Triangulation has differing definitions depending on the context. The context I am thinking about has to do with a certain type of interaction between people. In this interaction, one person is pulling the strings of two (or more) people, using them for their own purposes—almost always causing some form of drama that they will benefit from.
Examples of Triangulation
Triangulation can happen in a variety of ways, according to my understanding. This topic can get confusing. Let’s call the three people, Person A, Person B, and Person C.
Person A is the one creating the drama.
Division Among Friends
Person A, Person B, and Person C are friends. Person A is feeling insecure because Person B and Person C are showing each other a little more attention one on one. Person A has to be the favorite. So, Person A goes to Person B and casually mentions something about Person C that will implant a seed of mistrust within Person B. Person A then goes to Person C and does the same thing.
If both Person B and Person C trust Person A, they may never question it, and if this occurs in small and deceitful ways overtime, Person A can ruin the friendship of person B and C. Person A can then be the shoulder to cry on for Person B and Person C, thereby regaining their best friend status.
Person A said or did something terrible to Person B. Person A is afraid that the news will get out and ruin their reputation, so Person A preemptively begins to slander Person B to Person C (and maybe person D,E,F,G also), thinking that if no one trusts Person B, then they will not believe them when they out Person A.
Thriving in Chaos
Person A simply loves to cause drama because this places the attention onto themselves. Sometimes Person A plays the victim role, slandering Person B to Person C with false claims of misconduct. Sometimes Person A plays the hero, slandering Person B to Person C so that Person A can swoop in and save the day.
Person A and Person B are in a romantic relationship. Person A does not think that Person B is giving them enough attention or otherwise failing to meet the ideal partner image that Person A holds. Person A casually mentions something good or admirable about Person C, in attempts to make Person B feel jealous or work harder to gain the approval of Person A.
Why Does a Person Triangulate?
Triangulation can occur in so many ways, but the theme is always similar. One person is playing puppet master with two or more other people, causing division and strife for their own purposes. These purposes could be to retain power, to gain admiration, to avoid accountability, and more. Sadly, the people being triangulated are often unaware of it because Person A always holds the cards. They form trusting relationships with everyone, and they control the narrative about themselves, Person B and Person C.
Where Does Triangulation Occur?
Triangulation can occur in most any setting because all settings are hinged on human interaction and relationships.
Sometimes triangulation occurs between a mother and the siblings as she fuels division between the siblings, or between the siblings and their other parent. Sometimes triangulation occurs between spouses and an ex or other family members. Sometimes triangulation occurs between friends. Sometimes triangulation occurs in the workplace as one person attempts to climb the ladder while stepping on the backs of others.
Mass-Scale Triangulation Examples
- Triangulation can occur between political parties and the people or between the government, the people, and the media.
- Triangulation can occur between various religions or denominations within that religion.
How to Avoid Being Triangulated
One of the best ways to avoid triangulation is to avoid vicarious relationships in which one person acts as the go-between for you and another. If Person B and Person C formed a close relationship, or managed to without Person A interfering, then they would communicate and discover what Person A was up to.
Sometimes the people Person A draw into the narrative against Person B are people that Person B has no contact with, like friends of Person A. So, unfortunately, sometimes triangulation cannot be stopped. If Person B discovers that this is happening, they can simply walk away. Person A has already calculated for any defense that Person B would make, so any attempt to defend themselves would only fuel the narrative that Person A created.
Another way to avoid triangulation as a Person C is to be on guard against gossip. Sometimes people really are victimized, and they need someone to talk to; they just need someone who knows because they feel totally alone in their situation. However, in all situations, do your best to refrain from choosing sides because you never really know what happens between other people unless you witnessed the actions yourself. Definitely do not spread that information to other people.
Here is another tip. Do you notice a lot of drama in your family or workplace? Is there a person who seems to always be involved, no matter what is going on, either as the victim or the hero? If there is a common denominator within all the drama, it is very possible that person is the one creating it. That person could also be the scapegoat (Person B) and not the one causing drama, so be careful in assuming, but pay attention.
Triangulation from a Christian Perspective
As a Christian, I know that no thing has happened to me that has not first happened to Jesus in some form, including triangulation.
When the religious authorities (Person A) felt threatened by Jesus (Person B), they brought in as many people as they could against Him using slander and false accusations (Person C).
Jesus did not defend Himself.
“He was brought as a lamb to the slaughter, yet He opened not His mouth.”
Knowing what I know about Person A in these scenarios, Jesus could not have said anything that would have absolved Him of guilt because Person A would have been busily working at discrediting Him and pulling the strings of everyone, and anything Jesus would have said would have only confirmed the narrative of Person A.
Of course, He did not defend Himself because He had to endure the cross for our sins as an obedient Son to the Father, but I also wonder if it would have done any good (aside from calling down a legion of angels. That might have stopped them).
In His manhood, He might not have been able to stop the triangulation, but in His divinity He could have.
Sometimes we have power to do things, but that does not mean we should. Sometimes we should not open our mouths either. Just because someone slanders us, does not mean we have to speak evil of them—even if it is the truth.
This is something I need to think more about. As someone who is routinely triangulated, maybe I should shut my mouth too. I could speak up about what these people are really like, but vengeance is God’s.
I should also remember to treat others the way I’d want to be treated, even my enemies. I don’t want vengeance for the things I have done; I want mercy. I don’t want my dirty laundry aired out without my consent. I want opportunity to have the Lord work in my heart privately. So, as much as I might want to speak, I think that maybe I should not.
In some instances, we should speak up. We can speak up about those mass-scale triangulation issues. We can handle our personal triangulation experiences in private by opening communication between us and the other puppets. However, we need to remember Jesus and sometimes we just need to shut up and face the cross, trusting in Him to raise us up and deal with the problem.
I am not a mental health professional, but life has taught me much about trauma and Jesus, who is Life, has taught me much about recovery. I’m a work in progress like us all, but I want to share what I have learned to help others, because there is a lot of information out there but not a lot of Christian-focused information. I intend to publish articles like this every Thursday. Questions and comments are welcome in the comments and through private message.