It can be challenging to tell the difference between triangulation and a genuine search for a second opinion, especially when you’re caught up in the narcissistic abuse cycle.
So, in this article, I will guide you through six examples to help you better understand what triangulation looks like in a narcissistic relationship.
Example 1: A Narcissist Uses a Coworker to Manipulate Their Partner
- Alex (narcissistic partner)
- Jordan (Alex’s significant other)
- Casey (Alex’s coworker)
Jordan notices that Alex has been distant lately and is becoming more reliant on their coworker, Casey, for emotional support and validation.
Alex purposefully shares details about their relationship struggles with Casey, often exaggerating or fabricating issues.
Later, Alex selectively uses the “advice” they claim to have received from Casey as a weapon to manipulate Jordan.
This makes Jordan feel outnumbered and devalued in the relationship.
The triangulation occurs when Alex involves Casey in their personal relationship dynamics and uses her as a tool for emotional manipulation.
Jordan: “Alex, I noticed you were talking to Casey again at the party. It feels like you discuss our personal matters with her quite often. Why is that?”
Alex: “Oh, Casey? She’s just a good listener. And she’s gone through a lot in her relationships. She has some excellent insights, you know.”
Jordan: “But it’s our relationship. I’d prefer if we could sort things out between us.”
Alex, rolling eyes: “I was just trying to get some advice. Casey said her ex was just like you, always upset over small things. Maybe you should reflect on that.”
Jordan, confused and hurt: “I just wanted us to communicate better with each other.”
Alex, smirking: “If you listened to me the way Casey does, we wouldn’t have problems.”
Example 2: A Narcissistic Mother Causes Tension Between Daughters
- Linda (narcissistic mother)
- Emily (older daughter)
- Sarah (younger daughter)
Sarah recently got a lower grade in school, which is a matter for a parent to discuss directly with their child.
Instead, Linda deliberately brings up this subject with Emily, her other daughter.
Linda expresses disappointment and concern about Sarah, contrasting Emily’s “success” and Sarah’s “failure.”
Linda’s goal here is to induce guilt and responsibility in Emily while sowing discord between the two sisters.
The triangulation occurs when Linda involves Emily in Sarah’s personal issue, creating a dynamic where Sarah feels judged by her parent and sibling.
Linda, sighing dramatically: “Emily, I’m really concerned about your sister. She got a C in her history class.”
Emily: “Oh? Why are you telling me this? Shouldn’t you talk to Sarah directly?”
Linda, shaking her head: “I just don’t know where I went wrong with her. I never had these issues with you. You always got good grades and took your studies seriously.”
Emily, feeling uneasy: “Mom, it’s just one grade. Maybe she had a tough time with one test or project. It doesn’t mean she doesn’t take her studies seriously.”
Linda, voice dripping with concern: “I hope she doesn’t end up making poor choices in life. It’s hard not to compare the two of you. I wish she was more like you.”
Later, Emily approaches Sarah, feeling a mix of guilt and concern.
Emily: “Sarah, Mom told me about your history grade. Is everything okay?”
Sarah, defensively: “Why is she discussing my grades with you?”
Emily: “I just want to help.”
Sarah: “Maybe if she talked to me directly instead of always comparing me to you, things would be different! My grades are none of your business.”
Example 3: A Narcissist Manipulates the Trust Between Two Friends
- Morgan (narcissistic friend)
- Taylor (Person A)
- Sam (Person B)
Taylor recently got a new haircut and is excited to show it to her friends.
Morgan, noticing the positive attention Taylor is receiving, decides to undermine this by falsely telling Taylor that Sam criticized her new look.
Morgan’s goal is to create tension between Taylor and Sam, making Taylor feel insecure and more reliant on Morgan for emotional support.
The triangulation occurs when Morgan falsely claims to Taylor that Sam has been talking negatively about her, manipulating the trust between the two friends.
Morgan, feigning concern: “Taylor, I thought you should know. When you weren’t around the other day, Sam said your new haircut wasn’t very flattering.”
Taylor, surprised: “Really? Sam said that? I thought they liked it.”
Morgan, shrugging: “I just thought you had a right to know. You know how candid Sam can be.”
Later, Taylor confronts Sam.
Taylor, visibly hurt: “Sam, why would you talk behind my back about my haircut? I thought we were friends.”
Sam, genuinely confused: “What? I never said anything negative about your haircut. I actually think it suits you.”
Taylor, still upset: “Morgan told me what you said. Why would she lie?”
