The Triangulation Trap

It all starts out so innocuously you do not even realize it's happening. Seemingly harmless little comments about how someone did them wrong. How could anyone treat this wonderful person this way? There is an implicite understanding that you are different, you are a refreshing change from the oppression they once experienced. The purpose is to create wedges. You think you have something special. A skilled manipulator knows how to trigger your vulnerabilities and rally you to their side. Always maintaining a air of complete innocence. "Drama? who me? no never" They are the innocent victim of some vindictive crazy person who just won't leave them alone. Oh the poor guy, you will treat him better, you will show him what real love is, you have that amazing special connection he was never able to have before. That's the hook, in the beginning you feel loved and special, but that inevitably will not last. At some point you will no longer be in the poll position. Triangulation is one of the tools a manipulator will use to draw you in and control you. Its you and me against everyone else baby. They are just jealous of us. They create divisions that isolate you, stir up suspicious and ill will. Meanwhile behind your back they are working the other side too, undermining you as well. Divide and control, they control the narrative, and they remain the good guy. The ex becomes a common enemy strengthening the bond between the new partners, (or as they are also known, the new supply) Its a well known and very common tactic, one that can be brutally effective. Before you know it, you are all in, and the crazy making can begin. I fell into this trap myself, in the beginning it's alluring and it causes you to ignore the very obvious red flags. I certainly kick myself now for not seeing this game, for not understanding the power and control dynamics that were at play here. It's something that cost me dearly.

Pscyhe Central gives this definition of triangulation.

What Is Triangulation? Triangulation is when a toxic or manipulative person, often a person with strong narcissistic traits, brings a third person into their relationship in order to remain in control. There will be limited or no communication between the two triangulated individuals except through the manipulator.

There are several reasons they do this, one is to destabilize you so you are easier to control. It distracts from their own problematic behaviour and provides justification to ignore signs that might otherwise cause you to leave the relationship. It isolates you, by controlling the narrative, they create divisions so you have no where to go or no one to talk to. They will use these divisions against you as proof of what a horrible person you are later. Others see your agitation and discomfort and may think that what the manipulator is saying is true, not knowing the true cause. You pick up on their demeanor towards you and this further perpetuates the cycle. You definitely will not be comparing notes. The manipulator counts on this lack of communication, if the two victims talk, the truth comes out it all crumbles. By design the only positive relationship is with the abuser. They get everyone around them fighting, and they are in the middle, innocent. It gives them the power, and they come off looking like the good guy.

I remember at the start of my relationship my former husband blamed his ex for all his problems. She was cheating on him, she was keeping him from seeing his kid. She spent all his money, she was stalking him and wouldn't leave him alone. I completely bought into this. I would never treat him that way I told myself. I will give him everything she couldn't. I was fired up, it was like a bull seeing red. It was us against her. In retrospect, everything he said about her was a massive red flag, I should have bolted. But I took the bait and I went all in.

She was constantly calling and trying to reach him. It seemed honestly like she was obsessed from my perspective. He did not seem to be doing anything from what I could see. She continued calling for almost 20 years. Surely she was psychotic. It's only now I realize, I probably was not seeing the whole picture. Of course, initially while he bad mouthed her, he was telling me how wonderful I was. How special our relationship was, how different it was than his previous experience. Our relationship was true love, she, (according to him) had trapped him and he had stayed out of obligation. oh, such a wonderful man isn't he, such self sacrifice. This is a cycle that just continuously repeats, only the players change (with one constant of course).

