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Nov 7, 2018



In relationship, we want and need to feel safe, loved, and valued. When difficult things happen, it can be extremely painful. Sometimes, it is a condition or circumstance that is challenging (like a health issue, family crisis, natural disaster, etc). But when our partner behaves badly or unskillful, it can be heartbreaking.

When awful things happen, it is natural to feel the hardship, pain, and injury, and it is incredible important to attend your experience.


If you are experiencing immediate hardship and crisis, it might be helpful to check out some of the previous podcast episodes:

In the podcasts about how we deal with pain, I addressed the fact that the way in which we handle pain contributes to greater levels of suffering (i.e. when we resist pain, anticipate, ruminate, and protest against pain).


In this episode, I am going to address how we unknowingly get stuck in a destructive dynamic – The Drama Triangle.

The drama triangle is a social model of human interaction that can occur between people in conflict, which was developed by Stephen Karpman, M.D.

This common relationship dynamic perpetuates pain and suffering, and keeps us stuck in endless cycles of difficulty.

The problematic interaction and can occur in any type of relationship, where there is struggle (i.e. spouse, partner, family member, friend, colleague, etc).

Please listen to the podcast episode or read the transcript to hear stories, explanations, and examples.

Concepts for today’s episode are referenced from Connected Couple and The Power of Ted, by David Emerald.

When exploring The Drama Triangle, you may notice you can occupy all positions at various point. Or you may notice a stronger tendency to take a particular role.


  • Helpless and hopeless
  • Collapsed and powerless
  • Doesn’t advocate for self
  • Poor me

“Victims may be defensive, submissive, over-accommodating to others, passive-aggressive in conflict, dependent on others for self-worth, overly sensitive, even manipulative. They’re often angry, resentful, and envious, feeling unworthy or ashamed about their circumstances.” By David Emerald, The Power of TED

“Death of a dream: All victims have experience a loss – a thwarted desire or aspiration – even if they’re not aware of it.” By David Emerald, The Power of TED


  • Often times a person, but sometimes it is a circumstance or condition.
  • Aggressive, domineering, and judgmental.
  • Uses blame, criticism, and or oppression.
  • Persecutors were almost always former victims. “I will never be the victim again.”
  • Fear of loss of control


  • Overly helpful and overextends (usually with good intentions)
  • Feels responsible for others
  • Poor you
  • Intrapersonally, we might engage in behaviors that rescue ourselves from painful feelings (i.e. substance use, alcohol, sugar, computer gaming, watching tv, shopping, overeating, etc.)
  • Fear of loss of purpose

When couples seek support in the way of coaching or therapy, often times they are looking for the helping professional to validate their experience. However, it is often done through the way of the victim position.

“Arguments are caused by two people racing to occupy the victim position (why are you doing this to me?) and then tries to get person B to agree with that assessment. In other words, person B has to agree that he or she is the persecutor. Therein lies the problem. It’s almost impossible to get the other guys to agree that it’s his fault.” By Gay Hendricks in The Big Leap

In the next episode, I will discuss how to shift out of The Drama Triangle.



Click on this link to access the transcript for this episode:

If you have a topic you would like me to discuss, please reach out to me. Here is my contact information.

Thank you so much for your interest in improving your relationship. Identifying the symptoms of victim mentality in relationships help couples improve and understand each other to connect rather that neglect the feelings of each other.

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Thank you! 

If you are interested in developing new skills to overcome relationship challenges, please consider taking the Connected Couple Program or engaging in relationship coaching work with me.