How to Avoid the Narcissist’s Triangulation Game

Lindsey was tired of her three sisters knocking on her door to tell her what her mother was saying about her new husband. She knew her narc mom didn’t like him because he strengthened her own boundaries, but she was unprepared for how it affected her relationships with her sisters. One day she woke up and proposed a new rule–that none of them talk about another when they were not in the room.

Two of her sisters immediately stopped talking to her and basically ignored her, but Lindsey and her third sister began a relationship she could only dream about before. What happened? The other two sisters were still scrambling to win the childish game to be mom’s favorite and since Lindsey wouldn’t listen to them, they had no reason to come over to her house.

When they only spoke about the sisters in the room, the third sister began to talk about her own life and listen to Lindsey’s interests and their sisterhood began to change and grow into a deeper friendship which they had both always wanted. They decided to take an art class together at the local college and began to talk about movies and books and ideas. They soon became best friends.

The sad fact about dysfunctional families with narcissistic parents, is that it inhibits the friendship of the siblings and keeps everyone jumping to the drama of the narc. If you have experienced a sibling friendship like Lindsey and her sister, you have probably had moments when you both just sat and enjoyed the silence. By not playing the triangulation game you have set yourselves free to enjoy each other’s company.

When the narc talks about you behind your back, you don’t know what they’re saying and when they send in the flying monkeys, it can broadside you. The narcissist often accuses his or her victims of doing the very things they do. Their goal to is to ruin all your relationships so no one believes you when you tell the truth.

If you’ve been shunned by the narc and wonder what he is saying, you might be tempted to find out what the narcissist is thinking by listening to the flying monkeys. Unfortunately, even this can be a trap. Third-hand information can be as distorted as a funhouse mirror. You might end up lying in bed at night trying to figure out if the flying monkey are repeating what the narc actually said or just gave you their spin on it because they want to gloat over the fact they are in with the narc and you’re out. Like I said, this is a game that you can never win and the truth is the flying monkey won’t win either. It’s a childish competition that no one ever wins except the narc (cue laughter from the wicked witch of the west.)

The heart of the game is triangulation–where two people discuss a third person and then one of them goes to tell them what they discussed. This can be a never ending game where the players keep exchanging places into infinity.

Unfortunately many of us were raised to play the triangulation game which is quite addicting. Why? Because having information on someone can be used to move up in the dysfunctional family hierarchy. The narcissistic witch—er, parent, loves to play this game because it allows them to keep all their grown children on their toes. Triangulation  creates a hierarchy to keep everyone scrambling to be approved by the narc parent in order to get in good behind their siblings’ backs. You might be tempted to play along with this game, but it won’t end well because this is a classic example of a game you can never win. The narcissistic parent uses his or her children like pawns in his own chess game. Unless you wish to be a pawn, just walk away.

When you walk away from this game, it helps to let the others know you are no longer playing. You can tell them you won’t talk about one sibling with another. This means, when your brother says, “Did you hear what mom said about you?” You can say, “I prefer for her to tell me herself.” This forces the flying monkey to either leave and abandon their mission, or move on to having a healthier relationship with you. Either way, you win.

If you choose to propose new fairer rules, it’s very important that you keep this rule yourself or this plan will fail. Once you make it clear you won’t play this game, it places you in a better position to win at the game of life. Why? Because you have embraced fairer rules where people know they are safe to talk with you and not worry about what is being said when they are not there.

Does this mean you should never talk to your siblings about your parents? No. Siblings–whether the golden child, scapegoat or the supposed peacemaker are all victims of the narcissist in some way. To speak about former abuses or current abuse among each other is only fair because all were childhood victims of the narc. However despite the fact they were victims and now, hopefully survivors, individuals might heal at different rates. It could take a lot longer for the golden child to realize they too, were abused, while most scapegoats were placed in such a painful position by the narc they woke up sooner.

You might be able to learn from Lindsey’s story, if you’re still dealing with flying Monkey caca, informed your family of this better way to have more loving relationships. Tell them you refuse to discuss your other siblings unless they are present. And make a pact to not repeat anything they say about the narcissist. The narc won’t like it, but  this is the only way to have healthy relationship with the rest of the family. Just realize it might take a while for everyone to catch on.

