments about you and others wonder why you feel no happiness at all.

    • Zari Ballard

      November 12, 2017 at 11:16 pm Reply

      Hi plainjayne,

      Girl, you need to LEAVE this person. Your self-worth need not EVER be based on the bad behaviors of a partner. You can read all the stories under the articles here to see that you are not alone. We’ve all been through it or are going through it and it’s all about the recovery. You are not doomed to a lifetime of misery with a manipulator and this guy will do it for another 14 years if you allow it. Give yourself a chance! If you’d ever like to talk about it, please consider booking some time with me. It helps to talk with someone who “gets it”, sister. You are NOT plain Jayne OR an empty shell…

      Stay strong!

      Zari xo

      • playnejayne

        November 26, 2017 at 2:05 pm Reply

        Thank you Zari. i will definitely consider booking time with you.

        • Zari Ballard

          December 3, 2017 at 4:37 pm Reply

          I would love it and look forward to it……xo

  • sweet pea

    September 29, 2017 at 1:41 am Reply

    so completely dead on! all of this. i can’t even explain! i’m years removed from him, but have been going through another layer of healing lately and needed a little help clearing the energy of this aspect of it…the residue of triangulation is thick and it’s taken me years of shedding the layers of it…thank you sooooo much for so darn perfectly capturing it 💕 good gracious i hadn’t thought about the details of it like this for so long, was just feeling the energy of it lately, but sweet mother of all things evil it was such soul suffocating misery 😡… ug. this crap is legitimately evil, and having these monsters in your life is miserable, and so so damn exhausting y’all. get out, and go on a hellbent journey to find yourself, and be patient and determined and fight to become someone you love. i am still healing and growing and learning to truly love myself, but after reading this tonight and thinking back to who i was then, it’s unreal just how far i’ve come. and reading this is a reminder for me to keep going 💕thank you

  • Ann B. Sewell

    October 26, 2016 at 2:21 pm Reply

    Can you direct me to writings on triangulation that you may have? And do you have any advice on trying to help his new victim? I’m sure there are more but there is one in particular I would like to help spare as she seems to be another empath who has a lot to give and of course he has intentions of sucking her dry. I’m only considering giving her your website if I can do it without stirring up more fuel and reason for more contact from the abuser. I will not respond to his abuse or contact at this point. I say at this point because I have finally come to actually want no contact! Reading your articles and a few other sources has helped me immensely and is giving me the strength to face the facts and quit trying to make something worthwhile of the last 10 years of my life which were exclusively devoted to him in relationship. He cleaned me out of about $100,000 and companionship basically gaslighting for his enjoyment I think. There are still days and moments that I find it hard to believe that he’s irredeemable but when I see how clearly he acts as a sociopath and that I can’t deny it any longer, I gain strength and resolve (one day at a time) to STOP playing his game. Thank God I was prepared 3 reading your information about triangulation (as in only a few hours before) when he attempted a meeting with me and his new woman. Can you even believe that? I was so glad I knew what he was doing and refused to play that game. I felt so THANKFUL that I knew what he doing! I knew that I was finally able to move on. when I refused to act on his manipulation, refused to even challenge any of his lies or any other actions or words whatsoever. It’s a great freedom to know that you’re no longer being hooked emotionally, even by curiosity at what he will try next ! He said he was trying to be honest and that’s why he wanted this meeting. Part of me wants to believe that he would like to be honest however at this point it is not my concern . It even makes me laugh now thinking of him trying that line! Of course I would love to believe he could turn around and I’m a Christian and believe anyone can change if they really see the need and want to. However the problem with narcissists is that they don’t see the need and don’t have a sincere desire to change.. they are content with the joy that comes from sadistic control and manipulation, probably due to attachment issues as infants and toddlers. Because of this dismissive or chaotic attachment problem and history they don’t know anything better than temporary relief and possible joy or sadistic satisfaction that comes from their manipulation which stems back to how they had manipulate to meet their own basic needs. This Is your Avenue for forgiveness for them. They developed a psychological pattern even before they can store memories. It is repeated where one is always trying to recreate the situation of bonding and this time winning at what should have happened and in the case of bonding with parents. There are people that have overcome this Primal wound but I have only found this recovery (as of only last weekend at a Joy starts Here or Thriving Seminar) in people who have sought after a connection with God who is in the words of some “the Lover of My Soul” . . And frankly it’s up to him or any narcissist to seek this recovery . I offered a phone number of a recovering narcissist who was willing to talk with him as he desired! I turned him on to Resources with one text just like I would like to do for his latest victim if I can without involvement. Reasons a narcissist would never recover is because they don’t feel the need to make the first step to admit life has become unmanageable and that only a higher power than themselves can restore them to sanity. Being unable to remember or relate to a time when they had security and attachment and resulting inner fulfillment and joy they have only known manipulative satisfactions which they are probably better at now than they’ve ever been. I don’t know why I’m going on and on , validation might be my motive LOL . I am still in the process of practicing the habit of taking a step back before I make any attempt of trying to help anyone in his sphere of influence so that I won’t subject myself any more to his manipulation and games. I no longer value protecting anyone else’s damage more than my own recovery. This is simply because if they want to recover they can. But if I could help her not waste a decade like I did, it would feel like that could be a good purpose to come out of this absurd decade I have been in. But honestly, I’m actually growing to be thankful for this drama trauma because it has taught me so much and it’s validating that I actually did know what was going on on some levels and it’s teaching me the great lesson to trust my intuition and listen to that quiet inner voice that knows the truth! It’s teaching me to slow down and pay more attention because we are all given a gift of perception and it is our job to listen to it and our life will be much much more productive and satisfying!

