To draw you closer, narcissists & psychopaths create an aura of desirability of being wanted and courted by many. It will become a point of vanity for you to be the preferred object of their attention, to win them away from a crowd of admirers. They manufacture the illusion of popularity by surrounding themselves with members of the opposite sex: friends, former lovers and your eventual replacement. Then, they create triangles that stimulate rivalry and raise their perceived value.
(The Art of Seduction by Robert Greene)
Today’s post is not about the everyday occurrences of people falling in and out of love, no matter how heartbreaking and unfair they might be. Instead, we will focus on a specific behaviours that narcissists and psychopaths use to control, namely triangulation. When I use the term ‘psychopath’, I am not inferring a knife wielding, bloody thirsty maniac, the likes of which are often depicted in film and media. No, I am referring to those characters and personality types who sit at the extreme end of the narcissist pathology continuum.
Psychopaths seek power and control and want to dominate their partners sexually, emotionally, and physically. They do this by exploiting vulnerabilities. This is why they love-bomb you with attention and flattery in the beginning. No matter how strong or confident you are, being in “love” makes you vulnerable by default. Relationships provide the perfect opportunity to consume you by manufacturing the illusion of love. This is why it’s so damaging when bystanders say: “Well, why didn’t you just leave?” You never entered a relationship with the psychopath expecting to be abused, belittled and criticised. At the outset, you were tricked into falling in love, which is the strongest human bond in the world. Psychopaths know this.
So how do psychopaths maintain such a powerful bond? Triangulation. Psychopaths use triangulation on a regular basis to seem in “high-demand”, and to keep you obsessed with them at all times. Psychopaths will manufacture situations to make you jealous and question their fidelity. In a normal relationship, people go out of their way to prove that they are trustworthy, but here, the exact opposite applies. They are constantly suggesting that they might be pursuing other options or spending time with other people, so that you can never settle down into a feeling of peace. they will always deny this, calling you crazy for bringing it up.
The issue here is that you’re accustomed to such a high level of attention after they first lured you in, that it feels very confusing when they direct that attention elsewhere. They know this. They’ll “forget” plans with you, and spend a few days with friends that they always complained about to you. They’ll ignore you to spend more time with people that they initially told you were all horrible people. They’ll seek sympathy from an ex and explain that they just have a “special friendship” you wouldn’t understand. Often, that ex is someone they first claimed was abusive and unstable.
Seeking attention, sympathy and solace from people who are not you is a very common tactic of the psychopath. As an empathetic person, and as their partner, you rightfully feel that they should be seeking comfort in you. You’ve always healed them in the past, so what’s different now? They once claimed that they were a broken person, and that you were the reason they were happy again. Now, they turn to private friendships or past relationships that you could “never understand”. Moreover, they will always make damn sure that you know something is up. This does two things: it leaves you feeling unhinged, anxious, and jealous, and it makes the competing party feel confident, loved, and special. They are grooming others (in the same way that they once groomed you) as they erode your identity. Two birds with one stone.
They want you to confront them about these things, because they are so seemingly minimal that you will appear crazy and jealous for bringing it up. They will calmly provide an excuse for everything and then switch it onto you. Covert abuse is impossible to prove because it’s always strategically ambiguous. You can’t prove anything because of something they posted, or little coincidences, but you know it intuitively. This is how they finalise the crazy-making. Let’s be honest: complaining about statuses & comments does seem immature. That’s exactly how they want you to feel.
Psychopaths are expertly skilled at surrounding themselves with over-givers and insecure people who find self-worth in taking care of others. This is why you are told that your type of giving is now so insignificant and replaceable. You may also be told how they adore qualities in others who are nothing like you, sometimes even the exact opposite of you. The message is simple: you are no longer special and you are replaceable. If you don’t give them the worshipping they deserve, they’ll always have other sources. Even if you do give them everything and more, they’ll get bored of you eventually or find something to chip away at or criticise. They don’t need you. The reason they surround themselves with givers is to have a supply of people who will always spoil and admire them, making you believe that they truly must be a great person. Appearances are often deceiving. Take a careful look around. You’ll notice how behind the image of how happy these givers seem, they all seem to have an unspoken misery about them.
The final triangulation happens when they make the decision to abandon you. This is when they’ll begin freely talking about how much this relationship is hurting them, and how they don’t know if they can deal with your behaviour anymore. They will usually mention talking to a close friend about your relationship, going into details about how they both agreed that your relationship wasn’t healthy. What? Why aren’t chatting with you about these concerns, considering it’s your relationship?
Well, the reason is that they decided to discard you, and have no doubt acted upon it. They only seek advice from people they know will agree with them. That “friend” they’re talking to is probably their next target. During the discard, if you grovel or beg, they are likely to find some value in your energy. They will be both disgusted and delighted by your behaviour. If you come back to them later with an apology, they will despise you. Why? You spoke back to them and you’ve seen too much; you’ve seen the predator behind the mask.
Exes who stay strung are like puppets to the psychopath. An ex may feel that they are fulfilling some sort of good deed as a friend, someone who will always be there for them. They don’t understand or see that they are the basis of so many fights—not because their friendship with the psychopath is special and enviable, but because the psychopath intentionally creates that drama. They are operating under the delusion that their friendship with the psychopath is brilliant, unique, and unprecedented. When in reality, they are just used for triangulation.
How can you protect yourself from this emotional abuse? First, you must learn self-respect. The bottom line is, you need to know what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour in relationship. You should never resort to calling yourself crazy in order to account for someone else’s shady behaviour. Trust your gut. If you are constantly worrying or doubting your thoughts, it’s time to stop blaming yourself and start taking action. Stop talking and start flushing.
Every single time you remove a toxic person from your life, you will find that the anxiety subsides. Some of us are better at judging ourselves than others, so this finally gives you a chance to put that to use. You can decide whether or not you like the way you feel around someone. No one can ever tell you that your feelings are wrong. If something doesn’t feel right, it’s probably because it isn’t. Trust your instincts.