Borderline Personality Disorder and Triangulation

Any type of relationships can be complicated and riddled with challenges. From family arguments to friendship disagreements to romantic disputes, navigating these relationships is difficult on its own. One of the most commonly discussed problems in relationships is when one or both partners overreact to small or minor relationship disruptions. Many times, both individuals are able to, after a cooling off period, revisit the argument or disagreement and come to mutual terms that often involve compromise.

However, for individuals in relationships with those with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), this is very rarely the case. Individuals with BPD are known for having erratic, explosive, and emotional behaviors that see to be either at no volume or max volume. For these individuals, there is no mid-ground. Additional symptoms of BPD can include:

  • Poor sense of self
  • Harsh judgments of self
  • Extreme mood and behavior swings
  • Impulsivity
  • Erratic behaviors
  • Risky, reckless behavior

 

Like other personality disorders, there are processes and cycles which those with BPD cycle through. They repeat these cycles in patterns. One of these cycles that a BPD sufferer is notorious for is the cycle of triangulation.

What is Triangulation?

Triangulation gets its name from the shape of a triangle, which has three points. In any type of relationship, the individual with BPD will often seek out the involvement of a third party in order to try and skew the relationship factors to his or her favor. This allows the individual with BPD to ‘gang up’ on the intended victim with the support and backing of another person who may or may not have any emotional investment in the relationship. Triangulation can happen between family members, friends, and romantic partners. For example, triangulation can occur when two children attempt to cover a broken vase to a parent, or when two friends side against the actions of another. Triangulation itself is not necessarily negative and can often be used as a means to communicate needs through a neutral party to help remove any emotional stigmas or influences that could be misinterpreted.

Roles of Triangulation

As with any process, each player holds a specific role or function for the process to be effective. Triangulation is no different. Each of the players has a specific function in order for the process to work.

The Wronged

For those with BPD, this is the role or part that is often occupied. The harsh self-judgments have often warped the mind of the individual with BPD to judging themselves as being entirely good or entirely bad. Their every thought, word, and action related to the incident has been replayed repeatedly in their mind under the influence of either positive or negative emotions. As the role of the wronged, they will seek out the support and validation from someone close to but outside of the relationship. In many cases, they will choose this person carefully to ensure that their actions and behaviors are validated by this third party prior to their involvement.

The role of the wronged is the primary initiator and can begin the triangulation process in a way that allows them to passively aggressive attack The Woeful.

The Woeful

This role is most often portrayed by the individual in the direct relationship with The Wronged. This can be a parent, friend, sibling, co-worker, or partner. Many times, the individual occupying this role in the triangulation cycle is unaware that the process has begun. In some cases, they are completely unaware of the issue in which the individual with BPD is referring to as it can be small incidents such as lengthy response time to a text or a plan with someone else.

The role of the woeful is one that can be used negatively by the individual in the direct relationship. He or she may notice the behaviors or have been through other cycles of emotional manipulation from the person with BPD to become suspicious or frustrated. It is not uncommon for the partner in the relationship to reach out to a third party (The Worthy) to help address and potentially resolve these issues with the wronged as a final attempt to salvage whatever relationship may happen. In many cases, this can involve therapy where the therapist acts as the third party communicator.

The role of the woeful is to receive the communications and supposed validation from the Wronged and the Worthy.

The Worthy

The worthy role is the role which is occupied by a third party. This person may or may not have accurate knowledge or intimate details about the relationship between the Woeful and the Wronged. The BPD individual may use a friend who is supportive and understanding in a triangulation cycle with a lover or their husband in triangulation with a medical professional. It is the worthy’s job to provide emotional and sometimes physical support to the wronged. They will often have only fully heard the one side of the story presented by the wronged. This allows them to innocently be involved in chaos to add to more chaos.

The role of the worthy is to serve as the voice of reason and truth. He or she provides a medium from the wronged to the woeful to communicate and validate any wrongdoings and hurt feelings.

It is important to know that there are variations of these roles as not every cycle of triangulation is as intense as the next one. The process of triangulation can be used in any perceived disruption in the BPD sufferer’s mind. This can be something as simple as hurt feelings to full-blown suspicions of infidelity or lies.

If you are in a relationship with someone who suffers from BPD, it is important for you to learn as much about the disorder and the many symptoms that can accompany the disorder. If you are able to convince your partner to seek individual help and treatment as well as attending couples or family counseling sessions, you can aide them in the process of becoming a more calm and controlled individual.

References:

https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/psychpedia/triangulation

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/shift-happens/201412/the-art-triangulation

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