Shortly after he got married again, I received a message from my former husband. This actually one of three I had received. This is classic narcissist, they are known for putting out the feelers once the lovebombing of the new target starts to wain. One of the messages was after my grandfather died, where he "hoped I was OK" and telling me that I was an "amazing woman" and another that basically said the same as the message above. Suddenly he is playing the good guy again. Fishing for a response. And he is right not to risk putting out there. I owe him no loyalty and I will not keep any of his secrets. The fact that he even risked this much shows his level of desperation. Clearly, things are not going real well for him. There is no room for anything he might have to say to me outside of issues relating to care for the kids. He was clearly attempting to reconnect. And of course, his also made ultra lame attempts to offer me a chainsaw after the big storm. Obviously he was hoping he would be asked to help. Clearly he saw that as a potential opening. The knight in shining armor. Lucky for me, I have other options, his help is absolutely not wanted or needed.

All classic hoovering maneuvers of a narcissist that wants to weasel his way back in. And make no mistake, that's exactly what he is doing, though he tries to look as innocent as possible out of fear I would do exactly as I have done. Secrecy for him is key. He has to maintain his appearance of innocence. It was this point when I realized the woman before me, likely also got messages like this. There were probably reasons she continuously was reaching out to him. In all likelihood, he was still in communication with her. He would no doubt trigger her into messaging, then tell me about how obsessed she was. My former husband sent me this message within a few weeks of his marriage, the first came within the first couple weeks. Having any kind of personal discussion at this point is inappropriate. There is an insinuation of what he wants to say, clearly he is trying to bait me into a personal discussion. However, as he is married this would be completely wrong. He should not be saying or writing anything to me that he cannot say in front of his wife. No doubt he is doing to her exactly what he did to me. If she is like me, it might take her years to figure it out. I wish I paid more attention in the early days.

In my case my former husband's tactic would inflame my anger towards his ex. Who also happened to be the mother of his first child. I never heard any explanation about what was going on in that situation except for what he told me. Back then, I had no reason not to believe him. I took his word as the absolute truth. He made it sound like she was obsessed with him, and all of her communications were due to her inability to let go of their relationship. And of course she had been a lying cheating whore. Ironically the same names he would later call me. I was given the complete laundry list of all the ways she had done him wrong.

I cannot remember all the specific ways he did this, but it would be subtle things like eye rolls when she was mentioned. Everything challenge we faced seemed to be her fault, even though she was not around. When he expressed jealousy, it was because of how she cheated on him, and he had a hard time trusting. We were broke because she took all his money. At the same time he said weird stuff, like telling me he had more wild sex with her than I could imagine. He would deliberately stoke jealousy. The effect on me was I was destabilized. It caused me to cling to him. It was us against her, I would stand by him and protect him against that awful woman who did him so wrong. I did things that no doubt made her life much harder. I became his weapon against her. I reported her to the welfare office for fraud. I reported her for harassment. He must of really enjoyed that. To have two women so focused on being at war with each other that his outrageous behaviour was being minimized and overlooked. I feel terrible about my role in in now. Essentially, I helped him continue to abuse her.

Emotionally I was never calm or clear, I was never able to see the situation for what it was. Nor was I able to see that his behaviour and complete lack of responsibility towards his first child was completely wrong. I justified everything. I lied to myself in order to make it ok. It was all her fault, if she wasn't a nutbar he would see his child. She was alienating the child from his father. With time and perspective I see this completely differently now. It wasn't her, it was him. He was looking for what ever excuse he could muster to abandon his child. At the time I saw him as a father who was in pain because due to no fault of his own, he could not see his child. But really as far as he is concerned its all about him and what he wants. All while maintaining control, and coming off looking like the good guy.

The effect of this manipulation on my psychological state was enormous. It's only now when I am psychologically healthy and stronger that the impact of the triangulation becomes apparent. At the time, I really didn't realize what was going on, I was so caught up in the story. How did I feel when all these was going on. I think crazy would be a good word to describe it. Instead of focusing on what was happening in our relationship I was focused on her. It caused me to cling to him, I became fiercely protective of him. And when things went bad, I was never going to let her know. I would never give her the satisfaction. That kept me in that relationship long after its expiry date.

