The Definition of Triangulation in Narcissistic Abuse – A Closer Look

Triangulation is a manipulative tactic commonly used by narcissists to gain control over their victims and maintain power in relationships.

This psychological warfare technique involves the use of a third party to create tension, confusion, and emotional distress.

By understanding the definition and mechanics of triangulation and recognizing its signs, you can better protect yourself from this form of narcissistic abuse.

triangulation definition

Triangulation Definition

In the context of narcissistic abuse, triangulation occurs when a narcissist brings another person or multiple people into their relationship with the victim.

This can take many forms, such as comparing the victim to someone else, creating a love triangle, or involving others in conflicts.

The goal of triangulation is to make the victim feel insecure, isolated, and unworthy, thus making them more susceptible to the narcissist’s control.

How Does Triangulation Work?

Narcissists rely on triangulation to manipulate their victims in several ways:

Divide and Conquer

Divide and Conquer involves introducing a third party into the relationship.

The narcissist does this to create an environment of competition and insecurity, forcing the victim to vie for their attention and approval.

The introduction of a third party allows the narcissist to exploit the victim’s fear of abandonment and rejection.

The victim starts to question their worth and believe that they are not enough to satisfy the narcissist’s needs.

This leads to jealousy, as they compare themselves to the third party, constantly seeking validation and reassurance from the narcissist.


As the victim becomes consumed by the need for the narcissist’s attention and approval, their emotional state weakens.

Anxiety sets in, and they are constantly on edge, fearing that they may lose the narcissist to the third party.

The narcissist capitalizes on this anxiety, using it as a tool to manipulate and control the victim’s actions and emotions.

Moreover, the constant competition for the narcissist’s attention divides the victim’s focus.

They end up neglecting their own needs, desires, and goals, as they become solely focused on meeting the demands and expectations set by the narcissist.

This self-neglect further weakens the victim’s emotional state and reinforces the hold that the narcissist has over them.

divide and conquer


Gaslighting is a manipulative tactic used by narcissists to make their victims doubt their sanity and perception of reality.

Triangulation is an extension of this strategy, where the narcissist introduces a third party into the dynamic to further validate their lies and manipulation.

By aligning themselves with a seemingly objective third party, the narcissist gains credibility and reinforces their distorted version of events.

They selectively share information or manipulate conversations in order to paint a false narrative that supports their agenda.

gaslighting - triangulation

Smear Campaign

Narcissists may use triangulation to launch a smear campaign against their victim.

They will involve other people in spreading rumors, lies, and gossip about the victim to tarnish their reputation and isolate them from their support network.


By making the victim feel insecure and dependent on the narcissist’s approval, the narcissist can maintain control over the relationship.

The victim may become desperate to regain the narcissist’s favour, leading them to tolerate further abuse and manipulation.

triangulation definition

Triangulation Definition – Recognizing this Type of Abuse

Recognizing the signs of triangulation can help you identify this manipulative tactic and take steps to protect yourself.

Some common signs include:

Constant Comparisons. The narcissist frequently compares you to other people, often pointing out how you fall short or suggesting that others are superior to you in some way.

Involving Others in Disputes. The narcissist brings other people into your disagreements or conflicts, either as witnesses or as supposed allies.

This can make you feel ganged up on or unsupported.

Secretive Behaviour. The narcissist may be secretive about their interactions with the third party, creating a sense of mystery and intrigue that fosters jealousy and insecurity.

Flaunting Relationships. The narcissist may flaunt their relationships with other people, highlighting their closeness or intimacy with the third party to make you feel excluded and inferior.

Isolation. You may find yourself increasingly isolated from friends, family, and other support networks as the narcissist uses triangulation to control your social connections.

protect yourself from emotional abuse

How to Protect Yourself from Triangulation

If you suspect you are being subjected to triangulation in a relationship, consider the following strategies for protection and self-preservation:

Establish Boundaries. Set clear boundaries with the narcissist regarding what is and is not acceptable behaviour.

Communicate your needs and expectations clearly, and be prepared to enforce those boundaries if necessary.

Seek Support. Reach out to trusted friends, family members, or a therapist to discuss your concerns and gain perspective on the situation.

Having a support network can help you maintain your sense of self-worth and emotional stability.

Educate Yourself: Learn as much as you can about narcissistic abuse, triangulation, and manipulation tactics.

The more you understand these behaviours, the better equipped you will be to recognize and respond to them.

Practice Self-Care: Prioritize your own well-being by engaging in activities that promote self-care, such as exercise, meditation, and hobbies that bring you joy.

Maintaining your physical and emotional health is essential for coping with the stress of a toxic relationship.

Consider Ending the Relationship: If the narcissist continues to engage in triangulation and other abusive behaviours, it may be necessary to end the relationship for your own well-being. Seek guidance from a therapist or counsellor to help you navigate this difficult decision.

triangulation definition

Final Thoughts on Triangulation

In conclusion, triangulation is a highly effective and insidious tool employed by narcissists to manipulate, control, and ultimately weaken their victims.

This psychological tactic exploits the victim’s emotions, creating an environment of insecurity, jealousy, and self-doubt, which serves to further entrench the narcissist’s power over them.

It is crucial for anyone who suspects they may be experiencing triangulation in a relationship to educate themselves about this manipulation technique and its signs.

Knowledge truly is power in this situation, as understanding the mechanics of triangulation can empower you to break free from the narcissist’s control.

Furthermore, seeking support from trusted friends, family members, or professionals can provide invaluable perspective and validation during this challenging time.

Prioritize your mental, emotional, and physical health, and be prepared to make difficult decisions if necessary to preserve your well-being.

Frequently Asked Questions about Narcissism

Frequently Asked Questions About Narcissistic Triangulation

What is Narcissistic Triangulation?

Narcissistic triangulation is a manipulative tactic used by narcissists, in which they bring a third person into their relationship dynamic to create insecurity, stir up drama, or maintain control over the other two individuals involved.

How does a narcissist use triangulation?

A narcissist uses triangulation by creating scenarios where two people could potentially argue or compete for the narcissist’s favor or attention. This can involve spreading rumors, pitting people against each other, or selectively sharing information to provoke certain reactions.

Why do narcissists employ triangulation tactics?

Narcissists employ triangulation tactics to manipulate and control situations or relationships. It allows them to gain power, validate their self-worth, and keep their targets off-balance. It also serves to deflect blame and criticism away from themselves.

How can I protect myself from narcissistic triangulation?

Protecting yourself from narcissistic triangulation involves setting clear boundaries, developing strong communication with others potentially involved in the triangulation, and seeking support from trusted friends, family, or professionals. It can also be helpful to educate yourself about narcissistic behaviors and manipulation tactics.

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