So far in this series concerning the study of human behavior/Psychology, I have covered “The Know It All,” “Passive-aggressive behavior, Codependency, and the martyr complex. Today we are going to look at triangulation. I don’t have time to cover the golden child and the scapegoat in this session, but it has much to do with this topic.
Usually, we see triangulation happening in families with more than one child, but it can happen in other dynamics. When parents talk to one child about another child, there will be issues. When a person stands in opposition or against another person taking sides with the opposite team, it is called triangulation. The goal is to divide and conquer. Today, dividing and conquering can happen over religion, politics, divorce, opinions, etc.
“A form of manipulation, triangulation involves the use of indirect communication, often behind someone’s back.”
Triangulation often happens between parents and a child, but not always. A married couple may experience many issues if every time the couple has a problem, the wife runs to her mother to vent. Unbeknownst to the wife, she turns her mother against the person she is supposed to be one with and protect, her spouse. But it’s not always the wife. If the husband begins to vent to his father, mother, or children about his wife’s issues or problems in the marriage/family, he, too, can cause a triangle. Remember, the Bible says a three-strand cord is not easily broken. Hmm, there are several ways to see this verse, both good and bad.
For example, if the wife who bad mouthed her husband to her mother, later seeks counseling, resolves the issues, and the marriage heals, this is great news, BUT now there are more issues. Now, the spouse caught in the triangle knows what the in-laws said about him. In the example of the wife mentioned above, the husband’s mother-in-law may look at him with disdain or be short at family gatherings. Or worse, his wife’s mother does not treat him respectfully due to the things shared in private out of anger by her daughter. The triangle has collapsed, but will it happen again? Yes, usually, unless boundaries and healing take place. And to make matters worse, the husband in this scenario must try and win back honor and respect from his mother-in-law.
You can exchange the mother and daughter for other people in your life. The end result is the same.
Many times, a manipulative person in control often vows not to budge. They are pitting people against each other to make one of them look bad. Usually, the person has low self-esteem or fears losing their power in a relationship, be it friendship, leadership, or family role. Their fear of going unnoticed, being wrong or forgotten, or unloved causes chaos. Their wounds, rejection, egos, or low self-worth must be healed. However, in covert narcissism, the person usually knows exactly what they are doing. Some may even enjoy it— hoping they destroy any threats that get in their way of attention and esteem. They will do anything to make the other person look bad. I have witnessed covert narcissists who convinced their own spouses not to speak to their parent (mother/father) or both parents again. Years later, after getting out of the marriage, they restored the breach. But not everyone’s story ends this way. How selfish and cruel we humans can be. King Saul spent years trying to murder David—what a horrible existence.
Jealousy is often insecurity working internally. A person being controlled under this fear may spread false rumors or try and bring division between a favored new coworker, a new brother-in-law, a sister-in-law, a sibling, or a friend. And it’s even worse when a parent tries to pit children against their spouse. Or children try and put a parent against their new stepparent.
The office place (business/ leadership) or certain friendships can be just as alarming. If a woman has a close friend but sees a new friend coming into the picture that might threaten her relationship– if said best friend ends up liking the new friend more in the eyes of the insecure person, this is a prime example.
Triangulation happens even in partnerships and ministries.
A leader can have a personal relationship with someone, perhaps many people. But if the leader sees that all the other chicks in the chicken yard are flocking to one chickadee, and they are losing the “spotlight” or applause or accolades, they will often try and move in and slander the other person. Some of these tactics are covert. And in ministry settings, it can be very covert. Instead of slandering them and naming them, the person can begin to question their work or teachings around the table talk. They can covertly speak against what the other leader/boss is promoting, writing, or speaking about. They may try to twist their words. Remember that is what the Pharisees tried to do to Yeshua.
“Then the Pharisees said to one another, “You can see that this is doing you no good. Look how the whole world has gone after Him!” John 12:19.
“Then the Pharisees having gone out, took counsel how they might trap Him in His words.” Matthew 22:18.
Yes, and we await the day the whole world is following Him, but I posted the scriptures so you can see clearly how this looks.
A person being controlled by their fleshly nature will often point out faults or exaggerations concerning the new friend or even explain that she was rude or started an argument. Or perhaps a new stepmother or father enters a family unit. The child or children try to bait or bring division between their parent and the new spouse, spreading rumors or twisting information throughout the family. They find someone to join them, usually another family member. In that case, the two can go to their father or mother and discuss the bad qualities or what they dislike about the new person their parents plan to marry or have married. They may even bring in their mother or father, the mom or dad’s ex-spouse, to bring a stronghold in the triangle. And who are they going to believe? Of course, they will usually believe the family member, their child, sibling, friend, or boss versus the new person who has just arrived. The triangle then forms, and now the newcomer is in a gridlock situation.
