If you know a narcissist, borderline or other disordered person in any more than just a casual acquaintance manner, you will be triangulated. Triangulation is a skill that comes inherent to manipulative people who lack empathy. There is no manual required. They all do it. Since disordered people view all other people as competition for resources, it serves their goal to have everyone at odds with each other and averted from themselves.
But none are so fervently triangulated as those who are in intimate romantic relationships with the narcissist. The narcissist does this to make his target intimate partner feel constantly as if they must be competing for his or her affections, and to make his target believe that the narcissist is a hot commodity. Triangulation also serves to isolate his or her target.
Of course, there are those relationships outside of the “committed” relationship that the narcissist actively fosters for narcissistic supply. But the narcissist is not above inventing stories about outside romantic interests in order to keep his or her target insecure.
While it seems counter-intuitive to a sane/rational person, who would want their intimate partner to feel secure and loved, narcissists want those people closest to them to be weakened and broken, because weakened and broken people lack the confidence to stand up to them and are easier to control and less likely to gather the strength to leave. Narcissists enjoy abusing intimate partners until that person is completely broken and no more fun. Then they will be discarded for new supply.
But I digress. In what ways does a disordered person triangulate others? I have listed a few examples below:
- Mentioning a fondness for a person of the opposite sex. Most healthy people can take a mention of an outside party with a grain of salt, but the narcissistic person will take it beyond acceptable limits, talking about how admirable this person is, how attractive, intelligent, witty, sexy. And if these incessant compliments fail to garner the ire of the intended victim, the narcissist will claim that this person he or she admires so much, has made sexual advances towards them. As soon as you suggest that the narcissist’s obsession with this person is inappropriate, you will have walked into the trap and the narcissist will berate you for being jealous. This tactic works towards several end goals: it makes the target feel insecure – less than the outside party, and it causes a rift between the two persons, so as to prevent an alliance, allowing the narcissist to either tell more lies or to carry on an affair unabated.
- Claiming that outside parties are saying disparaging things about you. These things may or may not be true. If it is true that the outside parties are saying bad things about you, it would be because the narcissist had told them bad things about you. Narcissists are not loyal in any sense to their intimate partners. The smear campaign begins almost instantly, because after placing you up on a pedestal, the narcissists needs to kick you off in order to feel better about themselves. And the narcissist also needs a bevvy of flying monkeys to support his or her misdeeds. But in absence of a bevvy of flying monkeys, the narcissist is not above outright lying about bad things being said about you behind your back. And if any of these things were true, why wouldn’t your intimate partner be defending you against such slurs?
- Isolating you from your friends. The first line of attack for the narcissist will be to go after any persons who would have otherwise helped you to or encouraged you to stop taking the narcissist’s abuse. Your family and close friends. Of course, if your close friends are attractive, expect that the narcissist will test the boundaries by flirting and hitting on them. If your friends are truly your friends, they will rebuff the narcissist’s advances and then the narcissist will tell you that it was your friend who was making the advances. And who are you most likely to believe? It puts you in a position of having to choose. On the other hand, if your friend succumbs to the advances from the narcissist, that relationship will serve as a form of perpetual blackmail for the narcissist.
- Isolating you from your family. Expect that the narcissist will throw fits and pick fights with you right before going to a family function, and if you go alone, you will be subjected to abuse in the form of silent treatment, loads of guilt or overtly abusive behavior. If your family comes to visit, expect that the narcissist will twist everything your family said or did into something offensive towards them. If you are with the narcissist for a long enough period of time, you will notice a pattern and the effort to maintain a relationship with your family will have become too laborious.
- Allying themselves with those they have managed to isolate. Despite isolating you from your family, the narcissist will play the victim with your family and, especially if you break up with the narcissist, will suddenly be best friends with them. This applies to friendships that the narcissist ruined as well. The reason for this is that the narcissist fears being exposed for the monster that he or she is, and wants you to look like a liar.
Aren’t disordered people fun to be in relationships with?
If you are in or have left a narcissistic relationship, I encourage you to forego couples counseling and go to individual counseling instead. If you cannot afford counseling (or are forbidden by your narcissistic partner), find an online support group.