Gransnet forums


Triangulation /the narcissistic kind

(61 Posts)
OnwardandUpward Tue 26-Oct-21 10:03:08

My Mother is a narcissistic bully who has controlled my sister like a puppet these last few years. As a result my sister HATES and blames me, having rages at me because my Mother has triangulated between us, spreading lies about me. She has now started to lie about my sister to me, so I am giving them both a wide berth!

A friend who I haven't heard from for ages (she's very flaky) has just started trying to triangulate between me and another friend by complaining about the other friend to me. She's likely complaining to the other friend about me. AIBU to be suspicious? Just not sure if it's my bad family situation making me jaded or if the alarm bells are for good reason.

Elegran Tue 26-Oct-21 10:23:04

I can't comment on your relationships with your mother and sister, or with the friend, but I did notice that you use the word triangulation in an unusual way. The definition of the term is as a way of finding out the position of somewhere by getting an angle on it from two or more other places, which draws a triangle on the map. One view line is not triangulation.

Your mother's pictures of you to your sister (and your friend's picture of another friend to you and possibly of you to them) are only from one viewpoint. If the viewpoints are biased against you, the way to counter that is to make sure that other viewpoints are displayed as well, at least as often and as powerfully as these people are broadcasting their image of you.

Smileless2012 Tue 26-Oct-21 13:52:49

Narcissistic triangulation is a where someone with strong narcissistic traits, brings a third person into the relationship to remain in control.

This third person can be an 'outsider' to the existing relationship, of someone known too/close too both in the existing relationship, who hasn't been used in this way before.

I don't think you are being unreasonable OnwardandUpward. You are more sensitive to this type of game playing than someone without your past experience would be.

When you think about it, we often come across a 'friend' who complains about and/or criticises a mutual friend to us which is why it's not uncommon to think we need to exercise a degree of caution, because if 'a' is doing this to us about 'b', they're more than likely doing the same thing with 'b' about us.

As you are unsure that your concerns are valid, just be careful about what you say and discuss with this friend. If there's something you think the other friend may be upset or offended about if you said it and it got back to her, don't say it.

My motto is never say anything about anyone behind their back that you wouldn't be prepared to say face to face.

Just be careful and see how things pan out.

OnwardandUpward Tue 26-Oct-21 15:12:00

Hi Elegran, Triangulation is a Psychological term for a certain way of behaving . I'm not sure if you are familiar with splitting or triangulation but if you are then you'll know how it works.

Unfortunately some families have unhealthy patterns. I'm using psychological terms because I've needed Psychology to help me understand (and avoid) these destructive and toxic patterns. I don't care what they say to each other as long as I'm not told. I know what's true and what's not. Thanks for your understanding Smileless. That's a good motto. I did only say good things about the other friend and then the first friend did not answer. As far as family goes, it's way more complicated.

Smileless2012 Tue 26-Oct-21 15:37:50

I find psychology very useful when trying to understand difficult relationship scenarios OnwardandUpward. As you say, it can help with our understanding which in turn can enable us to identify and hopefully avoid destructive and toxic patterns.

In the past I've found it has validated not just what I've experienced but how I've responded to those experiences. Sometimes if nothing else it confirms that we're not going insaneflowers.

OnwardandUpward Tue 26-Oct-21 15:44:19

Me too Smileless.

I am working on avoiding trouble. Admittedly I said things to my sister which probably weren't "helpful", but on the other hand she has been ranting at me for years and I was just taking it without defending myself. None of what she said was even true and I just got to a point where it mattered that I told her I wasn't taking it anymore. She isn't talking to me now and I don't know if she ever will. I don't even know if she will ever see what she did.

It would have been ideal to say nothing. But then she would have probably ranted for another eight years about all the terrible things my mother has lied about me, that she thinks are actually true!

OnwardandUpward Tue 26-Oct-21 16:00:31

PS In the past year my sister has tried to go behind my back to my husband and cause trouble between us because she thinks I am a nasty POS as she believes lies that my mother has spread. She has not even once ever asked us what the truth IS, but she should know better as my mother has tried to get in between her and her husband. My husband now is really annoyed with her because she is behaving really badly and neither of us would behave in the way she is accusing us of. He's also aghast at my Mother's behaviours too. His family seem really nice and normal compared to mine.

