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3 Groups a Narcissist Triangulates During a Divorce

A narcissist may manipulate three groups to hurt a person who wants to leave.

Key points

  • A narcissist usually uses triangulation to align people with him or her and against a partner during a divorce.
  • Conveying distorted and disparaging stories about a person and playing the victim allows a narcissist to manipulate others.
  • Scorned in a divorce, a narcissist may seek revenge at any cost, even if it it damages the kids.

Divorce is often a blow to a narcissist’s ego. Less able to control a partner, a narcissist may attempt to regain dominance in unscrupulous ways. An expert manipulator, he or she typically triangulates in order to align people with him or her and against an ex. Three groups of people are usually targeted by the narcissist: a person’s inner circle, the kids, and the community.

Inner circle

Infiltrating a person’s support network is a common tactic of a narcissist. Often, he or she starts with an individual’s attorney which may be the most obvious sign of triangulation. The narcissist reaches out to the opposing legal professional to “educate” him or her about the person that he or she is representing. The narcissist may also contact a partner’s parents, siblings, or friends. He or she covertly approaches the folks in a person’s inner circle to relay distorted and disparaging information about the person, while simultaneously positioning himself or herself as the victim.

The narcissist’s ability to play the victim is often convincing, especially if he or she is against the divorce. Frequently, he or she acts innocent: “I don’t want this divorce. I’m wrecked. I’ll never recover. I don’t know what happened. It’s like she just woke up one day and decided she didn’t want her family anymore.” The narcissist usually pretends to be blindsided by trouble in the marriage. This typically evokes sympathy from others because the narcissist appears like the jilted and abandoned party. He or she hides and denies the trauma that has routinely transpired at home.


Manipulating the children is also a way for the narcissist to wound and sabotage a partner who is pursuing a divorce. The narcissist feels entitled to destroy a person who has hurt him or her. Seeking revenge becomes a narcissist’s primary and all-encompassing motive. Unfortunately, the narcissist often uses his or her kids to satisfy this mission.

Utilizing triangulation, a narcissist openly rewards and lavishes the child who sides with him or her. He or she privileges this child over everyone else. Alternatively, the child who disagrees with the narcissist is usually passive-aggressively punished and shamed. For example, say one child innocently voices affection for his or her other parent. Silently enraged, the narcissist ignores and shuns this child for the remainder of the evening and spends hours playing and laughing loudly with the other child. He or she sends a clear, but unspoken message, “I’ll emotionally abandon you if you don’t take my side.”

Naturally, most children are devastated when they feel rejected by a parent. Instinctually, a child often acts quickly to protect an attachment relationship in jeopardy, so he may ignore his own feelings and adopt the narcissistic parent’s perspective. Unfortunately, this may place a child in the throes of a deep and heart-wrenching inner conflict. He doesn’t want to take a side but is actively manipulated into doing so.

The child may also be more likely to rush to the narcissistic parent’s side because the narcissist, again, plays the victim. “How could your dad do this to me? I am all alone. I’ll never be the same. How can he be so heartless? I guess he just doesn’t care about his family.” Wishing to protect a parent who he views as hurt and unfairly treated, the child may leap to the narcissistic parent’s aid.

Due to the elusive nature of the attachment relationship with the narcissistic parent, and the child’s misperception of this parent as the victim in the divorce, he may reject the non-narcissistic parent to prove his loyalty. Although the attachment bond with the non-narcissistic parent may be solid and stable, the child turns away from the healthy love to stabilize the attachment bond and the attachment figure that is unsteady. In doing so, a deep and painful internal conflict may arise which can cause a child extreme emotional pain, anger, and shame.


Lastly, a narcissist may triangulate on a larger scale utilizing social media. Flooding media platforms with pictures of himself or herself with the kids paints a picture of the perfect parent. The emotional abuse which typically transpires in private is hidden. Inundating social sites with these images occasionally elicits a following from the community. The illusion combined with his or her strategic attempts to destroy an ex-partner’s character by broadcasting disparaging stories often changes a community’s perception of an individual.

One of these triangulations, alone, is brutally painful, but all three may result in a person seriously doubting himself or herself. It may seem as if the entire world believes he or she is the narcissist. Yet, a person should stay the course and continue to love as best as she or he can. Narcissists are wizards at triangulating, but they are no match for healthy and durable love. Also, a person may try to stick with the people who rarely doubted him or her and seldom withdrew support during a divorce. Those friends may be keepers.


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