You may have come across the Drama Triangle if you’ve had Couples Therapy. It’s a way of explaining the games we play in our relationships. The three roles are explained below:

  • Victim
  • Rescuer
  • Persecutor


You may recognise yourself in one of these roles, or maybe someone else in your family.

Victims often feel that the world is against them and that no matter what they do, things will never improve. They see the world in black and white and through a negative lens.  A good way of recognising someone in this role, is the “Yes, but” response. Other examples of victim behaviour are staying in an abusive relationship and putting up with a controlling partner, staying in a job which you hate, with a line manager who is a bully.

Rescuers feel the need to make things better for others and are often convinced they are doing it for the best possible reason. They will take on too much responsibility, as well as doing things they do not want to do. They see themselves as selfless and ignore their own needs. They take over the thinking for someone else, discounting the Victim’s ability to think for themselves and ask for support if needed. An example might be continuing to give an adult son money for food, rent etc when he has a drug habit which has taken over his life.

Persecutors feel the need to punish and others will suffer from their behaviour. Punishment can take different forms, i.e active, retaliatory and/or passive. An example of active persecution is an abusive/narcissistic partner who only takes their needs into account to the detriment of your health and happiness. A retaliatory persecutor revels in taking revenge for a perceived slight or injustice. An example being if their partner gets home late from work through no fault of their own, the persecutor will deliberately stay out late the next night, without telling anyone where they are. They can only feel ok by getting their own back.  Passive persecutors don’t necessarily mean to cause hurt to others, but their behaviour discounts others needs to a point which may result in unnecessary worry and anxiety. An example might be a promise to check on an elderly relative, which is then forgotten and results in upset and hurt.

We can switch roles in this game, depending on the situation that we are in at the time. Rescuers may tire of not getting their own needs met and switch to persecution. Victims may get tired of feeling out of control and start to persecute the Rescuer. Persecutors can start to feel guilty about their behaviour and and move into the role of rescuer. However the roles may change, the situation never improves and everyone ends up feeling bad.

The Winners Triangle

This is where the Winners Triangle comes in. This allows us to take on a positive role in our relationships. So, instead of Victim, Rescuer, Persecutor, we have:

  • Vulnerable
  • Caring
  • Assertive

Look out for Part 2 for a more detailed look at the Winners Triangle and how it could work for you.

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