A Victim Pattern Story

This a story about Sandra who is a person with the Victim Pattern.

Sandra was married for over fourteen years to Robert, who had been kind of a pushover. She was often able to get her way in things and she criticized him a lot. He rarely stood up to her. Over time, Robert became depressed, and at the advice of friends, began to get IFS therapy.

He tried to get Sandra involved, but she wasn’t interested.

Eventually, Robert began to grow and become more assertive. He started standing up to Sandra and confronting her about some of her controlling behavior, but she was unwilling to take him seriously or do anything different, thinking the flaws in their marriage were mostly his doing. Robert also wanted her to listen to the feelings he was uncovering in therapy, but she had little interest.

After a year of these conflicts, Robert decided to pursue divorce, and Sandra was stunned.

SANDRA: “I don’t understand how Robert could do this to me, after all our years of marriage. He’s just so selfish.”

Even though the divorce left her with half of their assets, she became frightened about her financial future. Instead of looking into how she might make some extra money, she just became angry at him.

SANDRA: “What in the world am I supposed to do now? Robert just doesn’t even think about me. He didn’t give me enough money. I’m not prepared to get a job. What skills do I even have, after keeping house and cooking for him and the kids for all these years? This is just so unfair. I don’t know what I’m going to do!”

Sandra complained to all their friends, who were sympathetic at first–after all, divorce can be heartbreaking and depressing for the best of people. But after hearing Sandra go on and on about how terrible Robert was, some friends stopped calling her for lunch dates. Others stopped taking her calls entirely. Sandra had always been critical of people, but it had never been this bad.

Finally, one friend, Jill, ran into her on the street and Sandra started in again on how hard her life was now and how she didn’t know what to do to move forward. Jill listened patiently, and then spoke.

JILL: “Sandra, I know you are facing a lot of change right now, but you might want to think about how making everything Robert’s fault really disempowers you. As long as your divorce is all about him and your situation is impossible, you leave yourself no room to take any steps forward. And I have to tell you, hearing you complain about this over and over, sometimes I feel like you want me to fix your life for you. And I can’t. Only you can do that.”

Then Jill hugged Sandra and continued on her way. Sandra stayed rooted to the spot, stunned by what felt like a slap in the face.

Slowly, over the next week, she began to consider what Jill had said. She discussed this with some other friends and began to look at herself and her situation a little differently.