My wife is a victim
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Old 04-27-2012, 01:05 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default My wife is a victim

After 23 years of marriage I now realize that my wife's communication fits all the patterns of playing the victim. I've never been clearer about our relationship - unfortunately my clarity reveals a negative, seemingly insurmountable issue.

I realized it as she was debating an issue with one of our children. Now that they are all grown up with their own confidence and maturity, they challenge her in ways that I have never witnessed from the outside.

We have had many years of happiness and my wife and I have a wonderful core attraction and a strong moral committment to be together but now I've seen a pattern that fits our own communication and applies to all 23 years of unresolved fights.

Typically she criticizes some aspect of my behavior. If I'm calm I listen and see that much of what she says is true. She is extremely intelligent and her insights in to my behavior are often right on. But often her criticisms of me are based on traits that she and I both share. In lighter moments we joke about being .... whatever. But when she is down or ... something, she goes after me for things that she clearly feels about herself.

Instead of a helpful, loving reminder that I'm going off a bit, I'm painted as an example of everything evil. If I defend myself, even just to limit her criticisms - I'm being defensive. The cycle continues until she claims I just don't listen or my defensiveness blocks all reason.

Eventually she pulls back and is hurt by my inability to communicate. I beg for a reasonable discussion without the "hurt" stuff thrown in - just two flawed people helping to guide each others' extremes. My desire to be reasonable seems to push her away as if being reasonable is the last thing she wants. She pulls back claiming that I can't communicate and that there's no point.

Eventually I apologize, acknowledge the truth in what she has said and she ultimately accepts that I'm flawed, warns me that this can't keep happening and rallies to put it behind us.

I have recently watched the same pattern with our daughters. On several occasions I've seen one of them corner my wife with her own contradictions. It's pitiful. My wife then says the tone has become mean or harsh, tears flow and she pulls away. With me in the room I would know if the tone is inappropriate. But she pull the "tone argument" out of thin air. I never have allowed our childred to speak disrespectfully to either of us. My daughters inevitably feel terrible.

So now I see how that has contributed to so many past fights. So many times I just apologize and focus on how I can try to avoid these situations in the future. Lately though I've begun to call her on her victim tactics. She goes balistic! But, ironically I think the problems are less frequent - somewhere, sub-consciously she seems to respond. The problem is when they do happen they are more damaging without my incessant apologies.

I am determined to stick to my guns (metaphorically of course) and call her on her victim stance. I have no idea where it will lead.

Any advice would be welcomed.

Cheers
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Old 04-27-2012, 01:43 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: My wife is a victim

Reading your post made me feel as if I wrote it. So you have my sympathy. I recently got more clarity on my relationship, ironically from my partner.

Read this thread, the response from Uptown and see if any of this fits your wife: My list of hell!

Then read this thread, the response from Uptown: Mental health... sometimes I feel like I'm going crazy

Maybe this will help.
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Old 04-27-2012, 04:31 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: My wife is a victim

I am really looking forward to reading responses and suggestions.

Sounds like you are a giving person who is a peacemaker. Sounds like your W is a taker who probably goes out of her way to tell you she is a giving person. I'll bet you don't get a word in edgewise and on the occasions you do, she gets irritated and misconstrues and twists whatever you say. If that is not an accurate extrapolation, let us know.

I'll bet she has at least one toxic friend you would be better off without.

You can't fix her. She is who she is. (I hope I'm wrong about that and someone has insight I don't have). But I think you know deep down that her core personality and rewriting of history is what it is. She's ripe for an EA if she hasn't already had one or two.

"there's no point", everything is your fault, does she call you stupid to your face? She's checked out of the marriage. Even if you are willing to continue, sounds like she is looking for permission to dump you and start the fantasy new life she thinks she wants; and right now, you are not part of that fantasy.

That doesn't mean there is no hope, but don't fool yourself into thinking something in her subconscious is nagging at her and will bring her around.
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Old 04-27-2012, 08:25 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: My wife is a victim

My question is, since you have come to this realization, do you plan on staying?

