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Have you heard of the drama triangle?

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LA44 posted 2/5/2014 19:26 PM

My H came home (very content) from IC today and asked me this question. Asked me if I read about it in the Co-Dependant book I am reading. I thought I knew what it meant. Turns out I didn’t.

There is a healer. Apparently the healer is someone who is always trying to do the right thing. Reaching out. And when the healer rightly or wrongly feels taken for granted or not acknowledged he begins to feel like a victim bc no matter what they do, they can’t get it right. That builds and builds to resentment and eventually, the victim becomes the perpetrator. He also said that his IC has seen him behave as a healer.

I beg you pardon?

I quickly and coldly said that I rarely saw him as a healer during our marriage. He fell silent and I was irate. I was mad at myself for talking so quickly. For getting angry so quickly – we had just sat down to eat and he was happy about his IC session. And I was mad at his IC for saying she thought he behaved as a healer.

For goodness sake! I felt like I was trying to be a healer from the moment we landed in this new place we called home almost a decade ago. I tried to no avail to help out his family who could not ever be comforted due to drugs, alcohol and FOO. I made dinners “just because”, hosted summer bbq’s, there was Thanksgiving, Christmas. I listened to story after story from his mom and sister and everything that was wrong in their lives. I eventually felt like a victim. Whether I was right in feeling this way, I did. I resented him big time for taking me to a new place, away from my family and friends and into his family who seemed to be taking, taking, taking. We had a toddler and a sick infant who never (ever) slept. Was I an effing bitch during the time he was having the A? Yes I was! I was angry, bitter and full of resentment. I felt like I tried so hard, was ignored and now I was angry.

You know. We saw this IC as a MC in 2010 and part of 2011 when he was having the A. He lied to both of us for one and-a-half fucking years! How can she possibly look back and see him behaving as a healer if that is in fact the time she is referring too. She even asked him point blank in 2011 if he was having an A and he said, No! No, he was not.

Right now I have more questions that I have answers for. Our dinner was interrupted by the kids who are still up. We need to talk later. And I will be calm. I need to be calm. I get too angry, too quickly now and I don't like it.

In the meantime, have any of you heard of the Drama Triangle?

[This message edited by LA44 at 7:27 PM, February 5th (Wednesday)]

rachelc posted 2/5/2014 19:37 PM

ah yes.... I am a member myself, taking various roles.

Victim - Persecutor - Rescuer. You will recognize many of us - especially the co-dependent ones - in the triangle.

LA44 posted 2/5/2014 19:41 PM

I know. I get it. I have been all of them too rachelc.

I am just a bit galled by the notion that she saw him behaving as a healer. When? When he was having an A while we were seeing her for MC?

He did say, "she wasn't pointing fingers. She was not saying you were the perp. Or the victim, etc." But she did say he was the healer.

Rebreather posted 2/5/2014 20:09 PM

Take a breath. Then listen. Let him say everything he needs to say before you respond. A do respond, don't react. If I had a dollar for every time I didn't do

I am familiar with the triangle. Sisoon I think is the master on the subject.

blakesteele posted 2/5/2014 20:19 PM

Curious occurrence LA44.

Never heard of the "healer". I have studied in depth co-dependency though.

Dont recall "healer" as an option.

Perhaps the IC was saying he "wanted to be the healer"? Not that he WAS the healer?

Victim or people falsely believe these are the only two options to them. My older brother decided to be the perp upon marital stress....they D. I see him doing perp-like actions towards his own 10 year old daughter. I see him abandoning her before she can abandon him.....lack of hugs, some of his statements, etc.. It is a source of saddness for me....but I have a good relationship with my older brother and we do talk about it. 'Course, it is up to him to change....and he still has unprocessed pain from his D (and probably his childhood too...FOO issues are non-selective). This is one of the big reasons my older brother, best man in my wedding, is NOT my go-to guy as I move through this trial. I love him deeply, but just not the man for this job.

I mention this because part of my journey is to process through this level of coping (the level where I only think there are two options....victim or perp) to a mature level where neither the victim or perp are present in me.

Maybe "healer" is a similar "level of awareness"?

Did she say it was "healthy" or "constructive"?

