How Playing the Victim will Silently Destroy Your Marriage

It’s when I started to lose my own humility and started thinking of myself as “the better person.” I began to think very inwardly- all the time. I only thought about my husband’s actions as they affected me, never giving him the benefit of the doubt. There were times when he wronged me- for sure. But it’s when I stopped confronting those wrongs, holding my husband to higher standards, and seeking restoration that the distance between us began to grow.

How Playing the Victim will Silently Destroy Your Marriage

Hey guys,

There’s something I wanted to talk to you all about that I feel is kind of a big issue in a whole lot of marriages.

Let me start by saying that I get a lot of emails and a lot of comments that make me really sad. There are a lot of hurting families and a lot of hurting women out there. But this isn’t really a surprise, that’s why I started Living the Sweet Wife in the first place!

There are a lot of women out there who find themselves in difficult marriages. Their spouse can be selfish, oppressive, mean, dishonest, and a number of other sad things that I would never wish on anyone! But I actually think that “find themselves” is the wrong phrase to use.

Many of these women don’t simply wake up one day to find themselves in a horrible relationship. And I’m also thinking that these women didn’t walk down the aisle towards a man they knew would turn out to be any of the adjectives listed above.

So what happened along the way??

This is my theory:

Somewhere early on-ish in a marriage, there comes many small chances for us to make extremely important choices- choices we may not even be aware we’re making. These choices come up when our husband has instances of selfishness, cruelty, dishonesty, and whatnot. Now what I’m NOT trying to say is that we are all in control of our husband’s actions. If you’ve had to put down one too many toilet seats in your married life, you already know that. What I AM trying to say is we DO have a choice to make when our husband wrongs us.

In my experience, a woman will usually do 1 of these 3 things when her husband hurts her in some way:

  1. Make a fool of her husband and call out his actions, but in a way that belittles him, rejects him, and ostracizes him.
  2. Respectfully confront the behavior (this may look different in different marriages) and call her husband to a higher standard while seeking to ultimately reconcile.
  3. Internalize the hurt and become a victim to her husband’s actions.

I want to talk about that last one.

Because although the first option is awful, it’s not the silent killer of marriages that so often sneaks itself into a relationship and destroys it from the inside. I think the last option is something that a lot of us do, but are extremely unaware of it. I know I was completely oblivious to just how often I painted myself as a victim and missed out really big opportunities!

So what does playing the victim look like in a marriage?

I want everyone to know exactly what I’m talking about here. I am NOT talking about cases of actual abuse, in which case the woman is, in fact, a victim who needs real help. What I AM talking about is real life, real people, who mess up and hurt each other, but are not abusive or oppressive people.

I am also not encouraging women to have a “grin and bear it” attitude towards the problems in their marriage. I’ll be talking about confrontation a bunch in this post and if you’d like to read some posts I’ve written on how to confront well, you can check those out here:

I’ll start with a confession

There were several months in my marriage where I played the victim- big time. Seemingly out of nowhere I became a whole lot less forgiving, a whole lot less understanding, and a whole lot more resentful and bitter. But on the outside, not much had changed. Except for the fact that we actually weren’t fighting as much. So on the outside, things seemed good. Or at least my husband thought so.

On a normal day, I would come home from work, and notice all the things he hadn’t done to help me that day (our work schedules are complimentary) but I would make a list in my head of all the things I had done around the house that week, keeping my own little scorecard in my head instead of bringing it up to him.

When he would do or say something that was “typical” for him (something that I didn’t like), I would stay silent, shake my head and sigh, and accept that he was just that kind of person, and there was no hope for change. I would compare my marriage to my friend’s marriages which I’d assumed were a lot pleasanter and easier than mine. Slowly and steadily I would shovel more disapproval, unhappiness, and resentment on the pile of bitterness I was storing in my heart.

Because I am a Christian, I knew that I was never going to leave my husband, because even though I was wasn’t happy, I knew my commitment to him was more permanent than my happiness. But in knowing that I was never going to leave, and spending a whole lot of my time sulking in my own resentment, I began to feel very stuck and I didn’t know what to do.

I cried out to God and asked him to fix this.

I didn’t really know what I was asking for. To be honest, I kind of just wanted a way out. God said, “Nice try. Why don’t we do this instead:…”

And then God showed me what I really didn’t want to see at all. He showed me that while my husband was definitely imperfect and needed His grace just like I did, I was the one who was destroying my marriage. Mostly just because I become a lazy, self-centered pity party. I had altogether stopped trying for my relationship and was letting it derail itself. Worst of all, my husband had no idea how resentful I had become towards him because I hadn’t even cared enough to bring it up.

What changed?

The moment things changed is when God showed me that the reason for my bitterness was my own selfishness and pride getting in the way. Constantly thinking of myself as “the better person” made me unwilling to break down issues with my husband, unwilling to forgive him when he would hurt me, and unwilling to apologize and actually see my own flaws and wrongdoings.

Where did I go wrong in the first place?

Before all this, Josh and I were great at confrontation, fixing problems, hashing it out, and finding solutions. It’s when I started to lose my own humility and started thinking of myself as “the better person.” I began to think very inwardly- all the time. I only thought about my husband’s actions as they affected me, never giving him the benefit of the doubt. There were times when he wronged me- for sure. But it’s when I stopped confronting those wrongs, holding my husband to higher standards, and seeking restoration that the distance between us began to grow.

God taught me that my marriage isn’t really about me in the first place.

God taught me that I am not entitled to anything. Yup, anything. Sorry (not sorry) if that ruffles the feathers of some of you reading this. I know that it will. But that’s what’s so countercultural about a real Christian faith (it’s becoming more and more countercultural every day!). Everything that has been given to me is a gift from God and can be used to show other people how great he is. For a while, I wasn’t doing that with my marriage at all. I had made my marriage completely about myself.

