Narcissist Triangulation Siblings
Narcissist Triangulation Siblings

Family dynamics are never easy. And the presence of a narcissistic family member can cast a long shadow across everyone in the family through a phenomenon known as narcissistic triangulation.

This toxic maneuver, driven by manipulation and control, impacts not only parent-child relationships but also extends its reach to sibling bonds.

This article delves into the world of narcissistic triangulation amongst siblings, shedding light on its definition, significance in family dynamics, and the emotional toll it takes on targeted siblings.

By understanding this complex dynamic, we aim to provide insights and strategies to help those caught in its grip find a path towards healing and healthier relationships.

Understanding Narcissistic Triangulation

Narcissistic triangulation is a tactic often employed by individuals with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) to maintain control and power within family dynamics. It involves manipulating relationships within the family unit, causing confusion and emotional turmoil. Here, we’ll explore the core aspects of this manipulation tactic:

What is Narcissistic Triangulation?

Narcissistic triangulation is a complex psychological manipulation tactic often employed by individuals with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD).

At its core, it involves creating conflict and competition among family members, frequently targeting siblings, by pitting one against the other. The narcissist achieves this by favoring one sibling, often referred to as the “golden child,” while scapegoating another, thereby fostering an environment of rivalry and emotional turmoil.

This manipulation tactic serves as a potent tool for the narcissist to fuel their insatiable ego and divert attention away from their own inadequacies. By perpetuating an environment of tension and competition, they ensure that they remain the central figure in the family, garnering admiration and control.

Narcissist triangulation is not limited to siblings or family relationships but is equally prevalent in other relationships like romantic relationships and even friendships.

The Significance of Narcissist Triangulation in Family Dynamics

Narcissistic Triangulation within the context of family dynamics disrupts the natural bonds and relationships that should be nurturing and supportive, instead breeding mistrust, jealousy, and insecurity among siblings.

As the narcissistic parent manipulates these dynamics, it creates a dysfunctional family unit, leaving lasting emotional scars on its members.

The significance lies in the lasting impact it has on the family, as these distorted relationships often persist into adulthood, affecting not only the targeted siblings but the entire family structure.

Recognizing and addressing these dynamics is crucial for fostering healthier relationships and healing from the emotional wounds inflicted by triangulation.

How Narcissists Use Triangulation as a Manipulation Tactic

Narcissists are adept at employing triangulation as a manipulation tactic to maintain control over those around them. By sowing discord and competition among siblings, they achieve several strategic objectives:

  • Fueling Rivalry: Narcissists thrive on being the center of attention and authority. By fostering competition and conflict among siblings, they ensure that the focus remains on them. Siblings become consumed with one-upping each other, leaving little room to challenge the narcissist’s authority.
  • Creating Dependency: Triangulation often cultivates an environment where siblings become dependent on the narcissist’s approval and validation. This emotional reliance makes it harder for siblings to break free from the narcissist’s influence, further solidifying their control.
  • Emotional Manipulation: Triangulation provides narcissists with a tool to manipulate the emotions of their children. They can withhold affection or favoritism, using it as a reward or punishment to maintain compliance and control.

This manipulation tactic allows narcissists to divert attention from their own flaws and inadequacies, creating a smokescreen that obscures their own behavior. By making siblings focus on each other, the narcissist can continue to evade scrutiny and maintain their position of dominance within the family.

Understanding these intricacies of narcissistic triangulation is vital for those caught in its grip. In the following sections, we’ll delve deeper into the specific dynamics of narcissistic triangulation amongst siblings, its emotional toll on the targeted sibling, and strategies for handling and mitigating its impact.

Narcissistic Triangulation and Siblings

Navigating sibling relationships can be challenging under the best of circumstances, but when a narcissistic parent introduces triangulation into the mix, it can become an emotional minefield. In this section, we’ll explore the impact of narcissistic triangulation on siblings, both in terms of recognition and the emotional toll it exacts:

Recognizing Signs of Triangulation Among Siblings

Identifying narcissistic triangulation among siblings can be a complex endeavor. Some common signs include:

  • Unequal Treatment: Notice if one sibling consistently receives preferential treatment while another is subjected to constant criticism or neglect.
  • Competitive Atmosphere: Observe if there’s a perpetual sense of competition or rivalry between siblings, often fueled by the narcissistic parent’s manipulations.
  • Divide and Conquer: Recognize if the narcissistic parent attempts to create divisions and secrets between siblings, making it difficult for them to trust each other.
  • Role Assignments: Be aware of the roles that siblings may unconsciously adopt in response to the triangulation, such as the “golden child” or the “scapegoat.”

