Let’s chat about relationships without drama. RELATIONSHIPS include all kinds of interaction, like an employer and employee, a family relationship between parents and children, between siblings, and the most obvious example is couples, who tend to want relationships without drama.
I’ll explain, in thirty seconds, what the pattern of drama is. We’re talking about bickering for a stupid reason, but out of nowhere, that person suddenly explodes. They lose control and throw everything in the other’s face. If there are unjust accusations being thrown about, it will snowball into a mountain of frustration, each person getting offended and maybe even detaching themselves from the relationship. Then what? Well, after that drama passes, there comes a sadness, an emptiness. It’s a time of apology, of grovelling, or of making promises that everything will change. This leads to a moment of stability, until there’s another accumulation of frustration and anger and people find a new reason to argue.
You see, I don’t need to be a wizard with a crystal ball to know that if you’re in a dramatic relationship, you’ll have identified the pattern that I just outlined. This is basic psychology, if we take a minute to stop and think, we discover the expected behaviours in a relationship, and the reactions to different triggers.
If you didn’t identify with the scenario I proposed, congratulations, your relationships are healthy. An adult relationship isn’t dramatic. Feel free to review this video if you need to learn the behavioural model that I’ll be sharing with you in this chat. If you can get your head around the theory of this video, you’ll be able to modify your behaviour in order to have relationships without drama. Let’s go!
Grab yourself a pen and paper, and draw a triangle like mine [VOICE OVER]. This is the Karpman drama triangle, and we’re going to put and R here for Rescuers, a P for Persecutor and the letter V for Victim here at the bottom.
“Seiiti, I don’t understand. Where do I fit into this story? Who am I, the Rescuer, the Persecutor or the Victim?”
Calm down! We’ll see how you’re actually none of these, because they’re just roles that are played within a relationship. This works for different types of relationships, for anyone regardless of gender. So, this is how the triangle works:
The person in the role of Rescuer masks themselves as a good person, a superhero who sacrifices themselves for others. It therefore makes sense that they get into a relationship with someone who identifies as a Victim, someone who’s delicate and always going through a rough time. They’re unable of taking care of their own life and need someone to rescue them. The Victim essentially hands over their power to the Rescuer.
At first, this dynamic works out well for them both: the Rescuer feels important, valued, useful to the relationship. The Victim also feels valuable, because now they’re getting enough attention, they have someone that cares, someone strong, someone who solves all of their problems problems.
Everything seems wonderful for a while, until the day that they start fighting. There are TWO types of argument. [to draw].
The first type of argument happens when the Rescuer gets sick of doing everything alone, and one (or both) of the following scenarios happens
1) The Rescuer begins to complain that they’re always putting up with all the negative aspects of the relationship, and that it isn’t fair. They fell like they’re taking on all of the responsibilities. They don’t get anything in return. The Rescuer doesn’t feel valued anymore, they become angry and then suddenly they change their role in the relationship, moving to the other side of the Karpman drama triangle: they now play the role of the Persecutor. This is a controlling type of person, that always accuses and judges the other. They usually criticise the little things, like household jobs, something that their partner says, or some other small little detail about the relationship. Here’s another scenario:
2) The Rescuer becomes stressed, begins to be a bit more withdrawn and no longer acts as sweetly or affectionately as they used to towards the Victim. They start to isolate themselves. They go out, spend their money on unnecessary things, start eating loads, start fighting, basically, they start doing a lot of things that are very out of the ordinary for them. They see these actions as a kind of deserved rematch. This sense of merit is very clear: the Rescuer thinks “I can handle each one, I more than deserve to relax now”.
In both scenarios, what’s happening to the Rescuer is a result of accumulated anger in which they don’t feel like the relationship is not fair. They feel like they put a lot more effort into the relationship than the Victim. They think that the Victim doesn’t recognise all the sacrifices they make. The Rescuers now find themselves in a bit of a vulnerable position because they know that they’re being aggressive, offensive, abusive, angry. This behaviour, however, doesn’t reflect the love that they have for the person they’re in a relationship with. The Rescuers begin to hate themselves and starts to play the role of the victim.
This is when the other person, who plays the Victim in the relationship, changes their role and moves to the top of the triangle, picking up the role of the Rescuer and saying something like “Gosh, I’m sorry, I had no idea that you felt that way. I love you, I’ll do everything to make you feel better.” The other person, because they’re now playing the role of the Victim, will also apologise, admitting their regret for not being affectionate while they were in the role of the Persecutor.
Once this episode of drama is over, they return to their initial positions on the triangle, which is the normal point for them. Remember how I said that there are two types of quarrels? Well, we’ve seen what happens when the Rescuer gets angry. Now, let’s look at what happens when the Victim gets angry.
The second type of argument. At some point, the Victim will get sick of being a Victim, treated like they’re incapable of taking care of their own life. They begin to feel stifled and as though they’re being treated like a child. They think they’re not taken seriously. At this time, they move places on the triangle and start to play the role of the Persecutor. They complain that they don’t have any independence, that they don’t have enough say over their own lives, that they don’t want to be controlled anymore.
