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Are You Stuck in the Victim Loop?

Seeing yourself as the victim feels natural if your Ex cheated, lied, was a card-carrying narcissist, or an insufferable a-hole (or all of the above). But, sadly, labeling yourself a victim strips you of your power and piles pain on pain.

Your Ex may have done terrible things and hurt you. Maybe, they’re still doing them. But, stay with me here; seeing yourself as a victim of your divorce keeps you passive, stuck, and as helpless as a turtle on its back. You may have landed here, but you don’t have to stay here.

It’s much more empowering to see yourself as a purposeful person who, although you’ve experienced someone else’s worst, is stepping up to make powerful choices on your own behalf. As in, you made (or are making) the choice to let go of your Ex because they’re not good for you, and you deserve better.

Don’t get me wrong. This is in no way negates the pain, sadness and anger that come with divorce, which you need to acknowledge and give yourself time to process. It’s simply deciding not to cast yourself as a powerless victim because although you may not like or immediately accept the choices in front of you, you do have choices.

Victims Stay Stuck, Purposeful People Heal

Playing the victim focuses your energy on the other person and not on truly recovering and healing—this is where many people get stuck. I had an acquaintance whose Ex left her to marry the woman with whom he’d been cheating.

Seven years post-divorce, she’s still very bitter. She hasn’t moved on emotionally because she sees releasing her anger as condoning his choices. She doesn’t think she should have to because she doesn’t think he should have left. True or not, by holding on to her victim status, she’s holding her own life hostage.

Staying stuck in the victim role is a way to avoid fully facing and processing your anger and grief. Keeping the focus on your Ex and what they did or didn’t do is a way to keep pain at a manageable constant, sometimes for years or even a lifetime if you’re not careful.

Putting your attention on moving through your pain and healing yourself is a power move that takes grit. Recovering and going on to build your wonderful new life is better than the best revenge.

Victims Blame, Purposeful People Own

There’s another danger in playing the victim—neglecting to look at your role in your relationship. Maybe it’s not something you did, but something you allowed.

One of my clients shared example after example of how her Ex would agree to spend within their means only to continue buying pricey items. He would promise it was the last time and she would let it go. What she didn’t know until they applied for a mortgage loan was that he’d run up $75,000 in credit card debt.

When the marriage tanked, she was stuck on the question, “Why did he do this to me?” The better and more powerful question is, why did she allow it? He couldn’t have kept it up without her pattern of silently stewing while putting up with things that weren’t OK with her. Unless and until she recognizes this about herself, she is likely to go on to be someone else’s “victim.”

It’s worth reviewing to see if you put up with things or ignored things—not to blame or judge yourself, but to learn from your hard-won wisdom and experience.

How to Know if You’re Trapped in the Victim Loop

I call it the victim loop because, like a hamster wheel, it goes around and around and never moves you forward. How do you know if you’re circling? You may be in this trap if:

  • You completely blame your Ex for your past or current circumstances.
  • You can’t identify any ways that you may have contributed to or participated in the unwanted results.
  • You believe everything wrong was out of your control.
  • You’re invested in being “wronged” to the point that you think moving on and creating a better life will make what your Ex did “not so bad because everything turned out OK.”
  • On some level, it’s working for you to stay powerless because of the sympathy and commiseration you’re getting, or it’s too scary to move on for some other reason.

If one or more of these sounds uncomfortably familiar, ask yourself, “Am I willing to trade feeling like a victim for feeling and exercising my own power over my life?” Be honest. If the answer is, “Yes!” do what you need to do to heal and recover, including understanding and taking ownership of your choices during your marriage.

Work on eliminating victim-like language when describing your situation. In fact, try to stop talking about your Ex altogether. Realize you aren’t defined by what happened in the past, including choices made by your Ex. Instead, start talking more about your dreams and goals and the steps you’re taking to heal and move forward.

If the answer is, “No way!” or “Not yet,” that’s OK. Consider working with a coach or therapist to help you process your feelings.

Deb Purdy, is a divorce coach, speaker and author of Something Gained: 7 Shifts to Be Stronger, Smarter & Happier After Divorce.   Visit for more information. Join the conversation on social media: Instagram: @lovedebpurdy Twitter: @lovedebpurdy Facebook: debpurdyofficial

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