THE BLOG

Do You Keep Having the Same Fight?

02/03/2015 11:39 am ET | Updated Apr 05, 2015

When your partner does something "wrong," this is the last thing you want to do.

Have you ever felt wronged in your relationship? Or rather... that you had a right to be right?

Take this typical scenario:

You've had a long day. You've been up since the crack of dawn. You made up the bed (because your partner forgot to), you got the kids ready for school -- and you helped them with their homework. You made dinner. AND you had your own work to deal with on top of that.

Your partner, on the other hand, has had a pretty easy day. He or she comes home all chipper, reporting a big win at work. Maybe he was even treated to lunch by the boss.

So at the end of the day, all you want to do is tune in and tune out to a favorite TV show. It's the least you can ask for, right?

And you can't believe it when your partner wants control of the remote.

Wait a minute. Doesn't he realize that it's your turn to relax and unwind? Shouldn't he give in a little?

So you let your point of view be known: You've clearly had a tougher day, and you should get a little kick back for it. And before you know it, you're wrapped up in a surge of conflict -- probably the kind of fight you've had more than once.

The Real Root of Resentment

In the scenario above, it's easy to feel like the victim. You feel like you've had the rougher day, and your partner's dash for the remote control seems to wipe it all out in the blink of an eye. Doesn't he realize what you've been through in the past 12 hours?

And the truth is, maybe you did have a more challenging day. Maybe your partner should be more sensitive and realize that you should get a chance to call the shots now that the kids have gone to bed.

Conflicts like this usually escalate. Your partner never understands how much you do around the house. You're always the one who is overworked and under-rested.

Soon, you're not just debating about the remote, but about your entire relationship -- and how you're the one who always gets the short end of the stick.

In short, you're the victim.

Victim or Villain: Two Sides of the Same Coin

We're talking about control of the TV after a long day, but this exchange could really be about anything: how your partner never listens to you, why you're always going along with what he says, or what you should do about a certain investment.

If you're feeling short-changed, you've cast yourself in the role of victim -- someone who deserves sympathy and wants a certain outcome by fixing blame on someone else. In this case, it's your partner.

But here's a revelation: Even if you are being wronged and you want change, being the victim never works.

Why?

Because the moment you cast yourself in the role of victim, you immediately place your partner in the role of villain or perpetrator.

And nobody wants to be the villain.

Racing to Claim the Role of Victim

When one person claims the role of victim, the other person will rush to evade the designation of villain. They'll then try to prove why she or he is in fact the victim:

"What are you talking about? I've had weeks and weeks of crunch time at work -- and the ONE day things let up for me, I'm not allowed to chill out a little?"

So, you end up with a situation where each person is trying to one up the other for the title of victim.

And it never works -- even in cases where someone is actually the guilty party. Think of characters like Tony Soprano -- even the clearest of bad guys don't think they're in the wrong.

The Secret Driver of "Victimhood" -- And How to Snap Out of This Vicious Pattern

When you find yourself claiming the role of victimhood, there is usually an underlying desire for change. In the case of the remote control scenario, you want:

  • More free time

  • More understanding

  • More pampering

  • More autonomy

Yet instead of communicating about these things, you cop out by fixing blame on your partner. What's more, you might think that if you don't stick up for yourself, things will never get better.

But as we've seen, slipping into the role of victim never works.

So what does?

If you've fallen into the victim trap, you're not wrong. You've merely slipped into a relationship dynamic that is very common. And it's also correctable.

Communication, as we've hinted, is one way out of the fruitless victim/villain scenario.

Working as a team to arrive at a mutually-beneficial outcome is another.

And claiming total responsibility -- rather than blaming your partner -- is key.

Katie and Gay's free relationship e-newsletter, Hearts In Harmony, explores the challenges and glories of lasting love. Based on the tools they've developed throughout their 30+ year marriage and taught to thousands, you'll learn powerful insights and practical techniques you can start using today -- whether you're in a relationship or eager to attract one. www.heartsintrueharmony.com

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