Sam: “I don’t know, but I swear I never said that.”
Example 4: Triangulation in the Workplace
- Chris (narcissistic coworker)
- Dana (Coworker A)
- Jamie (Coworker B)
Dana has led a successful presentation at work, earning her praise from the team.
Chris, feeling threatened by Dana’s success, decides to disrupt this by telling Dana that Jamie found her presentation underwhelming.
Chris is trying to create a divide between Dana and Jamie.
The triangulation occurs when Chris deliberately distorts Jamie’s supposed opinion to create tension between the two coworkers.
Chris, whispering to Dana: “Hey, between us, Jamie mentioned in the last meeting that they thought your presentation was a bit…underwhelming. I thought you should know.”
Dana, taken aback: “Really? I worked hard on that. I wish Jamie had come to me with feedback.”
Chris, nodding: “I just thought you should be aware. It’s always good to know where you stand with team members.”
Later, Dana approaches Jamie.
Dana, confrontationally: “Jamie, if you had issues with my presentation, you should’ve come to me directly.”
Jamie, surprised: “I had no issues with your presentation. It was good. Who told you this?”
Dana, crossing her arms: “Chris mentioned it to me during lunch.”
Jamie, frustrated: “This isn’t the first time Chris has done this. They seem to be stirring the pot quite a bit lately.”
Example 5: A Narcissist Uses Family to Manipulate Their Spouse
- Neil (narcissistic spouse)
- Elise (Neil’s partner)
- The “In-laws” (not directly present, but mentioned)
Elise is excited about the idea of spending Christmas abroad, but her narcissistic spouse, Neil, wants to keep the holidays traditional and local.
Rather than having an open and honest discussion, Neil mentions that he’s talked to his parents (the in-laws), who “strongly believe” that holidays should be local.
Neil’s objective here is to use the supposed opinions of the in-laws as an emotional lever to manipulate Elise’s decision, making her feel isolated and outnumbered.
The triangulation occurs when Neil brings the in-laws into their decision-making process to manipulate Elise and validate his preferences.
Elise, excitedly: “Neil, what do you think about spending Christmas in Paris this year? I think it would be so romantic!”
Neil, raising an eyebrow: “Well, I mentioned it in passing to my parents, and they seemed quite upset about the idea. They said holidays are for family.”
Elise, taken aback: “Oh, I didn’t realize you’d already spoken to them. Did they explicitly say they’d be upset if we went?”
Neil, smugly: “They didn’t have to. I could sense it. I think they’d feel really abandoned if we weren’t here. Especially since they’ve mentioned how couples who spend holidays away from family tend to drift apart.”
Elise, hesitantly: “I didn’t want to upset anyone. Maybe we can reconsider.”
Neil, smiling: “That sounds like a wise decision.”
Example 6: A Narcissist Lies to Control Group Choices
- Blake (narcissistic club member)
- Kim (club member A)
- Ryan (club member B)
During a club meeting to decide on the next group activity, Blake realizes that the group is leaning towards a hiking trip, an idea he dislikes.
To sway the decision in his favor, he claims to have spoken to other members who are not present, insisting they are against the idea of hiking and prefer a movie night.
The goal here is to create the illusion of greater support for his preferred activity, thereby steering the group’s choice while sowing seeds of doubt about the initial idea.
The triangulation occurs when Blake uses the names of absent members to manipulate the group decision.
Kim, suggesting: “I think for our next group activity, we should organize a hiking trip. It’s been a while since we did something outdoors.”
Ryan, nodding: “I like that idea. The weather’s been great too.”
Blake, dismissively: “I talked to Pat and Lee earlier this week, and they thought a movie night would be better. They said hiking might be too strenuous for some members.”
Kim, surprised: “Oh? They didn’t mention anything to me. But we can definitely consider a movie night.”
Ryan, suspiciously: “Blake, did Pat and Lee specifically say they’re against hiking, or are you just pushing for a movie night?”
Blake, defensively: “I’m just relaying what was said to me. We should always consider everyone’s preferences, right?”
What Should You Take Away from This Article?
Triangulation is a difficult form of manipulation to spot.
I hope this article brought you value, but if you’re looking for more information, check out our articles about the signs of triangulation (see below):
Suggested Reading: What Does Triangulation Look Like? (5 Signs)
About the Author
Hey, I’m Elijah.
I experienced narcissistic abuse for three years.
I create these articles to help you understand and validate your experiences.
Thank you for reading, and remember, healing is possible even when it feels impossible.