When this happens, the Rescuer has to move down on the triangle to play the role of the Victim, saying something along the lines of “I just want to help because I love you!”
Are you following? Do you see what happens? Where there’s a Victim, there’s a Rescuer: when someone stops playing the role of the Persecutor, they move on the triangle and become a Rescuer and apologise. They make up and go back to their original positions on the triangle. Although the roles alternate, there are some roles that are more suited to each person depending on their personality, history, and other factors.
Can you see how a relationship that’s stuck in this triangle is fraught with problems? Regardless of whether someone plays the role of the Victim or or the Rescuer, they’ll need to have mind-reading powers to help. They have to know what to do even when the other person won’t talk to them.
The Rescuer feels overly responsible. They mix up the problems: your problem is their problem, and they’ll suffer too until they can help you to solve it. The Victim, in turn, feels as though they’re receiving a lack of empathy: instead of being understood, they only get criticised.
“But Seiiti, what shall I do?” How do I get out of this?
The solution is to leave the triangle and to stop playing roles. To do this, you’ll be playing the role of an Adult. Have a look at our picture: there’s two letter A’s, representing two equal adults.
In adult relationships, it’s very clear who has the problem. That’s why we’ve drawn a vertical line to divide them. If you have a problem, you have to decide what to do about it. In case you need help from the other person, you have to tell them specifically what you expect from their side. If you don’t tell them, they won’t know. They’re not mind readers.
If you don’t tell them, they won’t know. They’re not mind readers.
When we play the role of the Adult, we come to realise that each of these factors aren’t real, they’re just roles that we play. The Victim isn’t defenceless: they are able to come up with solution independently. The Persecutor isn’t an evil person: they’re only trying to help when they criticise someone. They’re just trying to push their view of the world onto someone else. The Rescuers aren’t necessarily good: they have their needs, their insecurities, it’s as if it’s the end of the world if they can’t exercise their kindness. These labels are just roles that represent someone’s main behavioural aspects, but there’s still a whole, complex person behind the mask. Understanding this gives us more options.
People who play the role of the Rescuer can let go of this role by not offering help to those who don’t ask for it, by keeping their nose out of other people’s business. They should also try to find ways to feel good without having to be a superhero that buys admiration with kind deeds. They need to adopt the mindset of saying, “go have fun!”, “Take care, you can take care of your life!”.
A similar tip goes for people that need to drop the role of the Persecutor: stop meddling in other people’s lives. Try to understand the whole picture. Don’t just focus on their failures or mistakes. Nobody’s perfect. Try to feel good without having to humiliate others, and without judging or labeling them.
In order to stop playing the role of the Victim, the person would have to think logically. “How can I take care of myself? What can I do for myself? How can I solve this myself? How do I face the fear of living without crutches, without depending on others?”
It’s easy to say all of this, but how are we going to put it into action? Of course, life isn’t always so simple and every case is different. If you’ve been in the triangle for a long time, it’s important that the other person also understands how the triangle works and that you both really want to move to an adult relationship.
If the other person doesn’t notice, and you start to stop playing one of the roles in the triangle, they’ll probably show some kind of resistance and try to pull you back into the triangle. It’s important to be on the same page.
Be wary! It’s in situations like these that an abusive relationship can develop. We’ve all seen it before. A Victim that wants to become more independent, but ends up being oppressed by the Rescuer, who becomes the Persecutor. What does the Persecutor say? You’re not capable of being independent, you’ll only get hurt, you have to lower your aspirations. In some cases, they might even beat their partner, invade their privacy by snooping on their phone, or screaming abuse at them and hurting them in every way, physically and mentally. Be careful.
On the other hand, if the Rescuer decides to leave the triangle, the Victim might threaten to commit suicide, become depressed, throw a lot of “how can you leave me” sob stories and use different kinds of emotional blackmail to trap the person inside the triangle. Watch out!
Life outside the triangle is that of adult relationships without drama, and I hope you can live a full life without having to play a specific role.
That’s all for today. I’m Seiiti Arata from Arata Academy and I produce online courses that help you to reflect and improve yourself. Please leave a suggestion in the comments of was the use of this relationship without drama model was to you. If you want to delve deeper into the topic we looked at today,you’ll need to develop good emotional intelligence and good communication skills – visit this link to continue this training.
What about the future? There are three possible types of outcome:
1) you might have tried to leave the triangle and be in an Adult relationship, but end up breaking and returning to the triangle
2) you might have left the triangle and have been able to remain in and Adult relationship, refusing to return to the triangle. If the other person in the relationship decides to remind in the triangle, they’re going to have to find someone else to replace and fulfill the role you once played
3) you might have stayed in the triangle and realised that you need to leave it and develop an Adult relationship. This is the most difficult outcome because it requires a mutual commitment to growth and learning new ways of expressing love
Visit this link to continue our training in assertiveness and emotional intelligence.