Recognising Triangulation Patterns in Estrangement

Estrangement is a complex and emotional journey for many estranged adult kids (EAKs). One aspect that often contributes to the difficulties they face is triangulation – a pattern where a third party is involved in the communication or conflicts between family members. Triangulation can significantly impact the dynamics of estranged relationships, making it essential for EAKs to recognize and understand these patterns as they navigate their healing journey. In this article, we will explore the concept of triangulation, its impact on estranged families, and strategies to address and overcome its effects.

Understanding Triangulation

Triangulation is a psychological concept that often arises in dysfunctional family systems. It occurs when one family member becomes a “go-between” or intermediary for communication between two others, rather than addressing issues directly. This dynamic is common in families where open and honest communication is lacking, and unresolved conflicts lead to a breakdown in relationships.

In an estrangement context, triangulation can manifest in various ways. For example, a parent may involve a sibling or other family member in the communication with the estranged adult kid. Alternatively, family members might attempt to sway the EAK’s opinions by sharing negative or biased information about others. Triangulation can also occur indirectly through social media or mutual acquaintances, making it challenging for EAKs to maintain healthy boundaries.


The Impact of Triangulation on EAKs

Triangulation can have significant emotional and psychological effects on EAKs. When family members use triangulation as a means to communicate or manipulate, it can undermine the EAK’s autonomy and sense of agency. This can leave them feeling trapped, unheard, and invalidated in their decision to distance themselves from the family.

Additionally, triangulation often perpetuates a toxic atmosphere of gossip and misinformation, leading to further misunderstandings and estrangement. For EAKs, this can amplify feelings of isolation and intensify the need for self-preservation.

Breaking Free from Triangulation

Recognising triangulation is the first step toward breaking free from its harmful effects. As an EAK, it’s crucial to be mindful of when and how these patterns emerge in your family interactions. Here are some strategies to help navigate triangulation and regain control over your healing journey:

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  1. Set Clear Boundaries: Establishing clear boundaries is crucial in dealing with triangulation. Communicate your need for direct, honest communication and set limits on third-party involvement. Assertively express your boundaries, and if necessary, limit or cut off contact with family members who consistently engage in triangulation.

  2. Seek Individual Therapy: Working with a therapist who specializes in family estrangement can provide invaluable support. A therapist can help you explore the impact of triangulation on your emotional well-being, process unresolved feelings, and develop coping strategies to handle family dynamics.

  3. Limit Social Media Exposure: Social media can be a breeding ground for triangulation, especially if family members use it as a tool to communicate indirectly. Consider limiting your exposure to family members’ social media accounts to reduce triggers and emotional distress.

  4. Focus on Self-Reflection: Take time for self-reflection to understand your feelings and motivations in the estrangement process. Acknowledge that your decision to distance yourself from family was a valid and necessary act of self-preservation.

  5. Connect with Supportive Networks: Seek support from friends, support groups, or online communities of EAKs who understand the complexities of estrangement. Sharing experiences with others can be validating and empowering.

  6. Practice Emotional Self-Care: Engage in activities that promote emotional well-being and self-care. This could include mindfulness exercises, creative pursuits, journaling, or physical activities that help you process and release emotions.


Recognising triangulation patterns in estrangement is essential for EAKs on their healing journey. By understanding the impact of triangulation and implementing strategies to address it, EAKs can regain a sense of control over their lives and emotional well-being. Embracing healthy boundaries, seeking professional support, and connecting with supportive communities can empower EAKs to navigate the complexities of estrangement and work towards healing and personal growth. Remember, you are not alone, and there is strength in acknowledging and confronting the impact of triangulation on your journey to self-discovery and healing.