Your wife sounds like she has poor communication skills. Perhaps from unresolved childhood issues. However my suggestion is to seek some MC soon. If she will not go, you need to go to IC so a professional can help guide you better with this situation.
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Old 04-27-2012, 09:09 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: My wife is a victim

Sometimes it IS what people say. Sometimes it IS how its said. And sometimes it IS the way its perceived. Regardless, sounds like a issue.

I agree with the therapy thing. MC or IC, or maybe both.
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Old 04-27-2012, 10:46 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: My wife is a victim

Communication is a skill that many people simply don't have. Add in some hormones possibly some childhood issues, a low self esteem and you've got a recipe for strained relationships. I can relate to your wife as I've lived in that victim role for years. I had low self esteem and I projected my flaws onto everyone around me.

How I fixed it was with therapy, self help books and a desire to change.
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Old 04-27-2012, 11:19 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Default Re: My wife is a victim

Thanks so much for the replies. KittyKat's links were also very helpful. I'm so glad I stumbled on this site.

I guess I'll do some research on BPD. The basic description seems to be a fit. I had previously looked in to Adult Children of Alcoholics sites - unfortunately she does come from that background and much of those potential traits show up in her unwillingness to take responsibility for her part of disagreements.

The BPD references and your replies are a much tighter fit with what I've been seeing.

Thank you all.
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Old 04-27-2012, 11:36 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Default Re: My wife is a victim

I truly believe some people have BPD and/or other mental issues. However anyone can pick up a book, read some traits and say oh that fits my mother perfectly. Or that sounds like my wife for sure. It doesn't always mean that person has a disorder. Although it could. A diagnoses has to come from a therapist, and BPD is very hard to diagnose and often misdiagnosed. The first place to start is therapy for yourself. After you explain to them whats going on they might can help shed some light.
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Old 04-27-2012, 11:48 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Default Re: My wife is a victim

Tim,

Rack up a few more posts and read my thread in the Private Member forum. Your wife may or may not have BPD. Doesn't really make a difference in the next few steps you should take. I have just recently experienced the same wake-up call (I call it my mini epiphany) with a partner that shows similar (harsher) traits.

I know exactly what you have gone through and can probably predict what may happen to the dynamics of your marriage for the next short while.

We'll go into more details as more replies come and more people chime in, but I can tell you what not to do regardless of what happens:

- DO NOT BACK DOWN
- DO NOT APOLOGIZE
- DO NOT SYMPATHIZE WITH YOUR WIFE
- DO NOT BE SCARED OF THE FUTURE

This is perhaps your only chance to establish a set of boundaries that you should've set many many years ago. Part of the reason you were unable to do so was your unnaturally high level of tolerance for emotional dominance. Your wife has essentially dominated your emotions and expects nothing less than full domination for the rest of her life. This MUST stop.

I'm going through the same thing and have made some progress. I don't know what the future holds, but I feel 1000 times better than I did 3 weeks ago. My wife ironically has had a mixed bag of reactions to my firm stance and seems to like it. I don't really care if she likes it or hates it though. This is what it's going to be like for the rest of our lives. I've taken the "take it or leave it" attitude and it's making me feel fantastic.

I love my wife dearly, but loving her had somehow been redefined as "not loving myself" in my brain. Now I love us both. I don't give either of us any advantage in my own brain. No more unnecessary stress. No more unwarranted apologies. I'm living my life.
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Old 04-27-2012, 11:52 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Default Re: My wife is a victim

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tim Riggins View Post
Thanks so much for the replies. KittyKat's links were also very helpful. I'm so glad I stumbled on this site.

I guess I'll do some research on BPD. The basic description seems to be a fit. I had previously looked in to Adult Children of Alcoholics sites - unfortunately she does come from that background and much of those potential traits show up in her unwillingness to take responsibility for her part of disagreements.

The BPD references and your replies are a much tighter fit with what I've been seeing.

