Triangulation Destroys Authenticity

I recently had an epiphany of sorts.  I realized that the way my mother triangulated my sister after she left for college, making her a virtual third parent and constantly complaining, lying and provoking her about me was truly sick and wrong.  In a healthy family, a parent would not do this!  A young person, going away to college, just entering the world should be receiving emotional support, not forced to carry the burden of their parent’s issues in a parasitic bond.  My parents used my adult sister as a go-between, or even an echo-chamber, an enforcer for themselves, doubling up through her on all the harassment, judgment and blindness that I was already receiving.  This triangulation took away my ability to have an independent relationship with my sister, because our mother was always there in the background, looming behind every word and trying to shape the way we saw each other.

I know that my mother liked to deflect her own handiwork as much as she could, she would randomly nitpick at me with the opening “your father is really upset about…” “your father wouldn’t like it if…” “your father says…” which were just her own thinly disguised concerns that had nothing to do with him.  But if she could punish me with her words but try to make me upset with my father and not her for it, then she was happy.  My mother didn’t want me to have a relationship with my father, my sister, or my aunt because that would degrade my status as her possession; someone dependent on her and subject to whatever form of attention she chose to give me.    She should not have told my sister most of the things she did in their phone calls.  But furthermore she shouldn’t have arrogantly relied on my sister to virtually raise me while she still lived at home either.  That old model of people having many kids with large age differences and forcing the older children to take care of (or letting them control) the younger ones is exploitative and harmful.

I remember many times I would start to tell my sister something and she would interrupt me with “I know,” or even worse “mom already told me.”  She was not interested in hearing my side, or even listening to what I had to say about events in my life because she had already heard my mother’s own twisted version of it and that is all she believed.  That is really insulting, and I resented someone thinking they knew everything about my life from listening to a very unreliable source who would compulsively lie on the spot all the time.  And she had incorporated our mother’s value system which stated that I as the youngest person in the family made me “untrustworthy” and not worth listening to.  She would generally not even ask questions (though I know she asked my mother questions about me), but just jump in with her judgments and dishonest, arbitrary arguments for why I should do whatever our parents wanted.

To this day I reject very harshly people trying to “convince” me of something in this manner, without respecting my boundaries or what I have to say at all.  Because for years my sister would just dig her claws ever deeper into me, come up with increasingly abstract and off the wall arguments, trying to beat me down and act like I was so unreasonable if I didn’t let her talk me into whatever struck her fancy at the moment.  The rules of our “relationship” that she tried to enforce were that I could have no independent opinion or will.  In moments of silence she would shout “Caden, yes!” or just nod profusely as if I was a mentally handicapped child who would simply take whatever she said for granted.  Eventually I became so fed up with this kind of disgusting manipulation that I no longer wanted to talk to her.  She responded to this with more aggression, claiming that I was “putting up a wall,” as if it was wrong for me, a lesser being in her eyes, to have defenses, to be capable of defending myself.

And let’s look at what my sister was defending and propping up; my parents sexually abused me and allowed many other pedophiles to come over and fuck me, make child pornography, do whatever they wanted.  They allowed my brother to terrorize me every second of the day, they neglected my needs and yelled non-stop.  But there my sister was while this stuff was going on, yelling at me over the phone for getting in trouble at school, telling me I was too young to think for myself and needed to be “protected” as a teenager from listening to marilyn manson, wearing black clothes, and using the internet unsupervised.  She decided these, the petty concerns of our authoritarian, pedophile parents were THE “issues” of my life at the time, and never let go of that condescending view.   She felt entitled to confront me about virtually everything I said, using me as her prop with which to play “devil’s advocate” 24/7, in a revolting game of harassment that didn’t allow me to just live my life and develop as I go along.

Appointing herself or allowing herself to be appointed as the ambassador for such a family system was a criminal act, there is no doubt about it.   She honestly believed in and sympathized with our mother’s version of everything; that she was the harassed, poor martyr being taken advantage of by her sons.  She exclaimed to me “you take so much from people who have so little,”  as if I was the parent sexually abusing her children, not buying them clothes or giving a damn about their emotional life.  The fact is, my sister took out her own bitterness about the way our parents treated her on me, developing an inane “jealousy” and extremely distorted view that my parents were being “too nice” to me.  So she would triangulate back, egging my mother on and trying to talk her out of giving me things, helping me, or just acting like a sane person towards me, and like my mother, she would often try to hide what she was doing from me.

The difference between my sister and I is that I did reject this role immediately upon leaving the house.  I simply didn’t install a phone in my dorm room or get a cell phone, so that she couldn’t call me and use me as her confidant. And even before I left home, I started to snub my mother’s attempts to gossip to me about my brother, because despite the fact that I hate him, I knew that I was a fellow victim of her triangulating and gossiping, and I refused to participate (even though he himself very actively participated.)  And I’m glad that by cutting off potential phone calls, it meant that she could no longer complain to me about my father, thereby insinuating me into their marriage.  My sister, however, was still in this role when she was thirty years old and I ended our relationship, and is by all outward appearances still there.  I hold my sister accountable for taking on that role, and using it to hurt me and others.