Emotional and Psychological Impact on the Targeted Sibling

The sibling who becomes the primary target of narcissistic triangulation often experiences profound emotional and psychological distress. They may grapple with:

  • Low Self-Esteem: Constant criticism and comparison can erode self-worth, leaving the targeted sibling with a diminished sense of self.
  • Anxiety and Depression: The ongoing emotional turmoil can lead to the development of anxiety or depression.
  • Guilt and Shame: Scapegoated siblings may wrongly internalize blame for family issues, leading to feelings of guilt and shame.
  • Isolation: Triangulation can isolate the targeted sibling from the rest of the family, leading to a sense of loneliness and alienation.

Understanding the signs and effects of narcissistic triangulation is the first step in addressing this challenging dynamic. In the subsequent sections, we’ll explore the motives behind narcissists’ use of triangulation among siblings and offer strategies for handling it.

Why Narcissists Use Triangulation Among Siblings

Understanding the motives and goals behind a narcissistic parent’s employment of triangulation among their children is essential for anyone trying to navigate these complex family dynamics. Let’s delve into the reasons why narcissists resort to this manipulative tactic:

Motives and Goals of Narcissists When Employing Triangulation

  1. Fulfilling Ego Needs: Narcissists have an insatiable need for admiration and validation. By creating a dynamic where siblings vie for their approval, they can bask in a constant stream of attention and flattery.
  2. Diverting Attention: Triangulation serves as a smokescreen, diverting attention away from the narcissist’s own flaws and inadequacies. Siblings become preoccupied with each other, allowing the narcissist to evade scrutiny.
  3. Maintaining Control: Triangulation is a tool for maintaining control over family members. The narcissist can manipulate situations to their advantage, ensuring that they remain the central figure in the family.

How Triangulation Helps Narcissists Maintain Control and Power

  1. Fueling Rivalry: By fostering competition and conflict among siblings, narcissists ensure that the focus remains on them. Siblings become consumed with one-upping each other, leaving little room to challenge the narcissist’s authority.
  2. Creating Dependency: Narcissists may cultivate an environment where siblings depend on their approval and validation. This dependency makes it harder for siblings to break free from the narcissist’s influence.
  3. Emotional Manipulation: Triangulation allows narcissists to manipulate the emotions of their children. They can withhold affection or favoritism, using it as a reward or punishment to keep siblings in line.

How Narcissists Benefit from Manipulating Sibling Relationships

  1. Isolation: Narcissists may isolate one or more siblings from the rest of the family, making them feel alone and powerless. This isolation strengthens the narcissist’s grip on their target.
  2. Scapegoating: The targeted sibling often becomes the scapegoat for the family’s problems. This deflects blame away from the narcissist and onto someone else.
  3. Long-Term Control: By instilling division and rivalry, narcissists set the stage for long-term control over their children. Even as adults, siblings may continue to vie for the narcissist’s approval.

Understanding these motives and strategies is crucial for those seeking to break free from the cycle of narcissistic triangulation among siblings. In the next section, we’ll explore strategies for handling and coping with these challenging family dynamics.

Handling Narcissistic Triangulation in a Sibling Relationship

Living with narcissistic triangulation in a sibling relationship can be emotionally draining and psychologically challenging. It’s vital to develop effective strategies to protect your well-being and foster healthier interactions. Here are comprehensive steps you can take:

#1. Recognize the Triangulation

To effectively address narcissistic triangulation within your sibling relationship, the first crucial step is recognition. This means acknowledging and understanding the presence of this manipulative dynamic. Recognizing triangulation involves:

  • Observation: Begin by closely observing interactions within your family. Pay attention to patterns where one sibling is favored while another is scapegoated or unfairly criticized.
  • Emotional Awareness: Tune into your own emotions and reactions. If you consistently feel hurt, manipulated, or undermined in your interactions with a sibling, it could be a sign of triangulation.
  • Research: Educate yourself about narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) and the tactics used by narcissists, including triangulation. Understanding the psychology behind these behaviors is empowering.

