When I first started learning about narcissism and what it is, I thought narcissists were simply self-centered jerks who treated people like crap.
Well, I mean, that’s not wrong but there is so much more to narcissism!
That’s why I feel it’s important to explore the different behaviors narcissists use when controlling and manipulating others. In this article, I want to talk about triangulation.
I find that knowing more about their abuse tactics will help those who are currently experiencing that abuse and those who are healing in the aftermath. Sometimes gaining clarity about a situation can help you work your way through it.
So here’s a little ditty about narcissistic triangulation as well as how narcissists treat their children when using this tactic:
What is Narcissistic Triangulation?
Triangulation is a type of behavior that pops up during a two-person conflict when one person (or both people) tries to pull a third person into the argument in order to deflect tension, create a different conflict, or prove themselves right.
Narcissists use triangulation to maintain control and manipulate others. They will purposely involve someone they know will side with them or create a bigger conflict to pull attention away from the original argument.
This manipulation tactic can have you feeling insecure about yourself and you may start doubting your position and questioning yourself in regard to the conflict.
(Also known as gaslighting, which you can learn more about here!)
Narcissists also use triangulation when it comes to their children. When it comes to how do narcissists treat their children, they may play their children off each other.
Scapegoat Golden Child
When narcissists try to play their children off each other, this is known as the “Scapegoat/Golden Child” syndrome. They portray one child as the good or favorite one and the other as a scapegoat for blame.
To make matters worse, the narcissist may switch these designations by praising the scapegoat child and devaluing the golden child.
Either way, they only give one child positive attention at any given time. The other child feels ignored and neglected but will work harder to earn the narcissist’s attention by competing with their sibling or doing things to make their parent happy.
The scapegoat golden child triangulation tactic is really a shame because the lesser valued child will work so hard for the love and validation they crave and the narcissist will throw them a compliment every now and then to ensure they try harder.
As I mentioned, narcissistic triangulation is a way for the narcissist to maintain control in a relationship. This is one of those more covert abuse tactics that you may not even realize is happening.
Narcissists operate by drawing attention from others in order to maintain a “narcissistic supply.” This supply helps to prop up their poor self-esteem and, as long as you continue to feed into it, they may feel satisfied with the relationship.
However, they want to make sure you continue to fill that supply so they subtly unbalance you to keep you trapped in the relationship. Triangulation is one way they do this.
For example, the narcissist may bring up an old ex and make mention of how regretful they are that the relationship ended. They may continue to drop hints that they are still attracted to the ex without outright comparing you to them.
They are bringing a third person into the equation to make you feel insecure and worried that they will leave you. As a result, you may end up working harder to fill their supply so that you can receive the same praise as their ex.
This leaves you vulnerable to the narcissist’s manipulations.
Why Do Narcissists Use Triangulation?
Normal people sometimes involve a third person when they are looking for support in a conflict. This is not done intentionally to escalate the conflict.
However, narcissistic triangulation is intentional and they do this with the explicit desire to fill their narcissistic supply and maintain control of their victim.
It also gives the narcissist an opportunity to devalue one person while drawing another closer. This second person can then be used as a source of attention and praise or further manipulation.
Plus, narcissistic triangulation allows the narcissist to take control over someone else’s relationship by pitting two people against each other. This gives them a sense of dominance.
Overall, narcissistic triangulation ensures that people don’t turn against the narcissist. When you’re in the “favorite” role, you are focused more on pleasing them than standing up against them.
How to Deal With Narcissistic Triangulation
Whether you are dealing with narcissistic triangulation in a relationship or you’re facing a scapegoat golden child situation with your own children, there are ways that you can respond effectively to this behavior:
- Call Them Out: As much as you probably want to stay away from conflict, sometimes calling them out on narcissistic triangulation shows them that you understand their game and won’t play.
- Establish a Support System: Since narcissists will try to turn people against you, it may be best to establish a new support system or clear the air with your current social circle.
- Set Boundaries: You can’t always prevent narcissistic triangulation, even if you cut all ties with the narcissist, since they can still talk about you to people still in your life. However, you can set boundaries by ignoring their bait, not sharing details about your life with them, and refusing to allow yourself to be drawn into competitions.
What about when it comes to how do narcissists treat their children? How do you’d deal with the scapegoat golden child situation?
If your children are being treated this way by the narcissist, you will have to develop strategies to help mitigate the narcissist’s attacks.
The first thing you can do is help your children define themselves away from the narcissist by exploring new interests and new hobbies to see what they are naturally skilled at.
Also, you will want to develop consistent routines and establish expectations. In this environment, your children will learn that they are both valued equally with no preference being given to one over the other.
You can’t control how the narcissist treats the children during their own time but you can help them develop the values and empathetic skills necessary to avoid falling into the scapegoat golden child trap.
And That’s Narcissistic Triangulation
Basically, narcissistic triangulation happens when the narcissist involves a third person (whether directly or indirectly) in a conflict to create a sense of insecurity, reaffirm their superiority, or distract you from the point of the conflict.
It also happens when the narcissist praises one individual and devalues another so that they work harder for the narcissist’s praise.
Among the many behaviors narcissists use to control and manipulate other people, this is one of the most subtle. It’s likely you won’t even know it’s happening unless you know what triangulation is.
And now you do! Hopefully, learning more about narcissism will help you make more sense of your situation.
If you have any thoughts, please leave a comment. And don’t forget to pin!