Category : Health
Author : Sana Rubiyana

Psychologist & Rational Emotive Cognitive Behaviour Therapist
sanarubiana@gmail.com , IG @Sanarubiyana15 & Twitter SRubiyana

Triangulation occurs when someone drags you into conflict with others or pressurises you to take a side on something you’re not involved in.

Triangulation can happen in any type of relationship: between family members, friends, romantic partners, or even among colleagues. During a conflict between two people, one or both involved may try to bring another person into their dynamic to either ward off the tension, reinforce their sense of superiority or ‘being right’, or create additional conflict to sidetrack from the initial dispute/problem.

For instance, this could be like one parent lying or manipulating the truth in families. Hence, their child may believe a lie about the other parent or family member, or even one parent may refuse to follow the rules set down by the other parent and then frame it like the child chose not to follow the rules.

You might feel uncomfortable or controlled when triangulated, and most of the time, you don’t even fully understand why, as this has been a consistent pattern. For those being manipulated, this can leave them feeling deeply distressed or off-balance. It may lead to a growing sense of insecurity, self-doubt, or even second-guessing themselves as time passes.

Examples of triangulation:

– a parent calls you and tells you about a conflict with a sibling and why they’re wrong
– a friend vents to you about their partner and tells their partner, “You agree.”
– a co-worker pressures you to dislike another co-worker

When someone triangulates, they’re not communicating with the person they have a problem with. Instead, they’re communicating with people outside the issue to strengthen their perspective. Those who triangulate lack confidence in their views, are avoidant, and use other people to stand up for their cause because they need to learn how to communicate directly and resolve problems. This is a dysfunctional communication pattern.

Someone triangulating might ask you to:
– talk to someone about their behaviour
– be present during tense conversations
– take a side or give your direct opinion
– not communicate with someone else
– pass a message to another person

People with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) or borderline personality disorder (BPD) are thought to use triangulation commonly. Somebody with NPD may use triangulation to increase their self-esteem and self-confidence and throw competitors off-balance. Someone with BPD may use triangulation to receive reassurance and avoid feelings of abandonment.

In romantic relationships, the manipulator may bring a third person into the existing relationship to create a sense of jealousy and confusion.

In families, parents may project onto their children, treating one child like they can do no wrong (the ‘golden child’) while the other is often or always blamed for things (the ‘scapegoat’).

You should understand that triangulation is a boundary violation. Once you know it’s happening and that you are the victim of constant triangulation, you should set boundaries to let the other person know you do not want to be involved in a conflict that is not yours.

Boundaries around triangulation sound like:

– “I don’t want to be involved in this”
– “I don’t feel comfortable being a part of this conversation”
– “It’s best to talk to them about this directly.”
– “Maybe a meditator or therapist would be helpful.”

Remember, you control how involved you are in another person’s conflict.

It’s healthy to communicate that you clearly will no longer be involved, even if that person is disappointed.

References:
https://www.counselling-directory.org.uk/blog/2022/03/25/triangulation-in-psychology-what-is-it-how-does-it-affect-relationships-and-how-to-respond

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