Hello Friends! It's Coach Susan taking the opportunity to write the blog for Leslie Vernick and & Co. this week. Here in Michigan, I am finally coming out of what feels like a long winter. The dreary rain and rumbling storms are announcing that spring is here. I have been giving myself pep talks this week. Do you also find that some days just seem more challenging than others? Life can seem heavy and hard to manage at times even when nothing major is going wrong. When the demands of life become too much for the resources I have, it is time to get support and locate more resources. I am committed to being a responsible adult even when it is taxing. Taking personal responsibility means I will choose to learn from my experiences and I will do my best to manage myself with honesty and integrity. I so appreciate being part of the LV&Co community; it brings a brightness to my life! I hope you experience that as well.
Today’s Question: Should a wife apologize to a husband who is in a victim mentality? I don't want to fuel that mentality… Also, should a wife apologize if the husband is demanding an apology? He brings it up daily that I need to apologize for my “part.” It feels like manipulation and control to me but I could be wrong.
Coach Susan’s Response: I appreciate your willingness to reflect on yourself and to ask this question. I can’t advise you whether or not you need to apologize, but I can give you some things to think about. It can be challenging to interact with someone who consistently sees themselves as a victim. This is a fairly common question for those who are in destructive relationships. However, some of the readers may be asking, what is victim mentality?
The victim mentality rests on three key beliefs. 1. Bad things happen and will keep happening. 2. Other people or circumstances are to blame. 3. Any efforts to create change will fail, so there’s no point in trying. Those with this thought pattern might refuse to take responsibility for their mistakes and blame everyone else when things go wrong. Often people living with this mindset have faced difficult or painful life events. Additionally, the victim mentality can be a tactic of a destructive person. By taking a victim stance, a destructive person will erase their need for personal responsibility in their own mind and attempt to manage that expectation in others.
Self-reflection is a skill practiced by healthy people. Owning your part is important for your own well-being. Be honest with yourself and your faults without trying to manage his moods. You are not responsible for making your husband happy. If you have not done anything wrong, try to let empathy guide your response without apologizing or owning his feelings. That might sound something like, “I realize you would like something different from me than you’re getting. Disappointment can be hard.”
You mentioned that your husband is demanding that you apologize for your part. I would question, is an apology that is given based on a demand a good apology? A meaningful apology must meet several criteria. It should come from a place of humble sincerity, not coercion. It will include words of regret and remorse. A good apology takes into consideration the impact the behavior had on others more so than focusing on intent. The main ingredient in a good apology is changed behavior. Stating clearly what would have been a better choice, as well as a plan for different choices going forward, can set the stage for repaired relationship. I believe these are the precursors needed before asking for forgiveness.
Let me mention again; the most important part of a good apology is changed behavior. If you have no intention of changing your behavior, maybe an apology is not what is needed. Perhaps clarifying expectations would be more productive. You will not meet your husband’s expectations all of the time. He may be looking to you to be his fantasy wife, but that is not possible for any healthy and authentic woman.
You may be hesitant to apologize if you are concerned it will be used against you. If you are in a relationship with a destructive person, they may use your apology as ammunition against you. In offering a good apology, you may hope to repair the relationship. However, it may only cause a destructive person to delight in your wrongdoing and use your admission of guilt as an excuse to retaliate. There may be a balancing act between keeping your integrity and keeping yourself emotionally safe by using good boundaries.
It can be tempting to withhold an apology out of resistance to being controlled. If you are in the wrong, be honest with yourself about it. If you aren’t, don’t give in to manipulation just to keep a false sense of peace. If you take responsibility for things that are not yours to own, the other person's lack of responsibility will be validated. In part, this is what fuels victim mentality.
Victim mentality is not a trait of a healthy person, but we can all struggle with it at times. The misassignment of responsibility is harmful to all involved. Apologize with care and discretion.
Beloved reader, how do you respond when you are prompted to apologize to someone who tends to have a victim mentality?
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