Here at Messy Marriage, I’ve talked about a “Victim Mentality” a lot over the years, but this isn’t necessarily what I’m talking about today. A victim mentality can develop in any person’s life regardless of their love style.
A victim mentality is a fixation on a real or supposed victimizer in one’s life, feeling helpless to do anything proactive.
Even though a “Victim love style” may also result in a “Victim Mentality,” it’s different in that it’s essentially a result of growing up in a chaotic and often abusive family (like the Controller I spoke about last week).
My father grew up in a chaotic and abusive home. At one time, my grandfather beat his wife (my grandmother) regularly. And though my dad never said, he probably was beaten as well. (Though it might’ve been considered “proper child-discipline” back in the day!) 🙁
How a Victim love style develops:
1. Begins with a compliant and passive child
Children who develop a Victim love style are typically more compliant and passive, doing whatever it takes to pacify or avoid the chaotic and abusive parent(s) versus their counterparts, the child who develops a Controller love style.
2. Conditioned to not assert any needs
Parents in chaotic homes ignore the needs of their children, since these parents are often “children” themselves living inside adult bodies. So the children never learn how to assert needs, because when they do, they face abuse for voicing their needs.
3. Avid reader of others’ moods
Most Victims learn how to read the current mood of their parents in an effort to avoid “rocking the boat.” Sadly, this is often an exercise in futility because the child can never fully stop or predict when another meltdown is coming.
What a Victim love style looks like in marriage:
1. Often detached and averse to vulnerability
Since Victim children often disassociate from their feelings in an effort to emotionally survive, Victim adults bring that same avoidance of their own emotions and vulnerability into their marriages.
2. Anxieties run rampant
Since the Victim grew up in a home with volatility around every corner, he/she often struggles with anxiety and that carries over into marriage. This is also where the Victim’s ability to read the moods of others kicks in—causing all sorts of havoc for a couple.
3. Addictive tendencies
Another way to deal with the high level of anxiety the Victim child feels is to self-medicate—bringing some level of calm to the inner storm. This can be any addictions from food, perfectionism, and/or codependent relationships to alcohol, sexual obsessions and/or drugs. Often these begin in childhood and are never addressed for what they are in adulthood since they’re viewed as coping mechanisms.
4. Secrecy is a way of life
Since issues/emotions weren’t tolerated in childhood, Victims grow into adults that keep their feelings/problems to themselves and often hide from their mates what they’re doing to cope with the stress they feel in marriage or life.
5. Compliant to a fault
Victims often bend over backwards to ensure that their spouses are protected and pleased. That’s why Victim love styles are attracted to Controller love styles, because the Controller continues to victimize the Victim. They’re both comfortable in that unhealthy dynamic because it is familiar.
How to break the cycle in marriage:
1. Admit the problem
Just like the first step in AA and repentance in the Bible, we must recognize that we have a problem in order to deal with it.
2. Find a good counselor and accountability partner
Similar to the Controller, the Victim’s issues are so significant that the support of a good counselor, as well as godly friends is absolutely essential to finding healing.
3. Begin a practice of prayer journaling
This is an incredible way to begin to identify, understand your emotions, and to practice communicating them with others, the first and safest being with God! I’m going to be sharing about the power of prayer journaling in a brief mini-series this December because I believe it’s that important and healing to a marriage.
Even if you’re not a Victim, how do you relate to this love style?
What are some other helpful steps for Victims that you would add to my list?
If you’d like to read more about these “love styles” in marriage, check out How We Love by Milan and Kay Yerkovich.
I’d love your help with my “questioning marriage” vlogs where my hubby and I (or just I) respond in video form to questions on the weekend posts. You can access that brief, two question survey here. Also, you can access my survey on sexual hang-ups in marriage, where your sexual situation can be described anonymously to me. But be sure to give me enough background information to address it properly. Thanks!
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