My Mother is still playing the poor little victim for all of her appalling life choices that she cannot take any responsibility for. It's always someone else's fault, but never hers. She has lately started to say bad things and lies about my sister behind her back and they are barely speaking to each other now. My sister is replaying how she is a victim of my Mothers bad choices (even though she was her enabler) and how its "everyone elses fault". Yes, the truth is my mother made awful choices and my sister was and probably still is her biggest enabler. It's highly toxic, she will ruin her own life with bitterness and deception, ending up like my mother- if she does not see that she has enabled an abuser to abuse and in doing so, she has also abused. I hope for her sake and that of her offspring that she finds a better way. By calling her out on this, no doubt I've lost her but I have peace. She's on a slippery slope unless she finds peace and freedom. I've held my peace these last eight years since she got really nasty. Enough.

growstuff Tue 26-Oct-21 16:10:31

My mother did this all the time and caused a lot of damage. I've experienced it on many occasions in workplace situations too. I used to be drawn in until I realised what was going on, then I acquired a reputation as aloof because I wouldn't be drawn into gossip about other people. It gets complicated because if bullies turn on a person who is aloof, that person doesn't have allies to defend him/her.

Smileless2012 Tue 26-Oct-21 16:19:12

A well used but none the less favourite saying on estrangement threads is 'the only way to win the game is to stop playing'. Trying to cause problems between yourself and your H is a step too far.

You need to take a step back, more preferably and put and maintain some distance between yourself and your mum and yourself and your sister.

As much as love the people in our lives who behave in this way, their very presence is a threat to our own mental and physical well being.

Take care of yourself. Spend time with those who you love and care for, who love and care for you in return. It's the only wayflowers.

freedomfromthepast Tue 26-Oct-21 17:09:25

I know exactly what you are talking about onward, my mother is a master triangulator.

I agree with Smileless. The only way to win is to stop playing. Take a step back, do not engage unless you have to and if you do have to, grey rock them.

VioletSky Tue 26-Oct-21 17:38:38

OnwardandUpward it's a horrible horrific tool narcissists use with their smear campaigns.

The only way to fight it is to be you and hope in time people see who you really are.

With your friend, do they seem to be asking you to make a choice or side with them? Or in another way prevent the two of you from coming together and discussing anything?

I'd always say trust your instincts though

allsortsofbags Tue 26-Oct-21 17:56:02

For those of you in situations like this, if you haven't already, have a look at The Drama Triangle.

It's a good way of getting to grips with how some people can shift from Persecutor to Victim quickly and how the Rescuer plays into the Triangle and how they switch or get switched to one of the other roles.

But has been said best way to win is not play the game. And sometimes the first steps of getting out of a game is to get off the Drama Triangle.

Smileless2012 Tue 26-Oct-21 18:21:50

Ah yes allsortsofbags and the Drama Triangle is a tried and tested favourite of someone who plays these games.

Our ES's wife was the persecutor, who then became the victim and our ES became the rescuer.

As I posted earlier on the thread, these terms when used appropriately can validate what we've experienced, how those experiences made us feel and our reaction to them.

In order for us to be seen for what we really they are, they need to be seen for what they are, only then will their lies be revealed and we will be set free from their false accusations.

OnwardandUpward Wed 27-Oct-21 21:32:33

Thanks Smileless for your advice about stepping back. I have done that now and also thanks Growstuff and Freedomfromthepast for your advice too.

I admit, I have gone for periods standing back and then somehow got sucked back in and listened to gossip. At times I have probably been the gossip. I'm really going to have to change my own ways in order not to get mixed all up in this again. Grey rocking is good. I do it a lot. I have recently failed massively due to my mother having a huge problem that I became accidentally involved in- and then my sister telling me to butt out. My Mother has been making terrible allegations against my sister, but she has done this to me in the past as well.
It's all just a terrible mess. I can't actually have a family, can I....

VioletSky Wed 27-Oct-21 21:49:40

I'm so sorry to hear that, you can choose your own family

OnwardandUpward Wed 27-Oct-21 21:56:56

Violetsky my friend isn't replying to messages now. They made a big statement about a problem she has , so that I was worried- but then went silent. She's done this before and it's just really frustrating feeling worried, offering help- and then complete silence. I don't know why she does it. I have left it. It does hurt that she does this and I haven't made much effort with the friendship over the past year because I probably used to be the one making all the effort. Looking back, it was probably a one sided friendship. Story of my life!

Allsortsofbags thanks for your suggestion. Admittedly, I've spent most of my life flitting between the victim and the rescuer...I've never been a persectutor but I have started to stand up for myself and refuse to rescue or be a victim. It's good to be aware of these roles.

