Codependency and Victim Triangle in Divorce Recovery

Codependency is a word that is frequently discussed, but today I want to talk about the codependency triangle (also known as ‘the victim triangle’). 

I recorded an Instagram Reel about this (you can follow me on Instagram here) and someone asked me: “Why do people talk about codependency as though it’s a bad thing? Aren’t we women supposed to be in a relationship? Aren’t we supposed to take good care of each other? Aren’t we supposed to live a life of service to other people?”

Let’s dig into that. 

What is Codependency?

Codependency is the act or belief of, “I need you to be okay for me to feel okay.”

It can manifest in many different ways. It can be people-pleasing in order to avoid feeling rejected or wanting to keep the peace at all costs. Sometimes it’s done through conflict, where people exhibit behaviors to maintain a sense of connection to someone else.

What is a Codependency or Victim Triangle

illustration of What is a Codependency or Victim Triangle

So what is the Codependency or Victim Triangle? The bottom point would be the Victim and on the top half of the triangle, we have the Rescuer and Persecutor.

The Victim feels less than and the Rescuer and Persecutor feel better than, which is a human behavior pattern that we all know.

The goal is to learn how to do it differently. When you’re in the triangle, you inevitably move around all three of the points. And when we are in a power struggle with somebody else, they are also in the triangle dancing around their three points. 

Codependent Rescuer

Let’s say you’re in this triangle in your life after divorce, and you’re coming from a place feeling less than. So you get this bright idea: “I will do something nice for somebody else so that I can feel better about myself.”

This is moving into the Rescuer position. Nothing is wrong with that, but if you do it a lot, you may feel burnt out or taken advantage of. You may feel as though you’ve lost track of your own needs.

As this happens, you shift into the Persecutor role.

Codependent Persecutor

Out of your resentment and exhaustion, you may become upset that this other person keeps letting you take care of them, and you feel they are not taking care of you.

As the Persecutor, you start to feel angry: “Why don’t you care about me? What is wrong with you? Why don’t you notice my needs?”

In this situation, you have shifted from Victim to Rescuer and then over to Persecutor.

woman with brown long hair, wearing a peachy v-shirt, holding her head with her hand, man sitting on the sofa and arguing. The Rescuer, Persecutor, and the Codependency Triangle

The Rescuer, Persecutor, and the Codependency Triangle

This situation becomes a power struggle. The energy will shift, and you will eventually fall back into the Victim mode. You will say, “I took that too far, I messed up, I hurt you.”

None of these three spots on the triangle come from a sense of grounded worthiness. No one in this triangle trusts their purpose or knows themselves deeply.   

How the Codependency Triangle Creates Self Judgment

We, women, don’t necessarily have to get hooked onto the Codependency or Victim Triangle to please somebody else. This pattern can also exist inside of ourselves.

This may be a tough read for some of you, but I want you to think about the times that you have felt you are not good enough (the Victim part of the triangle). You recognize this feeling, and then you have three glasses of wine and a scroll on Instagram to numb yourself and avoid doing the hard work in your post-divorce life. You avoid finding your true sense of worth and purpose.

When this happens, you feel disgusted with yourself, shift to Persecutor mode, and start beating yourself up that you’re not doing well.

You’re cruel to yourself with negative self-talk.

This reinforces your place as a Victim, and it becomes a vicious cycle. It’s also a shame-generating machine.

The Codependency Triangle Gets You Stuck in Your Post-Divorce Trauma Healing Process

We women all know how good it feels to blame other people for what you’re currently experiencing. Anytime we are casting out blame, we are stuck in our healing. Our vibration is low, we are not attracting abundance, and we are definitely not in gratitude.

Victim consciousness doesn’t allow us to reach our full potential.

woman with long blonde hair, staying in nature, welcoming the sun rise. Choosing Change in Your Life After Divorce

Choosing Change in Your Life After Divorce

In your life after divorce, you need to choose to change.

You say to yourself, “I’m owning my shit, I will get better, I will grow, I will become an unstoppable force of worthy power.”

