One of the trademark traits of the narcissist is that they are able to manipulate others into doing their “dirty work” for them. They sit back and watch the show as the people around them go at it.
Narcissists have a gift for identifying unhealthy relationships, be it family or friends, and further poisoning people against each other to achieve their own ends. This is called triangulation.
No one thinks it could be this easy for someone to break apart their relationships, but take a look at your community. Look at your family and friends. Are those healthy relationships? An unhealthy relationship could simply be one that has been neglected. If someone told your friends and family horrible things about you, would those people leave, or would they demand evidence and talk to you about it first? Those are the healthy relationships.
Two growing trends in our society lend themselves to narcissistic abuse: apathy and laziness. Someone who cares about their relationships will demand evidence that what someone is saying is true. They will not take what someone says as truth without evidence, and without talking to the subject first to see if what they’re being told is true. Someone who is lazy and apathetic will take it as truth immediately and leave without a word. That’s the path of least resistance.
There can be other reasons why someone may not intervene on the behalf of the abused. Maybe they don’t want to get involved in someone else’s relationships, they feel uncomfortable intervening in someone else’s life. No matter the reason, this shows a lack of empathy and compassion.
Compassion is the cure. Someone who has compassion will step up for their friend or family member who is being talked about and say. “This is not okay.” A compassionate person will go directly to the person and talk to them because they know better than to believe a third party.
Sometimes it isn’t just apathy at play. There can also already be some sort of aggressiveness or resentment under the surface, which makes it much easier for someone to believe the words of a narcissist who is trying to undermine you in the eyes of your friends and family. Underlying resentment makes it that much easier for someone to believe the words of a narcissist, because deep down they WANT to. Narcissists hone in on these relationships because there’s already something there that they can chip away at. These people make the best flying monkeys to do the abuser’s dirty work.
My Triangulation Story
I want to end this post with my own triangulation story. I know triangulation so well because I have been through it myself. I had an ex who I had gone to bat for numerous times, against my family, his family, and my friends.
I had many dysfunctional relationships at the time, which made it very easy for my ex to create chaos in those relationships. In my relationship with my brother, for instance, he never took my side in anything. In events across the board over time, he never took my side, and so there was already something there that could be manipulated.
In my case, almost everyone was vulnerable in some way to the words of the abuser. I would not go along with his narrative and this caused resentment, and in the end I had to go. Many people turned their back on me, and believed what they were told by my ex, without asking me about it or demanding evidence. He first cornered by brother and my parents, which was compelling to people later because he’d already had my closest family on his side.
At thirty years old, I had a heart attack. No one wants to believe a healthy thirty-year-old with no problems, who is not abusing drugs, could have a heart attack, and when he gave them his version of the story, they believed him. They wanted a concrete explanation for what happened.
No one wants to believe that someone who seems to have everything going for them could suddenly be left by their husband. What was really going on was too horrible for people to comprehend. People wanted to believe I had done something to make it happen. By thinking it was my fault, they could keep believing that they themselves had done everything right and they had no responsibility in the situation.
The vast majority of the people in my life did believe the abuser and remove themselves from my life. There were only three friends who thought something wasn’t right, and who had my back. The ones who left did so without ever talking to me about it and without ever witnessing anything to corroborate my ex’s story. What this tells me is that these were sick, dysfunctional relationships to begin with. The people who had my back were people I had known for many, many years. They knew me so well that they knew not to believe my ex without some sort of evidence. They had never seen me do anything remotely like what I was being accused of.
I didn’t ever think in a million years that those people would turn their back on me. Because I am so loyal, I assumed that it was mutual, and it wasn’t. One reason I suspect is that they are more afraid than I am. Maybe they cared a lot more about what other people think than I do. Another issue is that in situations like these, people assume that someone else is going to do something to help, like my parents or my brother. But they weren’t coming through for me.
What helped was finding a new group of people who knew nothing about the situation. These people were more willing to help me in my situation.
I hope that now, you will be able to read the signs of triangulation and be able to identify these things in your personal relationships. From my story, I want to be able to help others who may be going through the same thing or watching someone going through the same thing. Don’t be afraid to step up and help a person who may be going through something, because compassion is something the world desperately needs.