Does your girlfriend or wife blame you for everything that’s wrong in the relationship, even her bad behaviors? Does she refuse to take responsibility for her own actions, especially the hurtful ones? Do you frequently feel forced into a role of contrition in which you have to make up for some wrong or “owe” your girlfriend or wife?
If so, you may be involved with a woman who is a professional victim. Don’t be fooled, she is no victim. Victim-hood is a powerful role. In fact, women who play the victim are often the aggressor in relationships. They play the “victim” to manipulate and control others by holding you emotionally hostage.
Professional victims are stealth bullies. Being caught in a never ending blame game with one of these women is a form of emotional abuse for the man at whom she points her finger in accusation.
The following characteristics are signs that your girlfriend or wife may be a professional victim:
1) She never acknowledges when she hurts others. She has exclusive rights to the role of “injured party.” When you call her on her behavior, she provides ample excuses for why she’s not accountable. The excuses she provides assign blame for her actions to someone else, usually the person she’s wronged. It’s always your fault or someone else’s fault, but never, ever is it her fault.
2) The victim must be victimized. If you’re not an abusive person, she’ll pull it out of you in order to play the victim script she has in her head. For example, she needles and needles and needles one of your sore spots, until you can’t take it any more and snap at her in defense.
Presto! She just got you to “victimize” her–never mind the previous 2 hours in which she psychologically tormented and bullied you into it. She needs to play innocent victim to someone’s bad guy. It’s the foundation of her identity.
This is a very primitive defense mechanism called projective identification, which, if you’re on the receiving end, is truly awful in that it makes you feel like the crazy person. It’s a self-fulfilling prophesy whereby she believes you’re a “bad guy” and she’s a “victim.” She then behaves or interacts with you in such a way that you change your behavior in response to her actions and become the “bad guy.” A telltale sign is that you feel like you’re being coerced into being someone that you’re not. It’s highly, highly emotionally abusive.
3) She blames others and circumstances for her own shortcomings or failures. The professional victim lives in “Never-Never Take Personal Responsibility Land,” which is bordered to the North by “The Land of If Only.” This allows her to blame her parents, siblings, co-workers, bosses, professors and you for her life, career and relationships not being as she thinks they should be.
She’d be running the business if only her boss recognized her talents. She’d have graduated from culinary school and been wildly successful if her prof hadn’t looked at her cross-eyed. She’d have sex with you more often if you did more of x, y, and z. Don’t fall for this malarkey, men. She’s right in that there’s someone to blame for her sad life. She need only look in the mirror to direct her blame accurately.
4) She admires and respects people who actually treat her badly. This is a fascinating aspect of the professional victim: They defend those who harm, exploit and bully them and vilify and lash out at those who want to help and care for them. She may fondly describe a relative or ex-boyfriend who sounds like a real S.O.B. and follow it up with, “but he’s such a good person.” Meanwhile, you bend over backward to tiptoe around her extreme sensitivities and she accuses you of “beating her down” and “not being supportive.” Huh?
The fact that she admires and respects bullies and people who abuse their power is a huge red flag because we emulate those we admire. Let me make this point crystal clear, SHE ADMIRES BULLIES AND ABUSERS BECAUSE SHE IS REALLY AN EMOTIONALLY ABUSIVE BULLY IN VICTIM’S CLOTHING.
It’s impossible to have a loving relationship of equals with a professional victim. She goes through life feeling slighted and angry, never taking responsibility for her actions or life. Good luck trying to talk to her about this. You’ll meet with extreme defensiveness and more blaming behaviors. Her only identity is that of victim: If she doesn’t believe she’s being victimized, then who is she? Someone who treats other people like crap and who is pissing her life away. It’s a matter of psychological self-preservation versus ego annihilation.
You can’t have a healthy and happy relationship with someone who holds you hostage and controls you through guilt, emotional blackmail, and blame. This type of person rarely changes and usually has characteristics of one of the dramatic cluster B personality disorders, including Borderline Personality Disorder, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Histrionic Personality Disorder, Anti-Social Personality Disorder or some variation.
If you’re involved with one of these women, I encourage you to reconsider the relationship. When I come across them in life, I try to avoid them altogether or, at the very least, minimize contact. It’s really the only way to deal with them.
by Dr Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD
Private Consultation and Coaching
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