A narcissist will use triangulation to create a power imbalance in one-on-one conversations, disagreements, feuds, or arguments with their victim by directly or indirectly bringing a third party into the mix to support their distorted perception of reality. They often triangulate through one of their exes and it can be a really effective form of manipulation. So to better protect yourself you must understand why narcissists triangulate you with an ex.

As a general rule, narcissists triangulate you with an ex for three reasons. First, they want to make you jealous. Second, they want to invalidate, devalue, and degrade your thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs. Third, they want to manipulate you into having a negative reaction that gives them narcissistic supply.

In this article we’re going to unpack the reasoning behind a narcissist’s tendency to triangulate you with an ex and we’ve also created a short video below with hidden forms of triangulation that you can use to spot and stop this manipulative technique before the narcissist is able to compromise your emotional stability. 

A Short Video About the Most Subtle Ways That a Narcissist Can Triangulate You With an Ex

Narcissists Will Triangulate You With an Ex to Make You Jealous

Narcissists will triangulate you with an ex to get the validation, admiration, and reassurance, also known as narcissistic supply, that comes from you being jealous. The most common approach to this form of triangulation is called typecasting. 

Typecasting is an advanced, yet shockingly subtle, form of manipulation that is most commonly found in the beginning stages of a narcissistic relationship. It is a manipulative technique that is designed to trigger and exploit our desire to look good to other people.

When narcissists use typecasting they will subtly compare you to another person in their life in such a manner that makes you feel like you have to be similar or better than that person to have the narcissist acknowledge and accept you.

6 Examples of How Narcissists Use Typecasting to Triangulate You With an Ex

  • My ex wife and I had great chemistry because she would always cook these amazing meals that were ready for me as soon as I got home from work!
  • I was so unhappy because I have many guy friends that I love to spend time with and my ex was just so insecure and jealous all the time.
  • I would say that my work ethic has come from seeing my ex work full-time and go to the gym every single day, sometimes even twice a day. She was amazing.
  • It is funny that you mention that because my ex was super fit and attractive. For a while I was scared that I wasn’t going to find someone like him but then I let go of my fears and settled for you.
  • My ex made me feel so special because he would take me on these amazing trips all around the world even though he didn’t have that much money. He would just work hard for me.
  • My ex would complain so much. Gosh, it makes me sick to even think about but yeah, she would always find something wrong with me.

What typecasting does is it manipulates you into feeling uncomfortable with yourself around the narcissist. It makes you second guess your thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs. It manipulates you into being submissive, non-confrontational, and wary of your actions out of the fear of reminding the narcissist of their ex. 

The reason that this gives the narcissist so much supply is because they will be able to use your jealousy of their ex partner to manipulate you into being a sufficient source of validation, admiration, and reassurance. 

For example, if the narcissist in your life were to use typecasting to triangulate you with an ex who they said was a really good cook, you might try to be an even better cook by making sure that the narcissist was always fed and taken care of. This would give them a ton of narcissistic supply by feeding their grandiose sense of self-importance, specialness, and uniqueness.

a victim of narcissistic abuse cooking dinner after being triangulated with the narcissist's ex

The interesting thing about typecasting is that it doesn’t necessarily mean that the narcissist genuinely appreciated or hated the person that they are comparing you to. In fact, you shouldn’t be surprised if they are lying about the person. Typecasting is simply a manifestation of a narcissist’s need for power and control. It is all about them getting what they want exactly when they want it.

Narcissists Will Triangulate You With an Ex to Invalidate, Devalue, and Degrade You

A narcissist will triangulate you with an ex to devalue, invalidate, and degrade your thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs. A narcissist will use this form of triangulation when they are trying to push past the boundaries that you’ve set or manipulate you into doing something that they want you to do.

6 Examples of Triangulation That Is Designed to Invalidate, Devalue, and Degrade Your Thoughts, Feelings, Emotions, and Needs

  • I can’t believe that you want to go on a foreign exchange program for three months and I’m supposed to be okay with you going out and probably cheating on me. My ex would have never done this to me.
  • I spoke to my ex-girlfriend because I thought that the problems in our relationship were my fault but she told me that it sounded like you are narcissistic and projecting all of your negative emotions onto me. I think that I agree with her!
  • I don’t understand why you’re so sensitive all the time. When I get angry, I yell and throw things around. My ex had no problem with it because she accepted me for who I am.
  • My ex thinks that you’re insane. I mean how can you honestly sit there and call me abusive when I don’t even hit you. She said that you are degrading real victims of domestic violence by pretending to be one. 
  • I don’t understand why you feel entitled to being treated with respect when you don’t even try to understand my perspective. My ex did that and they were psychotic… maybe you should see a doctor or something. 
  • I just find it funny that you’re sitting there acting like you’re perfect. You’re always criticizing me on the way I treat the kids, my ex said that you’re a horrible parent and she has a point. What kind of example are you setting by complaining so much?