In my life today, I want a direct relationship with other people, not something that is managed by others and what other people have said.  Going through someone else really isn’t reliable.  And I have no interest in hearing petty, nasty gossip about anyone.  That means being proactive in trying to resist anything resembling that dynamic which may arise in my life today.    I am so glad to be out of my sick family of origin, where independent, one-on-one relationships were resented, sabotaged, or not allowed at all.  Nothing healthy can ever come from inside that system.  For a long time a part of me believed their claim that I was the problem here and it was somehow reasonable for my mother and sister to play these twisted games, but not anymore.

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About proudlysensitive

Gay male survivor of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse.
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16 Responses to Triangulation Destroys Authenticity

  1. popcorn says:

    oh my god… what a sick family man..
    I really have no words for this..
    thanks for writing.

  2. thatbiggal says:

    I’m sorry to hear about what you went through with your mother and your sister. I also had a narcissistic and manipulative mother. It takes a lot to heal from that kind of abuse, but you sound like a very intelligent and perceptive person. I’m on the same journey of healing and look forward to following your posts.

  3. Mrs. M says:

    This sounds like what my mother was trying to do with me against my brother. I’m so glad that I didn’t let her completely manipulate me and I ended up breaking away from it entirely. Hopefully, your sister will come to her senses someday.

    • Yeah, it is terrible when parents try to twist and manipulate siblings against one another, make them compete for love and attention, etc. I’m glad you could break free, perhaps my sister will too one day, but that’s her problem now, not mine.

      take care,
      -Caden

  4. Transcender says:

    Hi Caden, I’ve been out and away for a little while, so I had to come and visit. So glad to see that you’re supporting yourself with your continued process and your continued work on sharing your story regarding pedophiles in your family and the horrible emotional and psychological abuse they heaped upon you as well, in order to control you and silence you.

    Keep Loving Yourself, and Best Wishes for You Always.

  5. Sadly, parents often offload their parental responsibilities unto the older sibling. In society, it’s very “normal” for the older sibling to take care of the younger sibling, while in truth it’s not their responsibility. And the older sibling, being in this originally unwanted position of responsibility and power, project and act out a lot of stuff, harming the younger sibling in the process, and are harmed themselves. It’s tragic…

    • Transcender says:

      Yeah, I think some parents engage in “offloading parental responsibilities”, as you say… but that’s not the topic here. The topic of triangulation in order to gain an ally to further abuse a victim who was abused horribly in every way imaginable, is very different from what you’re casually referring to. It’s an extension of cruelty… and it’s a promise… that the cruelty will continue… and now the victim knows it will come from all angles with every family member. That’s the high that this sicko of a mother gets off on.

      • I don’t see a real dichotomy here, but yes, I agree that it’s more than just “offloading parental responsibilities” (like, “make dinner for your brother”, and that’s it). Here it’s about finding a new ally, a partner in crime – and fundamentally a person who supposed to be victim’s ally, not abuser’s – and extending the abuse. The point of my comment was (and I probably didn’t say it clearly enough) that it all starts with main caregivers – and that it’s tragic that many caregivers break the healthy bond between siblings, make them into enemies, or isolate the main victim.

        My bond with my brother was broken by my parents too, and therefore our relationship was very unhealthy in many ways.

        And I’m sorry that you’ve experienced what you’ve experienced, Caden 😦

  6. Davina Wolf says:

    Hi Caden–

    This triangulating goes on in my sick family also.

    I’m so sorry you lived through what you lived through! It’s so unfair. Good for you for articulating the madness and how you’re getting away from it and making a new life.

    You’re a bright guy and I enjoy reading your posts.

  7. Dani says:

    I really need to thank you for sharing your story. It has helped me, time and time again, to realize just how sick my family is. Before reading your blog I wouldn’t have been able to validate my own experiences about my mom and my sister. And it makes me feel less ashamed for the times I have allowed abuse to take place, knowing that its perfectly normal for a victim to not always know how to react to such twisted people.

    My mom controls my sisters thoughts of me to no end. It just seems that no matter how I am being treated, my sister will run to my moms side. Or, when my sister is treating me unfairly, my mom will run to her side. They mutually benefit from each other.

    My mom and my sister are best friends. It just seems that my sister is the golden child, and I am the scapegoat. I was taught at a young age that my sisters needs were always going to be more important than mine, so I should give up and be controlled.

    Despite the emotional abandonment I have faced with this dynamic all throughout my life, I believe it is why I have learned to be so independent. I do not allow my sister to treat me like shit anymore – and if my sister cries to my mom when I stand up for myself, I am telling my mom that its none of her business. If they want to gossip about me to family members about how horrible of a person I am, thats not really my problem. Their shame is not my shame.

    I am moving to a new city at the end of the month…finally moving out of this household that holds nothing more than memories of endless sexual abuse from my mom, and the endless bullying from my sister. I don’t believe that we “have to love” ANYONE, just because we are related somehow. I now only relate to people who respect me, and are kind to me. I can’t wait to live with my *chosen* family, far away from here, where my healing is bound to finally take place.

    Thanks again for sharing your story. It has helped me see that it is possible to leave.

    • Thanks for sharing Dani, I’m so glad my writing could help you to validate your experience. I’m so sorry you were abused and triangulated as well. It can be so devastating when the abusive family closes ranks against you–and so hard sometimes to remember there is a whole world beyond these petty, small, cruel people who we just happen to be related to. I’m so glad you’re able to leave; it’s true, you don’t have to love (or even speak to) anyone, our lives belong to us and not to the families we were born into.

      take care,
      -Caden.

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