How do you know if you’re the scapegoat in a relationship?


A healthy relationship is built on mutual respect and recognition of the other person’s worth. If this is not the case, the environment in a couple or family becomes toxic. Often a situation arises in which one of the partners (family members) takes on the role of the scapegoat. This role can drag on for him all his life, moving from one relationship to another. Why is this happening?

What does it mean to be the “scapegoat”?

Most often, the model of victim (sacrificial) behavior is laid in the family. A child in a problem family plays the role of a lightning rod: the aggression of one or several parents or other relatives is poured out on him, the idea is imposed on him that he is to blame for all the troubles, that he is the main misfortune and shame in the family.

“Having a ‘problem child’ has a function of helping spouses get away from their own problems,” explains psychologist Shari Stines. “For parents, such a“ translation of arrows ”is also a reason to unite, to support the illusion of harmony. An overprotective mother or grandmother can thus fulfill her need for control. “

Its signs

He accepts all the accusations against him and the labels that the abuser puts on him (“I am nothing,” “I interfere with everyone,” “I constantly get underfoot,” “if it were not for me, everyone would have an easier life”).

He serves as a punching bag to take out someone else’s anger, behaves passively, does not show initiative and does not try to defend his opinion.

He has an unstable self-esteem, he often has to doubt his worth. He is afraid of loneliness and rejection.

People who make others scapegoats also have similarities. They are characterized by a sense of self-superiority, an inflated ego and a sense of self-worth, a limited capacity for self-reflection, complacency, and bigotry. This list is far from exhaustive.

What if you recognize yourself?

As with other problems, the first step to liberation is awareness. If you find these signs in yourself, be honest with yourself, no matter how difficult it may be for you. Determine what keeps you in this role. Perhaps you are afraid of being alone. Or not used to thinking or deciding on their own. Or it is difficult for you to part with the abuser because you are financially dependent on him.

In any case, the situation indicates deeper personality problems. Unwind the ball, find them – and you will feel better. Remember, shedding the skin of a scapegoat is impossible as long as you shy away from responsibility and show immaturity in the relationship.

Here are some specific steps you can take to release your onerous role:

  • Consciously and consistently eliminate sacrificial behavior in relationships. Don’t let others blame you, treat you arrogantly, devalue you.
  • Take life into your own hands. In what areas do you continue to rely on your tormentor? Concentrate your energies on achieving independence.
  • Behave with dignity, be honest.
  • Don’t take responsibility for other people’s actions, moods, and feelings.
  • Love yourself, be condescending to your weaknesses – who doesn’t have them?
  • Learn to define your own worth, rather than turn to others for evaluation.
  • Avoid people who don’t respect you.
  • Ignore negative “noise” (insults, mockery, doubts) that sounds in the background in your head or comes from others.
  • Avoid bilious, stinging people.
  • Do not tell strangers the details of your personal life, save frank confessions for friends.
  • In general – think positively, look for the good side in everything.

Most importantly, learn to build a relationship with yourself. Make an effort to make your thoughts, feelings and sensations weight and become valuable to yourself. There will always be the possibility that someone will try to provoke or exploit you. Your weapons against such people are self-respect and resilience.

About the expert: Shari Stines is a psychologist specializing in personality disorders, trauma recovery and addiction management.

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