Friday, 28 Jul 2017

Are you stuck in a co-dependent triangle?

By Dr Becky Spelman

Let us know if a a co-dependent triangle sounds familiar: you’ve been in a relationship, friendly or romantic, and someone else comes into the mix. Maybe they’re your partner’s colleague, or maybe a friend’s roommate. Whatever the reason, since you all started hanging out together, the three of you take on some very distinct roles.

Roles of a Co-dependent Triangle

One is the Victim. Everything goes wrong and they feel like it’s never their fault. They are attacked by the Persecutor, who hounds the Victim relentlessly. The Victim has their problems solved by the Rescuer, who will never let the Victim stand on their own two feet.

This is not an especially healthy dynamic to be trapped in. The Victim feels useless and hopeless, the Persecutor feels like a monster, and the Rescuer ignores their own problems so they can help the Victim. And it’s one that people are drawn to without realising! You might be sought out by a Persecutor who realises that you make perfect Victim material. Or you might help out a friend only to find that they are always coming to you to fix their problems. You might even find that you’re the Persecutor, and the Victim and the Rescuer bond together to isolate you as punishment.

Thankfully, there is a way out. First, you have to take a step back and look at the issue from a more distant point of view – who is playing which role? Second, you have to recognise that the only person you can change in the triangle is yourself. And that the other two points will resent the change to their dynamic, so be prepared for a Victim friend to implore you for rescue or for the Persecutor friend to try and goad you even more.

An easy way to remember who you’re trying to be now is that Victims can change to be ‘vulnerable’—with problems, not afraid to ask for help, but fully capable of standing on their own two feet and supporting themselves. Persecutors can instead be ‘assertive’—stating their issues calmly but firmly. And Rescuers can be ‘supporters’—cheering on the vulnerable, but not rushing to their aid every time they look like they might need some help.

The original triangle can be toxic, but making it anew can be the start of a good relationship for all three of you. And if not, you know you deserve better—and that you can find it.

Who can I speak to further about the issues in this article?

For help with the issues discussed in this article speak to one of our therapists here at Private Therapy Clinic.

  • By Dr Becky Spelman
  • Family
  • Psychotherapy
  • Relationships

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