Are you taking a chance on being shut out? Yes. But think about it, if your siblings refuse to play by newer and fairer rules, then they won’t mess up your life as easily. When flying monkey after flying monkey realizes you are no longer playing the narcissist’s game and will have no interest in what they have to say, it will either cut down on traffic to your door or give them a new option so they can stop acting like a flying monkey and become a friend.

It’s important to note that some family members might not be flying monkeys, but narcs themselves. If that’s the case, good riddance. Remember narcissism is like a cancer that eats away and destroys the family unit one person at a time. The only way to salvage your family is to take a stand for respect and honesty. Without respect and honesty, we’ve got nothing.

7 comments

  1. I’ve lived with a narcissist/no-polar man for the last 18 years. I’m now 48 and he’s 61. I honestly feel like my life with him is taking a physical toll on my health. He has no family that he can depend on, but yet hates formy family to come over. I could go on and on. Do you recommend any books to help giveme the confidence and strength to finally walk away for good? Finances are a problem but sometimes I feel like my heart is coming out of my chest. Any help would be much appreciated. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Susie,

    I’m sorry to hear what you are going through. Life can sure be hard sometimes. And we all deserve relationships that are respectful and honest.

    My favorite book to help anyone dealing with narcissism is by therapist Shannon Thomas it is called Healing From HIdden Abuse. I wrote a review about it here and it should also give you a link to the book.

    https://littleredsurvivor.com/2016/08/06/healing-from-hidden-abuse-book-review/

    I wish you peace and freedom!

    Cherilyn

    Like

  3. This is almost identical to my story. Years ago I asked my sisters to make the same kind of pact with me. They agreed and my youngest sister and I were quite close for a time. My middle sister didn’t stick with the pact and eventually started lying about me and accusing my husband and me (she even accused my 12 year old daughter) of all sorts of random stuff. I tried for years to make things right and get her and my mom to believe me before I realized that my family was narcissistic. Sadly, they eventually got to my youngest sister too and she started accusing me of the same things and believes I brainwashed her against the family. I was shut out of the family completely-only they were saying I shut myself out (typical). It took me almost 4 years of trying to “earn” my way back in before I realized it was a losing battle. I officially went no contact about 1 year ago. Of course now they are mad at me and have turned the tables saying this is all my doing. That kind of talk used to cause panic attacks for me but now I am able to recognize it and actually laugh about it a little. I NEVER thought I would get to that point because I always felt so raw and questioned my sanity all the time.

    It might sound really heartless, but I don’t miss them or the drama at all anymore. After gaining freedom from almost 4 years of battling lies and gossip, I am so much happier and feel more free than I ever have before in my life. I have more time to focus on people who actually love me for who I am. I have picked up new hobbies, I’m more involved with my church, and I’m having more fun with my children and husband. Also, I am learning how to NOT pass on a narcissistic legacy to my 5 children.

    Thank you for writing these articles so those of us who have been through abuse feel validated and those who are confused about their situation have clarity. Narcissistic abuse is so real, and very common for those of us with baby boomer parents. It is easy to carry on narc tendencies with our own children so if our parents are narcs, it is so important to get help so we break the cycle.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. You’re article describes my family dynamics. I have two sisters and a narcissistic mother. I’m the middle sister, the empathy and the scapegoat who finally walked away. I wasn’t given much choice and of course they blame me. What’s new?

    I don’t miss them much. I do miss my two brothers though. My mom ruined all of my sibling relationships. I do grieve the loss of a mother, father, and family. It’s a process and painful as you know.

    I appreciate all of your articles. I find them to be helpful and everything makes sense as I read them. No one has ever explained this stuff to me before. No one seems to understand what we’ve been through. The narcissist has many so called followers and plays the victim which isn’t true.

    That’s about all I’m able to say right now. I like what Lou said. I wish there was a support group for us survivors.
    We just need to keep moving forward the best way we know how. Finding activities that we enjoy and people who are supportive. I thank God for the strength and courage to walk away from the nonesense and to be the one to change the family dynamics with my own two children.

    God Bless!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you, Brenda!

    Yes,, it hurts to have relatives judge us and scapegoat us, but it says a lot more about those who go along with the tribe than it does about us. For one thing they usualy lack empathy. I would not want to be a person who lacks empathy for other people.

    You sound like an authentic person and I am sorry your family cannot see your value. You and your children will survive and thrive because you have real love and you are stronger than you know.

    Peace and freedom to you and yours!

    Cherilyn

    Like

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