It would be such a sad thing if we went through life making our marriage all about us when it could be so much more!

So how can we watch out and avoid the trap of playing the victim in our marriages?

  • Remember that you have been shown grace.
    • You are not perfect and neither is your husband. Work together in your own imperfectness to be a team that shows grace.
  • Forgive quickly
    • And remember everything you’ve been forgiven of. Also, remember that forgiveness is never deserved.
  • Confront hurtful actions
    • Don’t internalize them! While I am a big advocate for picking and choosing your battles and learning when to let things slide, there are certain things we should never “let slide.” Learn the careful balance of confrontation and letting things slide and face head on the things in your marriage that shouldn’t be there.
  • Always have the goal of restoration (aka reconciliation).
    • Usually the difference between the right way to confront and the wrong way to confront all comes down to what you’re actually trying to do. Are you trying to make your husband feel bad and look like a fool for what he did? Or do you actually want to fix things and make them better? That doesn’t mean shying away from the hard things that need to be said, it means saying the hard things with kindness and love and desiring for your husband and your relationship to be better!

So tell me… has “playing the victim” played a role in your own marriage? What are real ways you confront your husband in order to avoid bitterness, while still showing love and respect?

I’d love to hear from you guys!!

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    Comments

    Charlotte Harms

    Thank you , thank you, thank you ! I always enjoy your blogs many blessings to you !

    Sarah

    Thank you for this! I definitely struggle with this. I tend to internalize me feelings and end up getting really bitter and upset about things that my husband doesn’t even know annoy me! It can be so hard to be humble and realize that sometimes the problem is ME, and I need to let God heal my selfish heart. My husband and I have been taking steps toward a much better marriage lately and I’m so thankful for your blog, it’s been so helpful for me!

      Amber

      Took the words right out of my mouth! Sometimes I don’t feel heard so instead of being a “nag” I just say to myself forget it and get mad and bitter about it.

    Sherri

    I recognized this about myself LONG ago, but unfortunately not soon enough to avoid a lot of heartache along the way. I’ve never really seen it put into words this way, but this whole idea hits the nail on the head. The more you “play the victim”, the more you feel sorry for yourself, and the more you feel that you deserve to be treated better than you are being treated. Not to say that may not be true, BUT, this is a 2-way street here. If you spend your time focusing on what YOU can do to treat your husband better, take to time to be vocal about your feelings in a loving way, and remember that ultimately, neither one of you DESERVE anything, but you OWE it all to the Lord, it will go a long way toward bringing your hearts closer together, and closer to God.

    Thanks so much for this article, its a wonderful reminder!

    Heather

    Ugh, this is hard to hear. I am definitely in that bitter mind-set right now, wishing my husband was a “better” man. It hurts to be humbled, but I sincerely thank you for the heads up. I have work to do!

    Gracie

    Love this article! I have played the victim and it’s for things that when you look at it from an objective point of view is not something my boyfriend did to ME!! It’s my selfishness of always wanting attention when I want it even though he has other responsibilities that need to be taken care of!! I learned a lot in this article and I plan to change my attitude and look at things very differently. Thank you!!

    Cher

    Sounds good/ helpful, but I need detailed instructions on how exactly to do this. Ugh! Maybe examples?? Things to say, & don’t say? And do…

      Susan Fuge

      I was a victim in my marriage for 30 years. I have only recently learned that I matter too: my opinions matter, my feelings matter, my life and my contributions to the family matter. Once I could believe that, then I could find ways to assert myself and express my feelings and opinions. I had always heard I should use “I” statements when addressing conflicts: I feel, I want, I need… But until I realized that I mattered, I couldn’t even formulate those sentences. Once I realized that I mattered, if not to him at least to me, then I had to sort out what I really wanted and needed and how I really felt. After that I had to learn to verbalize it without all the fear and resentment I had stored up for all those years. It was rocky starting out. It was more conflict and less compromise. But eventually I learned how to do it. And it’s ok to say to your partner: I’m trying to learn how to express my needs. Sometimes it comes out angry because I am still holding on to fear. Just be patient with me, I’m learning and eventually we will both be happier because of it.

    Cindy

    I am trying to get out of this mindset, thank you for stating everything so well and for some direction

    Tasha

    Hello, I have been with my husband for 6 years and married for 3, He is my best friend, but lately for some reason we have been having a lot of fights almost to the point of separation, I was on the verge of moving out of our home and couldn’t bring myself to leave him. I Have 6 years with this man and want to work through our problems and I began to feel as though I was walking out on my marriage and not holding my commitment. So I decided to stay and we decoded to work on our marriage. He has been saying “your always playing the victim” to me a lot lately and it was making me furious. I didn’t understand why he kept saying this to me. so I began to research and came across your post and site, after reading what you have listed I had to be honest with myself and look inside and reflect and ask myself if I was “playing the victim” and I was. I don’t want my marriage to end, I want to get back to where we were just a year ago with my husband and find the fun and peace we used to have with each other. we used to make each other laugh and our relationship was easy and not complicated at all. there was no judging on either part when we would talk to each other, now its almost a fight every time something is said. I realize that I have been playing the victim for along time and playing the silent game as far as not addressing my issues with him and eternalizing my hurt or holding onto it I see now has been my issue. I have stopped forgiving him, I have stopped being tender towards him, I have stopped a lot of who I am with him because I have been playing the victim…..
    thank you so much for helping me my error in my ways by ur article.

    @chelsealeighdamon