What is Triangulation Psychology?

What is Triangulation Psychology?
Written By: Counselling Psychologist
Reviewed By: Counselling Psychologist
MA Psychology Pennsylvania State University, USA
Last Updated: 29-09-2023

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Triangulation in psychology can be best understood as a phenomena when a third party gets involved in the conflict of two people. As the term suggests, a “triangle” is formed as a result of the conflict where apart from the two individuals, a third party gets involved who influences the interactions of the two. 

One of the most common interactions that suggests a triangulation is that of a parent and a child. Let’s imagine a scenario where a conflict arises between two parents. Now imagine what would be the consequences if one of the parents communicated about the conflict with the child and brought them into the scenario. In this case the innocent child would be brought into the scene and the parent who is communicating with them is likely to turn the argument into their favour. The controlling parent, here, aims to gain control over the situation instead of actually solving the problem with their partner. 

Have you ever found yourself caught in the middle of an argument between your parents? Or maybe you are trying to resolve the arguments between two of your best friends? Maybe as a manager you are caught between the dilemma of two employees. In such cases, you could consider yourself as the third party. 

So what characterises the third party exactly? 

If you find yourself being the third party in conflicts that are not your battles to fight, you might take on various roles. The most common of them being that of a mediator. You might facilitate conversations and might even mediate in difficult discussions. This is not healthy because as mentioned before, it is not your battle to fight and all you are doing is exhausting yourself when you get involved in someone else’s fight. 

Third parties also get roped into the conflict to offer support to one of the parties. They might even be present to provide emotional reassurance to one’s views but this only hinders communication between the conflicting parties more. This is because when you provide validation to an aggrieved party, you are influencing the dynamics of the discussion. The opinions become polarised and a form of social group is created with a majority of your opinion. 

The transition from providing assistance to becoming a third party in the conflict is a very subtle one. One minute you are providing guidance and the next minute you find yourself becoming a puppeteer to the conflict, controlling the strings of the conflict. This experience never ends on good terms because the root cause of the problem is not being discussed by the parties who are actually affected. The puppeteer’s interference can cause disruption in healthy dynamics and can cause immense burden to deal with a problem that is not theirs.

Understanding that when two people are in conflict, no matter how much assistance they seek from other sources, it is still up to them to figure out a way to work through it. They have to deal with the problem themselves and cannot use a third party to alleviate any pain. 

How can I tell if I am in a triangulated situation with my partner? 

The first thing to do is to observe if your partner takes the time out to communicate his concerns. Do they communicate these themself? Or do they use your children, aka a third party to do so? If you observe that your partner uses a target to deal with the conflict, then confronting them will be the first step to protect yourself and the targeted party. 

Most often the targeted parties are innocent children who get caught up in the fights of their parents. This can cause significant trauma to them that can cause them to develop unhealthy coping mechanisms as they grow up. 

Remember that during another person’s conflict, all you can offer is support and assistance to deal with the intensity of emotions that are likely to arise. But you are not responsible to fight their battles for them. The best way to ensure that you are not in a triangulated situation is to always be honest in your communication. It also helps to draw clear boundaries with the aggrieved parties and remind them that the only ones who can solve their problem is themselves. 

Learn More at HopeQure 

HopeQure is a psychoeducation platform that aims to provide well-informed information on topics like triangulation, consciousness, shadow self, and many other topics. We want to help you become self-aware! Our articles are curated by a team of experts who provide assistance over the same in their therapeutic settings. We value the importance of accessible support and so we are offering assistance from our experts on any topics that could be hindering your well-being, so don’t hesitate to reach out to us


BetterHelp Team. (2023, June 14). Demystifying Triangulation Psychology. BetterHelp, https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/psychologists/what-is-triangulation-psychology/


Cuncic, A. (2022, October 14). What is Triangulation in Psychology? VeryWell Mind, https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-triangulation-in-psychology-5120617


Guha, A. (2021, October 4). Understanding Triangulation. Psychology Today, https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/prisons-and-pathos/202110/understanding-triangulation


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