Should I Apologize to Someone with a Victim Mentality?

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.

Be Well!

Beloved reader, how do you respond when you are prompted to apologize to someone who tends to have a victim mentality?

15 Comments

  1. Caroline Abbott on April 13, 2023 at 9:34 am

    What a great post, thank you Susan. My ex demanded I apologize for “lying” when I told our pastors about the abuse I was experiencing. Because I didn’t lie, and I had given him many chances before I went to the pastors, I could not make this apology. He never forgave me for it, and it was the end of our “marriage.” I put marriage in quotes because it was no marriage at all, I was his slave. Talk about a destructive marriage! Leaving was painful for us all, but one of the best choices I ever made. My life with my second husband is joyful, equal and immensely loving and happy. I am so thankful. Here is my story. https://carolineabbott.com/2012/10/my-story-of-abuse/

    • Susan K on April 16, 2023 at 1:29 pm

      Thank you for your support and for sharing your story Caroline!

  2. Holly McMillan on April 13, 2023 at 10:12 am

    I am married to a man who fits the 2nd definition of victim mentality. I have a sensitive conscious and am often quick to see where I’ve acted or reacted in a sinful way. Susan’s response to this question is excellent. My husband used my sensitive conscious and willingness to sincerely apologize as a way of “proving” what a sinful person I am. After many years of believing him and going to more than one counselor to try and “fix” myself, the Lord helped me see through those counselors that while I certainly am a sinful person (all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God), my husbands weaponizing of my repentance was not healthy and it wasn’t how God responds to my sincere heart. God is gracious and never uses my conscious to control or manipulate me to get what He wants. My apology is meant to bring peace to my heart and reconciliation between me and whoever I have offended.

    Once I saw how wrong my husband’s responses to my apologies were, I was able to speak honestly to him when I had not done anything wrong, and when I had, I learned I needed to apologize to God for my own conscious sake and work with Him on changing, but I did not apologize to my husband anymore because it was used in such a destructive way. Positionally, my heart was healthy and I had peace, but visually to my husband it looked like I was stubborn and now refusing to own “my part”. Because he could no longer guilt me and control me in that way, it made him more desperate to find other ways to control me. I continued to choose to live in truth and that was not acceptable to my husband so he filed for divorce. Choosing to live honestly doesn’t always result in a better marriage, especially if it’s a truly destructive marriage, but it does always allow you to have peace within yourself and sanity when the relationship is not sane. It’s hard to walk through divorce and have to go back to school and provide for myself at 50, but it’s so worth knowing that I am okay mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. It’s worth the internal peace, knowing I’m living authentically.

    • Susan K on April 16, 2023 at 1:32 pm

      Thanks for sharing some of your growth journey, Holly. I love your statement, “Choosing to live honestly doesn’t always result in a better marriage, especially if it’s a truly destructive marriage, but it does always allow you to have peace within yourself and sanity when the relationship is not sane.” I hope that will encourage others as well.

    • Dawn on May 4, 2023 at 5:08 pm

      Thank you for your testimony Holly. You have verbalized many of the mental gymnastics I went through in my marriage.

  3. Connie on April 13, 2023 at 11:30 am

    Caroline, was your ex doing porn? My h took me to a Christian marriage retreat. I thought it was cool until I found out that he had arranged for his girlfriend to be there with her husband. He has always been bitterly disappointed that she didn’t leave him and marry him. I’ve often wondered if he would have been happy with her. Just last week I believe the Lord showed me that he would have hated her too, because porn addicts live in total fantasy. They are in a relationship with themselves and nobody can mirror him. He has to be in total control and get the desired response, which can’t happen with a real person. Exoduscry has a few new documentaries about it. They are very disturbing. This also showed me that I am not dealing with a real person. Reasoning with him is pointless. If we don’t deal with this addiction first and totally, we are wasting our time and efforts. I’m starting to wonder if God has given them over to a reprobate mind. The church treats them like a lost sheep when they are actually wolves. Huge difference.