#2. Maintain Emotional Distance from Your Narcissistic Sibling

Creating emotional distance between yourself and your narcissistic sibling is a protective measure. It allows you to shield your mental and emotional health from their manipulative tactics. To maintain emotional distance:

  • Limit Contact: Assess the level of contact that is necessary for your well-being and set boundaries accordingly. Reducing unnecessary interactions can reduce emotional stress.
  • Emotional Detachment: Practice emotional detachment when interacting with your sibling. This means not taking their provocations or criticisms personally and maintaining a sense of inner calm.
  • Self-Care: Prioritize self-care activities that help you build emotional resilience, such as mindfulness, meditation, and stress management techniques.

#3. Set Clear Boundaries with Your Narcissistic Sibling

Establishing clear and assertive boundaries is essential when dealing with a narcissistic sibling. Boundaries communicate what behavior is acceptable and what is not. To set boundaries effectively:

  • Identify Boundaries: Determine what behaviors or actions are causing you distress and identify your limits. What will you no longer tolerate?
  • Communicate Clearly: Communicate your boundaries to your sibling calmly and firmly. Use “I” statements to express how their behavior affects you.
  • Enforce Boundaries: Be prepared to enforce your boundaries by taking action when they are crossed. This may involve reducing contact or distancing yourself temporarily.

#4. Avoid Fueling the Fire

Narcissistic siblings often thrive on emotional reactions. By staying composed and not engaging in power struggles, you can avoid providing them with the emotional fuel they seek. To avoid fueling the fire:

  • Maintain Emotional Control: Practice emotional regulation techniques to stay calm during interactions. Take deep breaths and remind yourself not to react emotionally.
  • Disengage: When confronted with provocations or arguments, choose to disengage rather than getting drawn into a conflict. Silence can be a powerful response.
  • Seek Support: Lean on a support network of friends or family members who understand your situation. Sharing your experiences with them can provide emotional release without engaging your sibling.

#5. Seek Support (Other Family Members, Friends)

Dealing with narcissistic triangulation is not a burden you should bear alone. Reach out to other family members or trusted friends who may have experienced similar dynamics. A support network can provide:

  • Validation: Sharing your experiences with others who understand can be validating. It reaffirms that you are not alone and that your feelings are legitimate.
  • Perspective: Trusted friends and family members can offer different perspectives and insights into your situation, helping you see it from different angles.
  • Emotional Support: Emotional support from others can provide comfort and strength during difficult times. Knowing you have people who care about your well-being can be reassuring.

Having a support system outside of the family is crucial for maintaining your emotional stability and mental health.

#6. Document Triangulation Attempts

Keeping a detailed record of incidents and interactions involving triangulation can be invaluable. Documentation serves multiple purposes:

  • Clarity: It helps you maintain clarity about the situation, as manipulative tactics can often leave you feeling confused or disoriented.
  • Evidence: If the need arises to address the issue legally or with other family members, having a record of incidents can provide evidence of the patterns of behavior.
  • Reflection: Reviewing your notes can help you reflect on the dynamics and assess whether there are changes or patterns emerging over time.

Consider maintaining a journal or digital document where you note dates, times, descriptions of incidents, and your emotional reactions.

#7. Focus on Self-Care

Self-care is paramount when dealing with the emotional toll of narcissistic triangulation. Prioritize practices that promote your emotional and mental well-being:

  • Mindfulness and Meditation: Engage in mindfulness exercises and meditation to stay grounded and reduce stress.
  • Hobbies and Interests: Pursue activities and hobbies you enjoy that provide a sense of fulfillment and relaxation.
  • Physical Health: Pay attention to your physical health by eating well, exercising regularly, and getting sufficient rest.
  • Therapy and Counseling: Consider therapy or counseling to help you process your emotions, gain coping strategies, and heal from the emotional wounds of triangulation.

#8. Consider Limited Contact with Your Narcissistic Sibling

If the situation remains toxic and efforts to establish boundaries are consistently thwarted, you may need to consider limiting or even cutting off contact with your narcissistic sibling. This decision should be based on your emotional safety and well-being:

  • Assess the Impact: Reflect on how interactions with your sibling affect your mental and emotional health. If they consistently cause harm, consider whether limiting contact is a necessary step.
  • Communicate Your Decision: If you choose to limit contact, communicate your decision calmly and assertively to your sibling. Be prepared for their reaction but stand firm in your choice.
  • Seek Professional Guidance: Consult with a therapist or counselor to navigate the process of setting and enforcing boundaries, especially when considering limited contact.