Oh Smileless I'm so sorry you've had all these games from the drama triangle as well. sad flowers A lot of these characters can ONLY exist if they have an enabler, I've realised. I've seen this in a lot of bullying relationships. Mainly those in my family. I have been picked on my whole life but worse in the last 8 years because of something that happened to my sister which made her resent me even more than ever. Obviously I can't say what this is, but it's plainly obvious to me how much she resents what I have (and it's not a material thing) so much that she cannot see the wonderful life she has herself. She spies on me online and uses any opportunity to tell me what a useless waste of space I am. I wouldn't mind so much if she was telling the truth, but actually I'm achieving something she has not and probably wont due to our different skill set.

I think we just have to know who we are and celebrate that- despite anyone who wants to make us think we are the devils spawn. They need enablers. Those weak bullies cannot operate without backup.

I hope the truth does come out Smileless and in our lifetime. As long as they can decieve others , they think they are winning- but they are on limited time before someone gets to know them well enough to see who they are

I guess what I'm trying to say is, they can lie, try to smear us and even try to convince themselves that we are awful- but narcisissts project- so what they are doing is trying to project their own awful self doubts, flaws and terrible shame onto us in order to try and release themselves. It's like scapegoating. When we see, really see what they are, we can heal and grow- with or without them, because we can be free

I have read that scapegoats are actually the healthiest family member. So, even though it's painful and it's obvious that everytime I go through something painful no one in my family is there for me (they never were even as a kid) , I have actually learned to keep secrets about when I'm suffering because my parents and siblings will actually gang up on me to kick me when I am at my lowest.

Onwards and upwards, I suppose.

VioletSky Thu 28-Oct-21 00:04:24

Oh no, try to put her out of your mind and focus on some self care while you get a break

Namsnanny Thu 28-Oct-21 00:08:52

My Mother triangulated between us...

In the past my sister has tried to go behind my back and cause trouble with my husband...

It's all just a terrible mess, I cant have a family can I?....

I admit, there have been times when I have been sucked back in, and probably been the gossip....

I have actually learned to keep secrets about my suffering because my parents and siblings will actually gang up on me to kick me when I am at my lowest....

I'm so sorry you are feeling badly about the trouble your sister and mother have caused OnwardsandUpwards.

I highlighted the sections of your posts that resonate most strongly with me.
Although, to be honest most of the things said on here do.

My nmother has used my siblings to triangulate me, so that all the relationships I built with them (and my uncle and cousins) have deteriorated to the point that they believe the lies she has spread and avoid me.

She is a little more clever than your average N, because the way she attacks me is by sandwiching the damaging lie in between phrases like ''She's a lovely girl but.........I know she loves me but.... I tried to help her but she was sooo stressed she took it the wrong way.....If only she could see I want whats best for her....'
Then people think she's being reasonable, and dont look too hard at the awful lie to check if it could actually have any veracity.

She usually backs up a systematic rant about me with a gift or cash (you take it my love, you need it more than I do), to the willing recipient . Thereby 'rewarding' the listener and more or less guaranteeing they will come back eager for more

Heck why not!?If every time they are given cash in hand for doing nothing more than absorbing lies and agreeing with a lying manipulator?

I was particularly hurt when she would (still does even though they are adults now) choose one or other of my children to give a 'expensive and thoughtful' birthday or christmas gift to, whilst simultaneously giving a 'cheap and inappropriate' one to another, and even nothing to the rest!!

Recently she's tried to attack and manipulate one of my children in an unspeakable way at a very important occasion.
Which did cause some tension and aggravation, trying to sort out the mess she'd caused between us all.
But Thankfully, because the AC in question is aware of GM's 'peccadilloes', we talked things through, rather than being to embarrassed or too hurt to acknowledge that there was actually, a problem, (as opposed to suffering in silence, and becoming isolated. which is how she normally tries to manipulate things).

She's tried to cause trouble between my husband and I in several ways. What she has said directly hasnt achieved it's aim. But the stress of even discussing some of the things she's said and done have resulted in heated discussions between us, because like most people we dont always come from the same angle.
Although H has his own opinions about the why's and wherefors, he does understand most of it Thankfully.

I'm so glad your husband is aware of all the goings on caused by your sister and mother. He can bolster you and help you to realize you are better off without them.

Namsnanny Thu 28-Oct-21 00:19:12

I'm sorry OnwardandUpward, I've hijacked your thread for my own purposes.blush

Freedomfromthepast smileless growstuff VioletSky flowers

OnwardandUpward Thu 28-Oct-21 09:00:20

Its fine Namsnanny its good youre able to talk about this toxicity. It makes me feel less alone, too.

As I get older I think family will be the friends I choose for myself. My birth family have shown me that they cannot be trusted. These toxic families depend on having a scapegoat so they do not have to ever face accountability.