Thank you all.
Tim,

What do you know of her childhood?
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Old 04-28-2012, 12:43 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Default Re: My wife is a victim

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tim Riggins View Post
After 23 years of marriage I now realize that my wife's communication fits all the patterns of playing the victim. I've never been clearer about our relationship - unfortunately my clarity reveals a negative, seemingly insurmountable issue.

I realized it as she was debating an issue with one of our children. Now that they are all grown up with their own confidence and maturity, they challenge her in ways that I have never witnessed from the outside.

We have had many years of happiness and my wife and I have a wonderful core attraction and a strong moral committment to be together but now I've seen a pattern that fits our own communication and applies to all 23 years of unresolved fights.

Typically she criticizes some aspect of my behavior. If I'm calm I listen and see that much of what she says is true. She is extremely intelligent and her insights in to my behavior are often right on. But often her criticisms of me are based on traits that she and I both share. In lighter moments we joke about being .... whatever. But when she is down or ... something, she goes after me for things that she clearly feels about herself.

Instead of a helpful, loving reminder that I'm going off a bit, I'm painted as an example of everything evil. If I defend myself, even just to limit her criticisms - I'm being defensive. The cycle continues until she claims I just don't listen or my defensiveness blocks all reason.

Eventually she pulls back and is hurt by my inability to communicate. I beg for a reasonable discussion without the "hurt" stuff thrown in - just two flawed people helping to guide each others' extremes. My desire to be reasonable seems to push her away as if being reasonable is the last thing she wants. She pulls back claiming that I can't communicate and that there's no point.

Eventually I apologize, acknowledge the truth in what she has said and she ultimately accepts that I'm flawed, warns me that this can't keep happening and rallies to put it behind us.

I have recently watched the same pattern with our daughters. On several occasions I've seen one of them corner my wife with her own contradictions. It's pitiful. My wife then says the tone has become mean or harsh, tears flow and she pulls away. With me in the room I would know if the tone is inappropriate. But she pull the "tone argument" out of thin air. I never have allowed our childred to speak disrespectfully to either of us. My daughters inevitably feel terrible.

So now I see how that has contributed to so many past fights. So many times I just apologize and focus on how I can try to avoid these situations in the future. Lately though I've begun to call her on her victim tactics. She goes balistic! But, ironically I think the problems are less frequent - somewhere, sub-consciously she seems to respond. The problem is when they do happen they are more damaging without my incessant apologies.

I am determined to stick to my guns (metaphorically of course) and call her on her victim stance. I have no idea where it will lead.

Any advice would be welcomed.

Cheers
I have met so many people just liek you describe your wife. I always call it a cop out. I have speaking to people about situations such as this and pretty much came to the conclusion that alot has to do with people being what some professionals call " Chaos Kids". It could be the fact of how she grew up and just never shook it off. I actually talked about this subject on my radio show. Check out Fuego Beats Radio and click on the play button.
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Old 04-28-2012, 01:13 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Default Re: My wife is a victim

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tim Riggins View Post
Any advice would be welcomed.
Sure, easy.

Step 1: Realize that your current setup is toxic to you. It puts her in absolute control. Unless you thrive in such relationships then it's going to be very bad for you. It sounds like it already has been. So basically, your existing relationship has very little worth. You need to be willing to throw it away.

Step 2: When she does it, you say, "Honey, I was hoping to have an adult conversation between two adults. Let me know when you feel like doing so." Then you walk away.

Step 3: If the pattern continues, you divorce her.

It's not really hard. You just have to decide whether you want to live the rest of your life like this or not.
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Old 04-28-2012, 01:29 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Default Re: My wife is a victim

was she a victim at some point? i have been a victim, and when i was beaten down by my ex, i would cling to every shred of right i could get a hold of, because whenever i admitted i was wrong about something, i felt i gave my abuser validity. i never wanted to lend any validity to anything he said about me. the attitude carries over to other relationships in my life. i hate to have fault found with me, because i feel like a failure
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Old 04-28-2012, 01:30 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Default Re: My wife is a victim

Tim,
This is very insightful and well written.