Psychology Today gives several examples of triangulation:
“Triangulation occurs when two people who are involved in a form of conflictual communication attempt to involve a third party. Examples of this include separated parents who have a difficult relationship and ask their child to share information with the other parent to avoid communicating with each other or friends who are having a fight and ask a third friend to arbitrate the difficulty. Sometimes triangulation can occur without the presence of a third party, such as when a parent uses the threat of the other parent (“Wait till your dad sees what you have done!”) instead of directly expressing their own displeasure and openly communicating with their child.
Triangulation is problematic for a range of reasons, largely because it typically means that conflicts are not discussed openly and thus cannot be resolved. In addition, drawing other people into the conflict typically results in broader tensions within a social group, including the likelihood that other people will feel forced to align themselves with one party. Over time, triangulation results in the development of highly problematic communication patterns, including unspoken and unacknowledged dynamics and tensions. For more, click HERE.
Some sites I found offer excellent examples of triangulation and narcissism. They break down what it looks like between siblings and spouses, etc.
A site called Choosing Therapy had an excellent blog that I will leave a link for as well:
Triangulation between a parent and children might look like this:
- Offering treats or indulgences the other parent doesn’t normally allow
- Convincing the child that the parent who left is solely at fault
- Ignoring the other parent’s reasonable rules and limits and setting unreasonable rules and limits
- Refusing to communicate directly with the other parent and instead only passing along information through the child.
- Parents venting and expressing their emotions about the other parent to their children in order to influence the child’s feelings about the other parent
- The narcissistic parent asking about the other parent’s life through the child in order to use that information later as leverage against the other parent.
Some ways narcissistic triangulation shows up in the workplace between coworkers include:
- A coworker sharing with the boss that you don’t deserve your leadership role in order to secure that position for themselves
- Gossiping to you that someone else treated them poorly in order to have you stand up for them in the future
- After disagreeing with a narcissistic coworker, they might triangulate the boss into the situation in order to get you reprimanded as a ramification for disagreeing with them.
You can find more HERE.
I shared those examples from other sites so you could further the research and use it for introspection as we try and peel layers during our count up to 49/50.
Warning, when confronted or exposed, those who caused the division and power control will often not admit it. In these situations, no one wins. No one has humility or an ounce of wavering. They stand in their so-called truths due to fear of losing everything. They stand in their rightness, although deep down, they know they are guilty. They stand in their arrogance. They stand in their soiled garments. They stand before the Holy One. “They” can be exchanged for “we.”
The triangle forms a three-stranded cord and chokes out any hope of healing or freedom.
No one wins.
According to the VeryWell Mind blog site, “It’s a highly effective strategy to earn an advantage over noted rivals by manipulating them into conflicts between one another. Triangulation is a method used by selfish individuals to comfort and protect their egos.
Some people with a narcissistic personality disorder may use triangulation to increase their feelings of supremacy, secure their self-esteem, and devalue others while keeping potential competitors off-balance.”
Yeshua gave us a formula. It works. It works years later. It works anytime all the ingredients are added. Truth. Humility. Repentance. And forgiveness.
God’s Words stand in the Heavens and is called the Tree of Life. It always brings life. It always stands. We must look in the mirror and ensure we are not doing this in our homes, families, assemblies, and online communities and friendships.
We must openly communicate and go to the person we have an issue with. I teach this all the time because it continues to happen. And people walk away from relationships, and when we do that, and we don’t tell them why we left, the person is left wondering what is wrong with them? What did they do wrong? Why are they suddenly being rejected? There is a time to speak and a time to be silent. Sometimes our sin is silence. Yes, talking too much can get us into trouble, but so can silence.
Yeshu and the Torah state that if you have an issue with your brother or sister, go to them and show them what they have done. If they repent, you’ve won your brother over, and the relationship is back on point.
If your brother (wife, husband, sister, brother, son, daughter, friend, boss, leader) sins against you, go and confront him privately. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church (Assembly/Torah). And if he refuses to listen even to the church, regard him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.
“So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there, remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar. First, go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.”
When we have a problem with someone, an issue, a hurt, a misunderstanding, or even a suspicion/ jealousy, we must go to that person and directly discuss with humbleness, directness, and at times authority, expressing how we feel or what has happened.
In many of the scenarios and examples given, the person causing the issues is either jealous, insecure, has low self-esteem, or fear of being left or unloved. Sometimes it’s immaturity—immature teachings, immature spouses, or family members. All these examples involve one person who needs another to form the triangle, but the triangle must fall. Adults need to act like adults and be direct.
Part I The Know It All–HERE
Part II Passive Aggression HERE
Part III Codependency HERE
Part IV Martyr HERE