Has anyone ever compared you to someone else? Your boss to another employee? Your partner to their ex?

Katy Perry saying,

How did that make you feel? Probably not empowered at all!

Chances are, it made you feel less confident, devalued, and more in need of others' approval, especially the approval of the person who's making the comparison!

Well, that's narcissistic triangulation 101 in relationships. Do you know how to recognize it in your own relationships?

What Is Narcissistic Triangulation?

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Narcissistic triangulation happens when one person brings a third party into a relationship as a way to manipulate the other person and remain in control. Triangulation can happen in both personal and professional relationships.

Who brings in the third party? The person who wants to be in control or to feel more powerful. It could be a friend, parent, partner, employer, etc.

How do they bring in the third party? The third party can either be physically present as a friend, sibling, or colleague, or the third person may never be involved in person. Your partner may just refer to them in your conversations. The third party usually doesn't know they're being used to manipulate you.

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Why do they bring the third party? They may use memories, traits, or simply the opinion of a third party to raise jealousy, make you feel weaker, or make you feel threatened to be excluded from the relationship.

Their goal is to divide and conquer — to be powerful and in control!

Gordon Ramsay saying:

Examples of Narcissistic Triangulation: The Third Party

Athlete showing number 3

Example 1: Romantic Relationship

The third party can be your partner's ex or just an old friend!

Partner: "I like how Jamie used to call me and check up on me at work. But, I know you're much busier and you love me just the same."

Partner's goals:

  • To make you feel worried you may not be good enough in the relationship ➡️

  • To make you put in more effort in satisfying your partner's emotional needs ➡️

  • To make you feel more in need of your partner's approval ➡️

  • To control how you feel and act ➡️

Playing chess closeup.

Example 2: Professional Relationship

The third party can be your colleague(s) at work.

Boss: "I heard some rumors that everybody thinks you're treated differently. Well, you deserve it! Don't worry about what they say!"

Boss' Goals:

  • To create a dynamic of mistrust in the workplace ➡️

  • To be the only reliable source of information ➡️

  • To divide and conquer by turning you against others and vice versa ➡️

Manipulation vs. Healthy Expression of Feelings

Couple arguing

Your partner, friend, or colleague might make you feel that this is just how they can express themselves.

But arguments can be handled without manipulation! Here's a simple example of an argument between partners over a disagreement:

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Narcissistic Triangulation

"Well, if you don't agree, why don't you ask Tina? She always understands what I truly mean!"

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Healthy Expression of Feelings

"I feel that you don't understand what I truly mean. We need to work this out."

Narcissistic Triangulation in the Family

Narcissistic triangulation can even take place between family members.

Man saying:

A narcissistic parent may use triangulation to:

  • Divide siblings and increase rivalry ➡️

  • Make the siblings compete to please the parent ➡️

  • Give themselves (the parent) more power and control ➡️

They may favor one child, making them "the golden child" or "the always good" child, while always blaming and accusing the other sibling, making themthe scapegoat in a family.

Jenny the Scapegoat

Jenny always felt that her mother favored her older brother.

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"You got your brother sick, you should be more responsible!"

"I need your room as clean as your brothers'!"

Jenny's Mother's Goals:

  • To raise competition between the siblings ➡️

  • To make Jenny work harder to earn her mother's love and acceptance ➡️

Girl crying behind the car wheel and saying:


How should Jenny respond to her mother?

Take Action

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If you feel you're being manipulated by narcissistic triangulation in your relationship:


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