There will be days when you feel that you can’t do that, but give yourself grace. We all have blind spots in our healing journey.

Social Media and Drama Triangle Posts

I always notice when this Codependency Triangle behavior is happening online. Just look at the comments and you can see the power struggle, the vitriol, and the hate. So many conversations get highly politicized or polarized because we are comfortable with drama and victimhood. We love drama because we get a certain chemical hit in our brain from being a part of it.

To remove yourself from these moments, imagine you’re in nature, and you feel grounded. Everything is clear, and all will be well. You will feel peace.

How to Overcome Codependency

To overcome codependency, you need to sit and recognize this pattern of Victim, Rescuer, and Persecutor. Ask yourself:

  • “How hard is it for me to feel good about myself?”
  • “How hard is it for me to not people please?”
  • “How hard is it for me to ask for what I need in relationships?”
  • “How hard is it for me to set appropriate boundaries, maintain these and regulate my nervous system while somebody else is clearly not happy with me?”

Codependency and Generational Trauma

The underpinnings of codependency are often a result of attachment wounds from generational trauma.

At some point in our early lives, we got the memo that we need other people in order to feel better about ourselves.

Many women have been raised in a patriarchal environment, which is also a people-pleasing, perfectionist environment. We’re told (either implicitly or explicitly), “You should look good, sound good and have a certain perfectionism.”

When we’re talking about moving out of the Codependency Triangle, we’re shifting into a grounded sense of worthiness that is pursuing worth over perfection.

So you’ve noticed this pattern, but now what?

woman sitting in the grass, pen in her hand and journaling. Tools for Overcoming Codependency in Your Life After Divorce

Tools for Overcoming Codependency in Your Life After Divorce

What do you do when you’re triggered and not feeling great about yourself?

The answer is to sit in nature, do some journaling, and use a tool. You need to tap into a deeper sense of spirituality and purpose so that you can reconnect with who you truly are at your core and not just your role (or habit) of feeling less than or better than.

If you really want to transform your relationship with yourself, your sense of worth, and your relationship with your ex, and you no longer want to feel as though you’re moving between Victim, Persecutor, and Rescuer.

You have to ‘catch’ those feelings and pause. Take a deep breath and regulate your nervous system. This will take you out of a fight, flight, or freeze reaction.

Fight, flight, or freeze occurs because a situation triggers you, and you’re afraid of rejection, abandonment, or feeling very alone. It’s the wounded parts of you coming to the surface. Pause and slow down to become grounded.

Use a tool such as EMDR tapping or a journal. Schedule a session with your therapist, take a yoga class, or go outside.

Sometimes we women really are in a risky situation, and our nervous system needs to know when we are genuinely in danger. In this scenario, fight, flight, or freeze is an appropriate response.

However, our brains are not always good at differentiating when we’re not in danger, and we have a post-divorce trauma response. It may be an incident that occurred a long time ago, but the brain is re-experiencing it as though it is happening right now.

In this divorce process, so many of the painful experiences that you had with your ex still feel like they are happening now. You’re hooked into a power struggle and hooked into these wounds. Your nervous system doesn’t realize it’s over.

When we women have been entrenched in this Codependency and Victim Triangle pattern, it’s harder to get out of it when we haven’t been catching ourselves.

Next time you’re feeling less than or better than (your biggest clue for where you are in the Codependency Triangle dance), take time to pause and regulate. Ask yourself, “What can I get grateful for in this moment?” or “What can I do to shift myself into a more grounded, powerful dynamic?”

Go grab your journal or leave yourself a note on your dashboard or in your purse, or on your mirror, “I am not perfect, but I am worthy.”

You’ve got this. I love you.

Divorce recovery coach Dawn Wiggins

...helps people crack open. Challenging the status quo, she integrates multiple modalities from EMDR to EFT tapping, journaling, homeopathy, and movement, embracing remedies that heal both the mind and body. Divorce recovery coach Dawn Wiggins is on a mission to deliver life-changing therapy in an accessible, scalable, affordable way and make waves in the world of mental health with the same enlightenment that happens in her office. Part science, part essential oils, pure magic.

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