    • Zari Ballard

      October 28, 2016 at 5:29 pm Reply

      Ann wrote…Of course I would love to believe he could turn around and I’m a Christian and believe anyone can change if they really see the need and want to. However the problem with narcissists is that they don’t see the need and don’t have a sincere desire to change.. Yes, and this puts these creatures on the side of “evil”. Nothing to do but run.

      Hi Ann,

      The best way to get to more articles about triangulation is just to google it. Much has been written. You said many things in your post that are important. I, too, believe that perception is everything. If we paid attention to our God-given magic gift of intuition in everything that we did, we would breeze through life! It’s there for a reason! We all must be mindful of that and, yes, life becomes more satisfying and joyful.

      As for warning another woman, I don’t really recommend that although sometimes putting “a bug in the ear” is helpful. There’s really nothing you can do to get them to leave NOW because it’s likely he will be able to persuade her that YOU are the problem…that’s how good they are. Everyone always discovers it but we can’t run around protecting others. If you get this one to see the light, there will always be a next one. How far do you go? The fact is that YOU are free and I believe you should keep running as far as you can go. Do NOT continue to communicate with him. Block his number, do not answer the door…whatever you have to do. He shouldn’t be allowed to “check in”.

      Other than that, you’ve got it, girl. Keep on moving on and best of luck always!

      Zari xo

    • Essie

      April 5, 2017 at 10:19 am Reply

      Ann, I want to second Zari’s recommendation about not contacting the ‘other woman’. As tempting as it may be to try to be helpful to her, the narc virtually always sets up the new target to ignore warnings by making the ex out to be crazy, manipulative, and jealous, sometimes even going so far as to make the new target fear that the ex may actually be dangerous. Plus, he’s probably still love-bombing her, which dramatically decreases the likelihood that an empathic target might connect with reality and escape, even if you were to anonymously slip this web address to her and she were to read the content. She will learn in time, when he repeats the cycle with her. My heart goes out to you and all the suffering that you’ve endured.

  • Steph

    October 24, 2016 at 8:16 pm Reply

    Hi Serentiy Darwin,
    I feel & understand your pain…but, honestly, I’ve come to realize, it doesn’t really matter if its a narc we’re dealing with, when, the break up happens, it is what it is…the narc, just makes it worse…they are empty, vicious souls, so, the break up is easy for them…some, have very horrid stories. For me, I’m thankful, it really was just a bad breakup, what made it worse, it was a narcissist…but, sometimes, I wonder if I’m not a little narcissistic…I craved that narcissistic supply myself, only difference was, I had empathy, & feelings, that, they don’t have …I understand your empty, lonely feeling, it’s what we all feel…but, really, sometimes we have to just stop, & look & say, really doesn’t matter, they don’t want us…my narcissist still hoovers & comes around…well ok, I prolly hoover too…Zari, would kick me in the ass for that..I talk to Zari, quite frequently, & encourage you to do the the same…She is my lifeline…my life is getting better..No Contact. Oh well…It really didn’t work for me all that well…I was miserable with or without her…so what little contact we have works..I just keep my guard up & know this is a not my long term relationship, it will never happen….for me, I just have to let bygones, be bygones..I can never hate, as my mother, always taught me, we have to be better than that…So, Good Luck friend, I understand, & every day is a challenge for us.

    Love you,

  • Serenity Darwin

    October 19, 2016 at 9:31 pm Reply

    Thank you for giving me the language to name what was happening to me. My narc used triangulation even before we started dating. While we were together I experienced the cell phone game constantly. Facebook was used to drop bombshells. Even the dog wasn’t exempt. Now I can see it all so clearly. But what’s still so unbelievable is that someone who professed her love for me on a daily basis could hurt me so systematically and deliberately. It’s mind bending, I’m not sure I’ll ever get it.

    • Zari Ballard

      October 23, 2016 at 10:29 pm Reply

      Hi Serenity Darwin,

      You’ll “get it”, I promise. Keep reading and also keep stepping back to see it. It was never you and, in fact, it wasn’t even personal. We’re dealing with defective human product here so feel free to toss him to the junk pile where he belongs. YOU were never the problem. Be free and happy…life is too short for all this nonsense:)

      Zari xo

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