#9. Educate Yourself about Narcissism and Triangulation

Knowledge is a powerful tool for understanding and coping with narcissistic triangulation. Educate yourself about narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) and the dynamics of triangulation:

  • Reading: Explore books, articles, and resources that delve into NPD and the tactics employed by narcissists. This knowledge can help you anticipate and respond to manipulative behaviors.
  • Therapy: Consider therapy or counseling with a mental health professional experienced in dealing with narcissistic abuse. They can provide insights and guidance tailored to your specific situation.
  • Online Communities: Join online communities or forums where survivors of narcissistic abuse share their experiences and coping strategies. Engaging with others who have faced similar challenges can be enlightening.

#10. Avoid Enabling Narcissistic Behavior

Refuse to enable the narcissistic behavior of your sibling. Avoid taking on roles or responsibilities that perpetuate the dysfunction within your family. Steps to avoid enabling behavior include:

  • Setting Boundaries: As mentioned earlier, establish clear boundaries that prevent you from becoming a part of the narcissist’s manipulative tactics.
  • Avoid Covering for Them: Resist the urge to cover for your sibling’s actions or make excuses for their behavior. Hold them accountable for their actions.
  • Seek Independence: Cultivate your own sense of independence and autonomy. Focus on your own growth and development rather than becoming enmeshed in the family dynamics.

#11. Seek Professional Help (Therapist, Counselor)

Navigating the complexities of narcissistic triangulation often requires professional guidance. A therapist or counselor with expertise in family dynamics and narcissistic abuse can provide invaluable support:

  • Therapeutic Techniques: A mental health professional can employ therapeutic techniques to help you cope with the emotional impact of narcissistic triangulation.
  • Coping Strategies: They can teach you coping strategies to manage stress, anxiety, and depression resulting from the toxic dynamics.
  • Healing and Recovery: Therapy can facilitate the healing process, allowing you to move forward and build healthier relationships.

#12. Focus on Your Personal Growth & Development

Investing in your personal growth and development is a transformative step in overcoming the effects of narcissistic triangulation. Cultivate self-confidence, self-esteem, and a sense of identity independent of your family dynamics. Steps to focus on personal growth include:

  • Pursue Personal Goals: Set and pursue personal goals that are meaningful to you. This can boost your self-esteem and sense of accomplishment.
  • Explore New Hobbies: Engage in new hobbies and interests that expand your horizons and bring you joy.
  • Develop Self-Respect: Learn to value and respect yourself for who you are, regardless of external validation or criticism.

#13. Maintain Empathy (It’s Your Sibling After All!)

Despite the difficulties and pain associated with narcissistic triangulation, try to maintain empathy for your narcissistic sibling. Remember that they may also be a victim of the narcissistic parent’s manipulations. Empathy can:

  • Humanize Them: Viewing your sibling as a fellow human being who has been impacted by the same toxic family dynamics can help you maintain a sense of connection.
  • Facilitate Healing: In some cases, empathy can open the door to potential healing and reconciliation if your sibling seeks to change their behavior.

#14. Stay Patient and Persistent

Recovery from narcissistic triangulation takes time and effort. It’s essential to stay patient with yourself and persistent in implementing these strategies. Acknowledge that healing is a journey, and setbacks are a natural part of the process.

By following these comprehensive steps, you can begin to take control of your well-being and navigate the challenges presented by narcissistic triangulation within sibling relationships. In the conclusion, we’ll wrap up our discussion and emphasize the importance of seeking support and healing.


Navigating the treacherous waters of narcissistic triangulation among siblings is an arduous journey, but it’s not one you have to undertake alone.

In this article, we’ve explored the intricate dynamics of narcissistic triangulation, its impact on sibling relationships, and strategies for handling this challenging situation.

Remember, you are not responsible for your parent’s behavior or of that of any other narcissistic family member or the toxic dynamics they’ve created. You can, however, take steps to protect your emotional well-being and foster healthier relationships with your siblings.

To heal and break free from the cycle of narcissistic triangulation, seek the support of friends, other family members, or a qualified therapist. Healing is possible, and by prioritizing self-care, setting boundaries, and educating yourself, you can regain control over your life and build more fulfilling connections.

Further Reading

Here are some recommended resources to deepen your understanding and aid in your journey of healing:

“Will I Ever Be Good Enough?: Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers” by Dr. Karyl McBride – – This book offers insights into the experiences of daughters of narcissistic mothers and provides guidance on healing and recovery.

“The Narcissistic Family: Diagnosis and Treatment” by Stephanie Donaldson-Pressman and Robert M. Pressman – This book provides insights into the dynamics of narcissistic families and offers guidance on treatment and recovery.