Emotionally I was a complete wreck. Internally, it was a confusing mass of swirling emotions. Very high levels of anxiety, mixed with fear, jealousy and pain. It seemed any time my emotions started to settle he would poke at them. Of course, it never seemed he was doing anything, he always came off innocent. He was very subtle in how he laid the groundwork. He was just a good hearted guy who had been horribly taken advantage of, surrounded by crazy women.

He would always tell me that I was a drama queen and he was tired of it. He was sick of my shit. I was completely unaware of his orchestrating it. I

He didn't just triangulate me with his ex, he also worked to sew divisions within his family. I became aware of the things he was telling his family about me, that I was jealous, insecure and needy. At the same time he would talk smack about them. (to be honest that whole family talks smack about whoever is not in the room, not going to lie, I do not miss that) His brother had my ex had told him " he worked as much as possible so he wouldn't have to spend time with me". Back then, I believed my husband when he denied ever saying this. Now, I believe he did say it. I never felt comfortable around them, of course this was by design. It seemed every time we went there to visit something would happen in the care just prior to getting there that would have me upset when I walked in. (manufactured chaos) Of course he would always be calm.

So what did I look like to outsiders, probably crazy. They would see me frazzled, destabilized and on edge. Which of course would confirm his subtle assertions that I was unstable. I am pretty sure I gave off a very tense and uncomfortable vibe. This would be in contrast to my very calm and rational appearing husband. No one ever saw him upset or angry except for those of us that lived in the house. I am sure that outsiders had a lot of empathy for my former husband. Look what he had to put up with, why is he with that woman. She is always upset, stressed out and crazy. He is such and angel for putting up with her.

I called this post the triangulation trap, because the triangulation was a big part of the reason I ended up in this relationship. Early in our relationship he stirred up my sense of protectiveness. He also convinced me that we were special, and he was so grateful he finally found me. Now finally he could be happy. I was deluded, thinking this poor sweet kind generous man had been so mistreated. I would fix this for him. I would give up my own dreams and goals to help this poor unfortunate soul. This tendency of putting aside myself is one of the elements I am still working on healing. Establishing boundaries and sticking to them. Recognizing when you are being pulled off course and walking away is crucial.

The triangulation dynamic is big part of why I stayed. I didn't ever want to admit that she was not the problem. After I had made such a show of defending him my ego did not want to admit publicly that he was horrible to live with. That he was abusive and would scream and threaten me. I wanted everyone to think I was married to a wonderful kind man, and I continued the charade.

Maybe someone out there will recognize themselves caught in this trap. When you are so focused on how the previous partner mistreated your partner, you are not really seeing your own relationship with clear eye. If I had been seeing clearly, I would have not disregarded some of those early signals. My codependence was triggered. I wanted to protect him, give him everything to make it all better. I had children way earlier than I was prepared or planned to. I gave up my plans to establish a career prior to starting a family because he told me he missed his son so much and he wanted children. You suspend your own judgement.

Its hard for me to admit all this now. But I think being honest about it is really important. While he most definitely triangulated us, I allowed myself to be fully immersed in that insanity. IF IT MAKES YOU FEEL CRAZY IT IS! I internalized what he told me, that I was moody and unpleasant. But now I know that is not who I was, that was a reaction to a dysfunctional situation. Anyone living in the situation I was in at the time would likely react in very similar ways. When the attention become diverted to outside sources you do not see things clearly. You do not react rationally. And the reactions of people around you in some ways reinforces what your being told by your abuser. You are crazy! you are jealous! It's all you! Outsiders are not seeing the little pokes and comments, they just see your reaction. Nor do they see the belittling and screaming that takes place behind closed doors. "People only tolerate you Carolynne because they like me, everyone likes me, but they cannot stand you" This is also triangulation. Everyone hates you, but they love me. Turning others against you. Bad mouthing your to their family, creating discomfort.

If you are in this situation, it may be that your not crazy, its the situation. Try and take a step back, and see things from a different perspective. And if your new partner is telling you all about how crazy his ex is, there is a good chance he made her that way.

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