Feel like a Victim in Marriage?

Change Yourself

I’m back from a much-needed vacation to continue the series on how our spouses can control us. Today’s focus is about feeling like a victim in a hopeless marriage.

Sometimes people who are in a hurtful marriage for a very long time and have tried to combat the issues for as long as they’ve been married, allow their mates to dictate how they feel and respond.

It is very much like an experiment that was conducted by psychologist Martin Seligman in 1967. He used electric shocks to elicit certain conditioned responses in dogs. Initially some of the dogs received shocks no matter what they did to avoid them. Those dogs eventually gave up on trying, even after the shocks had been removed at a later point. They developed a “learned helplessness”—much like a spouse develops a “victim mentality.”

It takes years and multiple experiences of frustration, loss and pain to develop a true victim mentality. But like in the case of the dogs, it is an illusion because you always have a choice.*

I had a victim-mentality at one time. Our marriage was so messy that it seemed relentlessly combative and painful to me. I felt as if I had tried everything to change my marriage husband, but nothing was working.

Did you notice that subtle difference? I wasn’t interested in changing the marriage as much, because that meant changing myself! But you can bet …

[Tweet “I was on the “change-my-hubby” bandwagon! #victim-mentality”]

I came to believe that he held the key to our happiness and fulfillment as a couple. Whenever he would do something that was hurtful, I felt helpless to deal with it, because he was the one who needed to change! Poor pitiful me! 😦

It wasn’t until I decided to do what I could do—what was within my power to change—that my marriage and life began to heal and improve. In my view, I wouldn’t have been able to realize that or to get to where I needed to be without the Lord’s motivation, strength and wisdom.

So here are three key beliefs that got me off my “pity-pot” and embracing my life and marriage …

God loves me more than my hubby ever can.
Once I began to embrace this amazing truth, I was able to let go of my dependency upon my hubby to make me feel loved or to respond in right ways. Here’s a document to grab that’s full of biblical reminders – “God’s Love for Me.”

Meditate on these, memorize them, say them out loud, pray them, claim them especially in times of frustration and pain.

I have more power than I realize.
Through Christ I am able to impact my marriage in a powerful way.

  • I can pray for my husband daily and spontaneously in moments when it is crucial.
  • I can pray daily for my heart to be encouraged in my marriage. God has been faithful to answer that prayer!
  • I can become God’s vessel of love to my husband—where love is abundant and never dries up!
  • I can forgive and release my husband from the debt he owes me—freeing us both to bask in God’s mercy and love.
  • I can be kind and patient—which convicts my husband more powerfully than any eloquent or persuasive word of correction.

I can become a safer person.
There’s a great book entitled Safe People that has helped me over the years to know how to relate in healthy ways with my husband and others. When I learned how to respectfully set boundaries and adjust my expectations, my husband was challenged to mature and become safer himself. We are still a work-in-progress, but have so much more satisfaction and depth in our marriage because we both were proactive to pursue becoming safer people.

FYI – If you attend my church, I’ll be leading a women’s group that is studying Safe People starting January 19th.  Let me know via email or commenting below if you’re interested in joining! I’d love to have you!

Next week, I’ll continue in our series about the ways our spouses can control us with a post on “Choosing to have an affair or to look at pornography because you believe you’ve been deprived of ‘whatever’ in your marriage.” You won’t want to miss it!

One last tidbit – I am starting a private Facebook group that will be going through the book of Philippians. I’d love to have you join me if you’re interested in learning a simple and meaningful way to study your Bible. What better way to start off your new year than to get into God’s word as well as to learn to rejoice in all circumstances?! 😉 All you need to do is “friend me” and request to be added and I’ll gladly include you! Click here to go to my Facebook Profile.


What have you done to free yourself from a “victim-mentality”?


In what ways have you allowed yourself to take on a “victim-mentality”?


[Tweet “Feeling helpless to change your marriage? Be the change! #proactive”]

*If you are in a marriage where emotional, sexual or physical abuse is taking place, do not hesitate to seek professional help! In these cases you are truly a victim that should take drastic measures to protect yourself. These measures require the objectivity and guidance of a professional who is also trained in avoiding potential separation abuse. Check out the National Domestic Abuse Hotline’s website.

Linking up with – Mommy Moments, Weekend Whispers, Making Your Home SingMondays @ Soul Survival,  Sunday Stillness,  Sharing His Beauty, Spiritual Sundays, Words with Winter, Sitting Among Friends, Family, Friendship and Faith, DanceWithJesusFriday and Playdates with God



11 responses to “Feel like a Victim in Marriage?”