  4. Caroline Abbott on April 13, 2023 at 12:40 pm

    Hi Connie, I looked for any evidence of porn, but never found any. I believe he was just your garden variety narcissistic abuser. He liked to use the Bible to keep me in my place, and for a long time that worked, until it didn’t. : )

    • Dianna L Lucas on April 13, 2023 at 3:28 pm

      I am married to a narcissistic abuser right now. He will use the Bible against me and say I do not listen or not submitting to him. We just had a fall out last night about not asking permission to do something with a friend while he is at work. I do believe you need to ask permission sometimes but not all the time. He is not doing porn. I can understand how you felt. It is all about control.
      God says to watch, listen and move – this can be anything. He will direct our path.
      I stand on the Word of God to keep me going and he will have to face God one day and answer to him. These studies keep me going through the hard times.

  5. Kim Thiehoff on April 13, 2023 at 2:46 pm

    Great stories/info, ladies. My now-deceased husband used to think it amusing to tell me, “I have papers on you” and bellow out, “wo-man” when he wanted me to do something for him. At first, I did chuckle and find humor in it, then it got old, then, after several years, with all the sincerity I had in my heart, I asked him to please not use these words toward me anymore. He laughed, telling me I was too sensitive and that I needed to lighten up and learn how to take a joke. I was totally demoralized and deflated. His response told me so much about how he truly felt about me. Soon after, he also asked me to accept him the way he was, so I did. I began to treat him as the roommate that he had apparently wanted to be to me, rather than the husband I thought I had married. The church reinforced my misunderstood belief that unless your spouse has committed adultery against you, there is no Biblical reason for divorce. I lost myself and nearly literally lost my life, due to the stress and pressure in my relationship. My body had been trying to tell me for years. I finally felt God tell me that the life I was living was not the life He died to give me. I knew that if I didn’t leave soon, I would end up dying. I left in November, 2014. In November, 2020, after years of God healing my body and my heart, and after God having allowed us to be friendly enough with each other to eat lunch once a week with our adult son, my husband passed away. I was amazed at the grief I felt. I am still processing all of this. I found Leslie about a month or so ago, and am so grateful for her wisdom and the clarity she brings to this entire subject I’ve learned so very much and desire to learn as much as I can, to help others in similar situations as I found myself in. Thank each of you for all you are doing!

  6. Connie on April 14, 2023 at 11:37 pm

    I have to chuckle when women insist that their abusive ex was never into porn. First, they are incredibly sneaky. I have been married to my current h for 18 years and only know because he said so. I have never been able to find a trace of it. My first h of 22 years had no computer or cell phone, but he still had a pornified brain. Come to find out he masturbated about 4 times a day. If you are being objectified, especially in the bedroom, how do you think his thoughts run? Why do you think they hate it when you ask or need something of him? You are interrupting his fantasies! If you read Don Hennessy ‘s books, he figured out that abuse is really all about sex. They marry to have someone to rape. I know we don’t want it to be ‘that bad’, but maybe that’s why we aren’t getting anywhere with this issue very fast. We need to address it at the root.

  7. Violet on April 17, 2023 at 10:42 am

    Coach Susan, I found your response very helpful! Could you expand on the statement about the balance between keeping personal integrity and keeping emotional safety? Thank you!

    • Susan K on April 17, 2023 at 5:54 pm

      Violet,
      If you have a high value for personal responsibility and honesty, it will be important to give a good apology in order to maintain alignment with your values. However, the destructive person in your life may use your admission of fault against you to further abuse you. Therefore you may have to decide which is more important, integrity or emotional safety. You may be able to balance those by offering limited information or maintaining tight boundaries so that the verbal abuse does not penetrate your soul. Apologize with care and discretion.

      • Violet on April 20, 2023 at 10:12 am

        Thank you for clarifying! I was overthinking it😊

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