I am so sorry for all the awful things you've also experienced that do really hurt. My sister also did that thing you mentioned about the cheap/expensive gifts when she got married and gave all her bridesmaids a gift. I was horrified when I opened mine and saw jewellery that looked like it came from a supermarket because I could hear the other bridesmaids gushing over their designer pieces. I was forced to gush over mine and say thankyou because I could not ruin her day. I think she must really hate me to do that- or think I am stupid enough not to notice. I'm glad you mentioned the gift thing because it's made me feel able to share that and I've kept it to myself for so many years,

I also find that I cannot share these things to people who do not know because they believe that the one talking about their family is the toxic one. Indeed for most of my life I have thought it was me, but I now know it's not.

The labels they have put on me - fat, ugly, stupid etc etc... all my life- it makes me realize that I was just a dumping ground for them to use to step on. About ten years ago my Mother was bullying me so badly when I was signed off from work (with a breakdown) that I almost committed suicide. I ended my relationship with my husband because she and my sister and also they recruited my sister in law to harass me, made me feel unworthy of him.

While we were separated my mother was jubilant and was putting notes through my husband's door (he was living nearby) I realised she was glorying in my pain and getting high off my separation, even perhaps that she had designs on my husband. I began to mend things with him and we retook our vows. After that my mother banned us from Christmas and didn't want to talk to us at all. This is when she turned my sister against me even more.

I have avoided talking about a lot of this in case of exposure but I don't care anymore. My mental health matters more than their security. I've carried them for almost a lifetime and they were never mine to carry. They have robbed me of living a life I was proud of and being accepted for the person I am meant to be, but I now live in spite of them and everything they have tried to do.

Thanks for sharing your stories flowers We all need to know, it was never us. It was never about us. It's all about them and who they are. We have carried the blame that was never ours but talking helps

Iam64 Thu 28-Oct-21 09:10:28

The Drama Triangle is such an easy to use and understand tool for people who feel stuck in destructive relationships. Transactional Analysis helps many.

Sago Thu 28-Oct-21 10:52:21

It’s all so sad and unnecessary, I was the scapegoat, my mother was narcissistic, my father was a violent bully as was my brother.

They are all dead now, my mother the last to go 18 months ago.
The longer I live without them the stronger I get.

I cherish every day that I am alive and they are dead.

Smileless2012 Thu 28-Oct-21 14:23:02

You're right Onward, they need someone to enable them. Sometimes the enabler is blinded by their love and/or is a victim of their coercive control.

Some enablers enable because they are of the same ilk. They can and do derive just as much pleasure in encouraging and joining in as they do from abusing their own victim.

Resentment is a major factor in my experience. Our ES's wife resented his closeness to his family, especially me. There's resentment when the 'victim' walks away either by estranging or by refusing to beg and plead to be allowed back in again.

There's also resentment when the 'victim' can be seen to be getting on with their lives, that they are not embroiled in a never ending circle of heartbreak and pain because the relationship is over.

From what you've posted here and from your other posts, it looks to me as if resentment is major factor in your situation Onward. "I now live in spite of them and everything they have tried to do". Have you any idea how powerful that is Onward? Powerful and extremely movingflowers.

Oh yes Namsnanny the 'but' word the all too familiar iron fist in a silk glove.

I'm sorry it took you so long to find peace and to be free of your abusers Sagoflowers.

Namsnanny Thu 28-Oct-21 14:42:04

Good for you sago

OnwardandUpward Thu 28-Oct-21 17:47:24

Oh Sago I'm so sorry for your pain and yet so glad you're getting stronger without them there. I also stopped telling them when I had a problem because they would feast on it like vultures and actually seemed to grow stronger from my suffering!

You're right about Enablers, Smileless and also resentment. That's so sad about your DiL and it's so sad that she got in between your relationships as a result of her own insecurity and probably insecure attachment. Well done you on refusing to beg to be accepted back. I wouldn't beg either. If you did beg, the relationship would not be worth having because there would not be mutual care and respect. I'm so sorry this happened to you. flowers

I had not realised it was a powerful thing Smileless. I just feel rebellious at best and pathetic at worst, to be honest. My sister seems to have an enormous amount of resentment towards me, which I think is more to do with lies she's been fed than anything I have actually done. I say this because we have a big age gap and as kids I was her caretaker rather than an equal age. It has always hurt that I gave so much to her as a young child, yet she seeks ways to bring me down. My parents encouraged me to look after her and I was always very involved with her until I left home. She was still a child at that point and I think that's when the resentment started. Probably my mother used to say awful things about me after I had left. I have been told by other relatives that she used to say terrible things about me.