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Playing Victim

Playing The Victim: Why It’s Common and What To Do About It

"I've never seen any life transformation that didn't begin with the person in question finally getting tired of their own bullshit."

-Elizabeth Gilbert

If you feel like a victim while going through a divorce, you’re not alone. From enduring poor treatment by your ex to struggling with your new financial reality to receiving a less-than-ideal ruling from the legal system, it can be easy to slip into feelings of victimhood. 

But while feeling like a victim can be natural in the short term, it’s not healthy in the long run. It’s important to be proactive to keep yourself out of this destructive cycle.

There are two kinds of victimhood when it comes to divorce and recovery. 

Feeling powerless

You may be legitimately being taken advantage of on an ongoing basis, and lack the immediate power to stop it. This can happen when your ex is narcissistic or is intentionally trying to cause you harm. In this case, there are still things you can do. You can establish and clearly communicate your boundaries, And you can reach out for help. Rely on the strength of your support group – led by your Power People – and try to avoid contact with your ex as much as possible. 

Avoiding responsibility

The other type of victimhood occurs when you refuse to take responsibility for your contributions to past events and instead blame everyone else. This can be detrimental to your overall mental and emotional health. It can keep you from being able to go through the necessary healing steps you need to move on from the divorce and face the future. It can prevent you from learning from the experience and preparing yourself to avoid repeating the same mistakes moving forward.

A little help!

Your support network is critical. It’s normal to isolate after a divorce and to feel burnt out on relationships of all types, including friends and family. But staying in the headspace of “no one can understand me” or taking a fatalistic view won’t help. Talk to friends and family members, especially those who have gone through a divorce themselves. You may find they have faced similar circumstances and understand how you are feeling.  They may be able to provide advice about developing tools and skills for coping. 

Break the cycle

It’s important to recognize that if playing the victim is something that you lean toward as part of your history or family dynamic, it may take time and concerted effort to move past it. Your immediate friends and family support group may not be enough. Try a divorce support class either through Avail or a local group. Therapy and counseling can also be extremely helpful.  Focus on taking responsibility for your part in the divorce and dealing with the emotional and psychological wounds so you can move ahead to being a healthier you.


“After spending a few months telling my story to everyone who would listen and getting affirmation of how I had been victimized. I realized that I had control and that I didn’t have to live within that narrative. The only way for me to break out of my circumstances was to start to create my own story, becoming the person I was meant to become. I started to try taking one step towards that vision each day, whether it was spending an hour at a new gym, making time to read a new book, or asking a woman I was interested in for her number. Each step towards my vision was a step away from being a victim.”


Misery loves company

The age-old saying is legit. Be aware that, while support groups can be instrumental to recovery, they can be refuges for toxic people who are stuck in a cycle of victimhood themselves. Surround yourself with empathetic but positive people who are able to understand where you’re coming from but are also willing to call you out when appropriate. Learning to control what you can allows you to reframe thoughts of victimhood into a healthier outlook. 

Stay honest with yourself

It’s normal to feel hurt and used when a marriage ends. You’ve likely invested time and effort in trying to make things work, and whether it was you or your ex who initiated the split, it can be a huge blow to your dreams and vision for the future. Nobody comes out of a divorce having everything go their way; you’ll have made significant compromises and your ex will have, too. Wallowing in victimhood or letting your identity take root here, however, only serves to extend the pain. Most divorces are not 100 percent one person’s fault. And even if your ex was 99 percent to blame, you still need to take responsibility for your one percent so that you can learn and grow from it.

Take the next step


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