The most concise version of this dynamic is:
1. She is critical of you for doing things that she herself routinely does.
2. When that happens and you point it out she gets angrier, escalates and eventually you apologize

I am familiar with this dynamic.

What I try to do is:
1. Accept that the comment is correct and apologize for my behavior and promise to make more effort in that area going forward.
2. The next time my W does something very similar I look at her and in a mildly amused tone remark "You just did "Z". And I wait for an acknowledgement that she did just indeed do "Z". I then add: "You look exactly like the woman who just took me to task a week ago for doing "small variation on Z".

With a semi-rational person this works very well.

With an aggressive, borderline dishonest person:
If the response to the first part is flat out dishonest denial: "I did not do Z". I reply in a flat tone of voice - not loud just very definitive: "You did, I saw you and it is so disrespectful for you to stand here and deny it, that this conversation is now over".

And then I go do other stuff. And I turn on the soft "ignore" button for my W. In that mode I will politely discuss schedules, logistics and nothing else. And I keep the conversations to a bare minimum. I don't walk around angry. And if she does I ignore it. And I wait. Record is 5 days. Usually 1 day is enough. And if she remains adamant that she didn't say/do "Z", which hasn't happened in a long, long time - more than a decade. My response is: "I am soon going to tape record all of our conversations, is that the kind of marriage you want"?

This approach is: I won't defend my bad behavior by pointing out yours. Instead it is: If we have a standard of behavior, my boundary is that I insist it apply equally to both of us.



Quote:
Originally Posted by Tim Riggins View Post
After 23 years of marriage I now realize that my wife's communication fits all the patterns of playing the victim. I've never been clearer about our relationship - unfortunately my clarity reveals a negative, seemingly insurmountable issue.

I realized it as she was debating an issue with one of our children. Now that they are all grown up with their own confidence and maturity, they challenge her in ways that I have never witnessed from the outside.

We have had many years of happiness and my wife and I have a wonderful core attraction and a strong moral committment to be together but now I've seen a pattern that fits our own communication and applies to all 23 years of unresolved fights.

Typically she criticizes some aspect of my behavior. If I'm calm I listen and see that much of what she says is true. She is extremely intelligent and her insights in to my behavior are often right on. But often her criticisms of me are based on traits that she and I both share. In lighter moments we joke about being .... whatever. But when she is down or ... something, she goes after me for things that she clearly feels about herself.

Instead of a helpful, loving reminder that I'm going off a bit, I'm painted as an example of everything evil. If I defend myself, even just to limit her criticisms - I'm being defensive. The cycle continues until she claims I just don't listen or my defensiveness blocks all reason.

Eventually she pulls back and is hurt by my inability to communicate. I beg for a reasonable discussion without the "hurt" stuff thrown in - just two flawed people helping to guide each others' extremes. My desire to be reasonable seems to push her away as if being reasonable is the last thing she wants. She pulls back claiming that I can't communicate and that there's no point.

Eventually I apologize, acknowledge the truth in what she has said and she ultimately accepts that I'm flawed, warns me that this can't keep happening and rallies to put it behind us.

I have recently watched the same pattern with our daughters. On several occasions I've seen one of them corner my wife with her own contradictions. It's pitiful. My wife then says the tone has become mean or harsh, tears flow and she pulls away. With me in the room I would know if the tone is inappropriate. But she pull the "tone argument" out of thin air. I never have allowed our childred to speak disrespectfully to either of us. My daughters inevitably feel terrible.

So now I see how that has contributed to so many past fights. So many times I just apologize and focus on how I can try to avoid these situations in the future. Lately though I've begun to call her on her victim tactics. She goes balistic! But, ironically I think the problems are less frequent - somewhere, sub-consciously she seems to respond. The problem is when they do happen they are more damaging without my incessant apologies.

I am determined to stick to my guns (metaphorically of course) and call her on her victim stance. I have no idea where it will lead.

