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Are You Stuck On The Drama Triangle?

Many of us find ourselves in and out of relationships when we reach mid-life. Our first marriage may have broken down some years ago. We either realised that apart from children we didn’t have much in common. Either one or the other was being unfaithful or simply the relationship was just not working.

It was only recently when on my counselling course I became aware of ‘The Drama Triangle.’ Many people at some stage in their lives, including me, get caught up on this. They can take on either role and sometimes change position on this triangle. Without self-reflection, self-help, and/or counselling someone may continue to stay stuck on this triangle.

1st Relationships

I met my first husband in my early twenties, he was my first ‘proper’ boyfriend and my first lover. In those days it just seemed to happen, you either met a partner at a disco, or through a friend. It then progressed to marriage fairly swiftly. Living together for many years wasn’t ‘the norm’, nor was having children out of wedlock.

I think we had a bit of a bad start with losing our first child at the beginning of our marriage. A little girl who was stillborn at 36 weeks. I had to go through a long labour & emotional upheaval without really talking about it. My husband & I never conversed about it. He coped by going out with his brothers and I think I just wallowed in self-pity. We didn’t even attend her little funeral. It was my friends’ wedding, I had her cake to do and I was advised by my parents not to go. (no blame but it wasn’t the best decision).

After waiting 6 weeks for the autopsy we were just told to try again & get on with life, which we did. Fortunately, I went on to have my son 11 months later.

Throughout that marriage we never spoke her name, discussed what had happened or how we felt. Rightly or wrongly I think our relationship suffered because neither of us could properly open up. The next twenty years revolved around bringing up two kids, work, and was less and less about ‘togetherness’. I think that can happen in many relationships.

If you are fortunate to have built strong emotional foundations from the start then you can move into your 2nd phase of life together. However, I know some couples decide to stay together for financial reasons and rightly or wrongly muddle through. The voids are filled with possessions, holidays, affairs, and eventually grandchildren.

New Relationships

My first husband & I divorced fairly amicably for the kids’ sake after 20 yrs. At 45 I found myself in the big wide world of new relationships.

Discos had been replaced with Online Dating. Hookups were the new normal and I suppose as many adults coming out of stale marriages, it is like being in a sweet shop!

What we don’t realise is that people are not always what they first seem. Characteristics that might have been in them at 25 grow stronger at 45/55+, Youthful charm can disguise many flaws that are not quite so charming in middle age.

I did meet many nice guys but I found myself being drawn to ‘strong, quite domineering men’. I ended up marrying one of them at 50 yrs old. A whirlwind romance, highs & lows, passive-aggressive relationship. Until I ended it after nearly 4 years of marriage. Broke, homeless, jobless but free from a narcissistic relationship. What I didn’t fully realise was I had jumped onto ‘The Drama Triangle.’

The Drama Triangle

It takes time to self-heal after a breakup. There are many forms of bad relationships. Some can be violent, verbally abusive, controlling, or just damaging. When someone is going through a bad one or in the early stages of leaving such they may find themselves on The Drama Triangle.

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Are You Stuck On The Drama Triangle?

Basically the ‘Persecutor’ is the bully, controlling person in your life. They are usually someone who needs to be respected, feel in control, & dominating. They can have mild or full-blown traits of anger but either way, damaging to their ‘Victim’. The ‘Victim’ is someone who is sad or overwhelmed by their own vulnerability. They do not take responsibility for their own situation and need to feel loved and reassured. They look to the ‘Rescuer’ to come along and save them. The ‘Rescuer’ is the person who saves people seen as vulnerable. They need to feel valued themselves so they are always helping, doing, trying to sort the victim out. It makes them feel needed and wanted as they are fearful when not.

However, all 3 of these roles are unhealthy. They are manipulating, exhausting, and unsustainable. All the time a person takes on one of these roles they are repeating patterns within that triangle. The roles can also change. The Rescuer can become the Persecutor, the Persecutor the Victim, and so forth.

Identifying Yourself

What is important is recognising when you get stuck on this triangle. At some stage, we may all take on one of these roles. I became a victim in my last marriage, my husband the persecutor, and I found myself in a relationship with a rescuer. Initially, the rescuer can seem like a lifeline. They help, do, sort what in effect you feel you can’t. All the time you are in the victim mode they are at their happiest. However it is not enabling you to grow as a person, so you stay stuck in victim mode.

If you step out of that victim mode the Rescuer can change roles and become the Persecutor. You become the victim again. looking for your new rescuer. You are staying on that triangle continually repeating patterns. Unless you decide to step away completely, take back control of your own life, and leave those personalities behind it will not change.

I’ve recently stepped away from my ‘Rescuer’ and yes their role changed to ‘Persecutor.’ I hope I am more aware of this triangle situation moving forward.

I’m sure you too can identify some people who may take on these roles in your life. Or maybe you yourself may be filling one of those roles. As long as you can identify you can work towards changing that. It can take effect in any form of relationship, not just couples but in families and friendships.

Being aware is the first step to that change. It may not be easy – and you need to feel you want that change for it to happen.

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2 Thoughts to “Are You Stuck On The Drama Triangle?”

  1. Sonya

    Great story Suzanne. It’s something Marlene has done a FB live on as well. Very interesting how we can slip in and out of each of these roles with different people and relationships, sometime in just one conversation, through a situation or throughout a relationship. The trick, as you say, is to recognise it and it’s important to remain impartial and non-judgemental with yourself and others – a difficult approach but leads to the best outcomes

    1. Suzanne

      Yes it’s really interesting Sonya and doing my Counselling Course is opening up new insights & awareness

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