When a narcissist triangulates you with an ex to invalidate, degrade, and devalue your thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs, they are trying to protect their sense of self. We created a complete guide for this in our article How Are Narcissists Made but narcissists construct their sense of self out of the validation, admiration, and reassurance that they can get from their external environment.

The sense of self that they construct is holding back very powerful negative emotions that they have about themselves because of an abusive upbringing with unavailable, unresponsive, and inconsistent primary caregivers who didn’t mirror the narcissist’s thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs. 

Meaning that the narcissist never got the validation, admiration, and reassurance that they needed to develop a realistic sense of self and have a healthy cognitive development. The emotional immaturity and inadequacy that they developed from an unhealthy cognitive development makes their sense of self extremely fragile.

When a narcissist experiences something that contradicts their sense of self, all of their negative emotions get triggered and it jeopardizes their emotional stability. Triangulation with an ex to devalue, invalidate, and degrade your thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs is one of the many ways that a narcissist will try to remain in power and control of their environment to avoid contradictions to their sense of self.

A narcissist triangulating his victim with an ex

Narcissists Will Triangulate You With an Ex to Manipulate You Into Having a Negative Reaction

It is very common for narcissists to triangulate you with an ex to manipulate you into having a negative reaction that gives them validation, admiration, and reassurance, which is also known as narcissistic supply. 

Narcissistic supply is often thought of as something positive like a narcissist receiving an award, being complimented, earning a lot of money, or being admired by others. But narcissistic supply can also originate from a narcissist baiting you into having a negative reaction. 

If a narcissist triangulates you with an ex in a very degrading, invalidating, and devaluing manner, having a negative reaction is going to allow them to paint you as “unstable” or “crazy” and will give them a ton of narcissistic supply. 

The reason that this gives them so much narcissistic supply is because when they see other people as emotionally unstable as they are on the inside, it allows them to ignore all of their suppressed negative emotions by projecting them onto the person who they manipulated into being emotionally unstable. 

6 Examples of Triangulation That is Designed to Get a Negative Reaction Out of You

  • You look so fat in that dress, my ex always did her best to look good for me… why can’t you?
  • I’m sorry but I don’t want to go on our trip because my ex called me last night and told me how much he loves me… now I’m having doubts about us because he seems to love me way more than you do…
  • You’re worthless, I should have married my ex because I would have been much happier. 
  • Well how about we call my ex and see what she has to say because I can’t have an intelligent conversation with you, something is wrong with your brain.
  • I’ve actually got a new gym partner. I ran into my ex the other day at the gym and we already know each other’s routines so it was perfect! 
  • Listen, I want to go to this place for vacation because it is where I met my ex. It is really special to me and you are being selfish for having a problem with it.

We hinted at this before but when a narcissist triangulates you with their ex to get a negative reaction out of you, they are using a really twisted form of projection. Projection is defense mechanism that occurs when we take parts of our own identity that we find unacceptable and place them onto someone else to avoid acknowledging their presence.

One of the most common manifestations of projection in narcissistic relationships is cheating accusations. When a narcissist cheats on their partner they use projection to regulate all of their suppressed negative emotions.

They don’t do this because they believe that what they did is wrong, they do this because they know that cheating contradicts their charming, charismatic, and admirable sense of self. It is very common for narcissist to accuse their partner of cheating instead of acknowledging that they are the ones who were unfaithful.

When it comes to triangulation with an ex that is designed to get a negative reaction out of you, narcissists are trying to project their emotional instability onto you by manipulating you into behaving as emotionally unstable and erratic as they are on the inside. It is almost as if they get to point the finger at you and say, “SEE?! I’m not the emotionally unstable one, you are!”

What Should You Take Away From This Article?

Triangulation is a very powerful form of manipulation that can keep victims of narcissistic abuse trapped within the narcissistic abuse cycle for months, years, and even decades. Narcissists will triangulate you with an ex when they want to make you jealous, when they want to invalidate, devalue, and degrade your thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs, and when they want to manipulate you into having a negative reaction that gives them narcissistic supply.


This article has been reviewed by our editorial board and has been approved for publication in accordance with our editorial policies.

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References

Konrath, Sara, et al. “The relationship between narcissistic exploitativeness, dispositional empathy, and emotion recognition abilities.” Journal of Nonverbal Behavior 38.1 (2014): 129-143.

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