Any advice would be welcomed.

Cheers
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Old 04-28-2012, 02:05 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Default Re: My wife is a victim

Tim, it sounds like this hasn't been too much of an issue until recently. Even though it was present for many years, you weren't unhappy with it when you didn't recognize the process that was happening, but now that you do, you cannot "unsee" it.

This can create changes in how you listen to and respond to her. Until this, you were able to recognize that she often had valid points - even if she did personalize them or have over-reactions. You may find this harder to do now.

I can't entirely agree with the poster who said not to sympathize with your wife. We all need someone in our corner, and that's one of the biggest benefits of a good marriage. When she makes herself the victim in her interactions with other people outside of the family, be loyal to her. However, when she directs that behavior toward you, it might be beneficial to learn to step back and get some perspective. I'm a lot like your wife, though I didn't recognize it for a long time (in fact, it was when my children were grown and confronted me that I discovered that I was doing the same thing). Here are some suggestions that you might try that have been helpful in my relationships:

- Try to remember that this is her coping mechanism that she uses, and it's really not about you. Even though it sounds like she's criticizing you, what she's really doing is letting you know she is afraid of something. (This doesn't mean accept the behavior or cave into it, though.)

- Ask your wife to agree that your relationship will be a "no blame" zone. If either of you has a complaint, you're free to discuss it, so long as it doesn't turn into blaming or personal criticism. You can ask for a change, talk about how something has affected you, or simply acknowledge that something happened, but if the conversation turns to statements about someone's personal flaws or claims that he/she is doing something to intentionally cause a bad result, the person being targeted has a right to immediately stop the conversation. This means you, too, because telling her "You're being a victim" is criticism, too.

- Sometimes postponing a discussion can help. You can say, "I need some time to fully consider what you're saying. I'll take time to figure out what's right about what you've said, and I'd like to ask you to consider if you've approached me in the best way that you could."

- Sometimes reminders that you're a team, that everything will still be ok, and that you'd rather find a win-win solution than a win-lose result can work wonders.

- To get to the heart of the matter, find plenty of ways to ask, "What's important to you about that?" It takes as much as four or five times to get to the true issue. Here's an imaginary conversation that illustrates the principle:

Me: You act like I'm a piece of furniture these days.

You: Huh? What do you mean?

Me: You just assume I'll do all this stuff for you, and you act like you don't even notice.

(You think you have been appreciative, but before saying so, you decide to get to the real issue.)

You: What's important about me noticing what you do?

Me: Well, it should be obvious! Nobody likes to be taken for granted.

You: So you feel like I take you for granted. Are you saying you feel unappreciated?

Me: Well, of course I do! You used to notice when I got my hair cut, or made you a nice dinner, but now you don't.

You: So it's important to you to get compliments when you do nice things?

Me: Well, sometimes it is. I feel so unappreciated sometimes.

You: Why does that appreciation matter so much to you?

Me: I don't know. Just because.

You: I'd really like to understand how you experience appreciation so I can keep it in mind. What's important *to you* about feeling appreciated?

Me: Well, I guess I just feel like I don't matter much when someone doesn't appreciate what I've done for them.

(By now, you've shifted the conversation from your supposed flaws to the real issue - my insecurity.)

You: I'm sad to hear that you feel so unimportant when people don't appreciate something you've done for them, but you are important even if they don't show it. Do you know that?

Me: Not always, no.

You: Let me tell you some of the things I do because of how important you are to me. I work to bring home a paycheck for our family, and I take the cars in for maintenance, and I fix things that are broken. It sounds like you don't feel appreciated when I do those things.

Me: Not really. I'd rather hear it in words.

You: Ok. I'll try to tell you more often. At the same time, will you try to remember that when I do those things, it's my way of showing love for you?

This isn't necessarily an easy technique to learn and use, but I've found that getting to the heart of the matter and using principles from The 5 Languages of Love The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts can eliminate an awful lot of problems.
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