Alcoholics and Victims

VictimhoodBill (not his real name) came to me about a relationship problem, but went on to tell me he compulsively drinks because he is an alcoholic. He continued with “I get it honestly: my dad and all my uncles are alcoholics. I can’t help it. I’m a victim.”

The active alcoholic almost always sees himself as a victim. The most pervasive sign of this is his blaming other people and situations for his life. He blames his wife for making him drink. He blames his ex-wives and girlfriends for robbing him blind. He blames the economy for his underemployment. He blames his childhood for his chronic unhappiness. Nothing about his life is of his doing.

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Take Charge of Your Life

Taking ChargeMy friend Dee was recovering from breast cancer and, to her horror, she discovered there were no hospice services in her region. So she organized a hospice Society, which created a hospice facility.

Five years later Dee had a recurrence of cancer and was failing. I mumbled something about dying of cancer and she retorted, “I’m not dying of cancer; I’m living with cancer.” She was saying that while cancer may be a fact of her life, she is in charge of living her life…until it’s over. She died a few weeks later…

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Four Signs of Victimhood in Marriage

I have never come across anyone who says they enjoy being a victim. However, over and over I see people playing the victim card in their marriages. Why do they do it? The answer is it is often habit, and much of the time, they are not fully conscious of doing it. So let’s look at a few of the more blatant indicators of victimhood.

Sign one: The first and most obvious sign of playing the victim card is blaming and criticism. The minute you blame your partner for anything, you are making yourself the victim. Perhaps not as obvious, you criticize your partner because you feel like a victim of a marriage relationship with a less-than-ideal partner.

Sign two: The second sign of victimhood is subservience or subordination to your partner. This form of victimhood often grows out a traditional family structure where the male is the major breadwinner. However, earning the most money is a role, not a right to dominate. You are still equal partners, so don’t allow yourself to sink into a subservient position (victim) for money reasons or any other reason. If you do, the probability is high that you will be exhibiting sign number one as well.

Sign three: The third sign that the victim card is being played in a marriage is rightness and bullying. The one who insists on being right, that is, the one who bullies the other into accepting their point of view, has at least a subconscious belief they are being victimized by their partner. Feel the emotional difference between, “This is what I prefer,” and “This is the right way.”

Aside: When people with an intense need to be right become fanatics, and, yes, fanaticism is just an extreme form of rightness, they see themselves as victims of an imperfect world, not just of an imperfect marriage with an imperfect partner. We all know such smiling but unhappy people.

Sign four: Chronic unhappiness. This sign can be tricky, because you could be going through a genuinely unhappy time that is not at all a reflection on your marriage. Nevertheless, with that caveat, chronic unhappiness is often a sign that at least one of you feels victimized by your marriage. The often-silent refrain is, “If only I had stayed single…”, “If only I hadn’t married such a loser…”, or “If only I had got an education before I married…” Each of these could signify a feeling of being stuck as a victim of a bad choice.

The solution is simple, although seldom easy. Take responsibility for your feelings and your life. Get help if you need it, but refuse to be a victim…or a victimizer.