  1. A powerful message for both wives and husbands. Getting off of the “pity-pot,” and focusing on what we can do, and the things we can change is such a powerful message–Something I think everyone needs to hear at times. I know it’s a message that has been, and is relevant for me. Thank you for sharing this!


    1. Thanks for the encouraging words, Jed! Sadly, it’s something that we often don’t recognize in our lives. I can drift back into it–not just with my husband, but with others who I feel don’t treat me right. Then I’m focusing on how they’ve got to change before I can be happy. How crazy is that?! Ha! Thanks for coming by and commenting. I look forward to getting to know you better in the blogosphere. 🙂


  2. Beth, this is a very powerful post! Thank you so much for sharing such an incredible message. GOD bless you, beautiful friend! 🙂


    1. Thanks so much, Tai. I appreciate your kind words. God bless you too, my friend. I look forward to getting to know you better–just discovered your blog! 🙂


  3. Oh Beth,
    This is exactly what I was like 15 years ago. When I became a Christian I realized how I acted in my marriage. And I was outrageous. I was the controller. I had the anger. My husband suffered. I wanted to change him. But God led me to Stormy Omaritan’s book, The Power of a Praying Wife. I started to read it to change him – wrong – it changed me. We now have a very strong, respectful and loving marriage – 44 years. Getting off the “me” and into the “we” is the best way to stay strong.
    Blessings and Happy New Year my friend,
    BTW I am following you from the new linkup Family, Friends and Faith,


    1. That’s a powerful book, Janis. I’m so glad that you made the changes that allowed God to turn your marriage around. Wow, 44 years! That’s amazing too! But yes, getting off the “me” to the “we” is so very important. Thanks so much for coming by and encouraging me here. Happy New Year to you as well!


  4. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser Avatar
    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    Great post, Beth. I am not in any condition to think through a comment that would be meaningful, but I think you hit the important points well.

    One thing, maybe – to help one’s spouse not feel like a victim, avoid giving a litany of issues that reflect badly on them (in the guise of, “well, while we’re clearing the air…”) during a disagreement or argument. It can cause lasting damage, and can be that impetus to give up.



  5. Oh, that victim mentality can derail me so easily. 😦 I’m not sure why I can fall into hopelessness as quickly as I can, but thankfully the Lord doesn’t usually let me stay there very long! 🙂 I love your list of ways we have more power than we realize. Praying through those right now…. Blessings in your new year, Beth!


  6. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser Avatar
    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    This is going to be kind of frank, Beth. I hope it’s acceptable.

    For many years, I felt like a victim, principally because I felt I had been rejected sexually. Nothing could have been further from the truth – it was willful misunderstanding on my part, for which I am ashamed – but I lived there longer than I would have liked (and longer than I had to).

    The biggest help – one that took place only recently – was getting my courage together and talking about it, and being willing to listen without mentally putting words of victimhood,mentally, into my wife’s mouth.

    It was tough, because I had to face my own stupidity, and face the fact that I had embraced the status of victim, because it was far easier than having to admit I was wrong, and having to grow up.

    In the end, marriage requires adults, not children. I was acting like a spoiled child; I had trapped myself within an image of youth and strength, and the one thing my wife wanted – for me to be emotionally vulnerable – was the thing I was not willing to give.

    Now that I’m dying, is it tool ate? Can a physical relationship…no, sorry, can marital sex be brought back to life even when pain and the other manifestations become an obstacle?

    The answer is a resounding NO. There is still sexual life to be had, even in the toughest times. And there is still that connection, which God made as a gift, to be enjoyed.



  7. #1 was a big one for me to learn, Beth. It took away my expectations off my husband to be something he was never created to be. He is my life partner, not my salvation or my savior, not a mind-reader or one that could ever meet the endless neediness of my soul.

    What a freeing change this brings to a relationship. The pressure is off …


  8. I think you really hit on the key to not being a victim here and that is responsibility. Break the word in two and you have response – ability. We have the ability to control our responses. Something bad might not have been caused by us but it is how we respond, what we do afterward and moving forward that sets the tone. Blaming is easy, we can get made and blame the computer for running slow but or the car because the battery was dead but there is something we could have all done to prevent these unfortunate things from happening we just didn’t take responsibility when we should have. I am responsible for my marriage, how I respond to my spouse and how I helped foster the environment. I grew up in a critical home environment where it was easy to be conditioned to play the victim. It takes some time and self-discipline but we can take responsibility and change our attitudes. The key to change I think and what has been successful for me is neutralizing negative thoughts with looking at positive outcomes. When we accept responsibility we can then be happy, healthy, successful and achieve everything we want.
    Thanks for the great article Beth.
    – Kirby


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