The Games Couples Play

If only the issues that come between people who are in a close relationship were matters of black and white. It would be wonderful if problems were simple, and the person at fault would accept it and change as soon as the problem and the reason are pointed out. But that is certainly too much to hope for in the vast majority of cases. Instead, we have something that psychologists and counsellors call the drama triangle, also known as the  Karpman triangle. This  represents the relationship between two people.  According to the theory, people in a troubled relationship play the role of prosecutor or victim, and one will also be the rescuer.

When the exchanges of claim, counter-claim, accusation and denial have gone on long enough for both parties to be tired, and for there to be risk of serious breakdown in the relationship, one of the pair becomes the rescuer and – as you might imagine – restores peace and a rational conversation. He or she might say,  “I can do that for you, I can help you out or everything will be fine”. That person will be strong and kind.

This restores a relationship in which both parties are happy. The rescuer feels needed, important and in charge. The victim has someone to take care of him or her.  This process works most of the time, but every now and again, something may  occur in which either victim or prosector become overwhelmingly angry or frustrated by the situation – or, as we might say, the emotional store cupboard is full. Then this very dramatic game changes and roles are reversed. But more about that next time.

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