Very curious occurrence. Seems like I have read and studied lots of angles to marital relationships....never came across the "healer". Closest thing was the "rescuer" or "KISA"....but think she would have used those if "healer" was the same thing.

He lied to both of us for one and-a-half fucking years!

whoa......thats a lot to endure.

God be with us all.

[This message edited by blakesteele at 8:22 PM, February 5th (Wednesday)]

rachelc posted 2/5/2014 20:26 PM

LA- I've read Karpmans book, never heard of healer either...
Sisoon hopefully will weigh in...

DixieD posted 2/5/2014 20:38 PM

Yes, I think it was Sisoon who brought it to my attention. It's fascinating reading.

I can move through all the points on the triangle victim/persecutor/rescuer, sometimes within the same conflict inducing conversation.

LA44 posted 2/5/2014 20:59 PM

Ok, sorry. I made a mistake. It was not healer, it was "rescuer". She saw him as being the Rescuer pre-A (when he was staying home past 9am to help with our baby and then going to work and trying to provide as the sole breadwinner.

@ Rebreather. He talked. And talked. I listened Rb! And when I found myself wanting to react, I stopped. I even bit my lip! And then I responded. I really really have to watch this in the future- my tendency to react.

I see now what this Drama Triangle is having listened to him and read just a bit. I want to know more! And NONE of these roles are good. None of them are healthy. And we (me and H) have played each role at various times in our relationship....sometimes in one night! I even recognized some family members to a T in the descriptions.

What he really wanted to drive home with me tonight tho was that he is in IC and really trying to figure out how he could have made such a disgraceful (two year) decision. He said he wants to cover all the angles bc he really wants to know. Leave no stone unturned.

And Sisoon.....if you come upon this and want to weigh in, please do bc I find it all very interesting.

Thanks you guys. I was just thinking today....I wish there was an SI conference I could meet these people and tell them face to face how much they have come to mean to me.


LA44 posted 2/5/2014 21:11 PM

Oh. I do have to add this.

I gave an example of me hosting every bloody thing under the sun since moving here. I realized pre D-Day (about 1.5 years ago) that I was feeling victimized by all the hosting. I then had to ask myself why I continued to do it if there was no balance. No reciprocation. If no one else was going to step in, it didn't mean that I had to keep hosting. It just meant there wasn't going to be a family get together. And that's okay. But it felt really, really weird at first - I felt guilty and I DID sense a push back from the family. But I held my ground.

Now. If I want to host, I will host. Not out of obligation but bc I really want too (I haven't hosted since Thanksgiving).

Just need to keep reading about this and apply it to my M.

karmahappens posted 2/5/2014 21:49 PM


Well, I agree with rebreather in the listening part.

Sit, listen and weigh. Sometimes after listening you need to come back because there is so much to think through.

Can I suggest that how your husband paints himself vs how you paint yourself during the troubled times in your marriage are your own interpretations?

How often do you hear someone recounting a story to only think to yourself "Are you kidding? " "That is NOT how it happened"

We all have our own blinders on. Our own beliefs in what has happened during events and times during our lives.

Your memories are different than his.

Doesn't mean either of you are "wrong" IMO (aside from the obvious mistreatments, the A stuff etc. I mean just plain life stuff kwim?)

My husband and I see our marriage differently pre A, have different memories and perceptions. I find it interesting and it made me realize how little we connected back then. How different our worlds were.

Him believing he was the rescuer could be in part the moving you to a new place, being the bread-winner and the "man" of the house?

Your idea as the rescuer was in rescuing his family.

Two different worlds, revolving around each other rather than in unison.

Just MO,


UKlady posted 2/6/2014 01:06 AM

My WH brought home information about the drama triangle when he was seeing his IC but it was used specifically to illustrate his relationship with AP. My H has definitely always been a kisa and definitely a rescuer. His AP, who is somewhat deranged, (not name calling - only truth) was the one who slid between victim and persecutor. My H didn't have a hope in hell where she was concerned as she fitted perfectly into these roles and he was caught in a trap. Hell, she even said to him at one point, I knew I would 'get you'

I've also read a lot on co-dependency while I was with my former husband (an alcoholic and compulsive gambler) and could see how I fitted that role in that situation. However, in talking to my IC (started as our MC), she says that she is not comfortable with the term 'co-dependent' as she thinks it makes that labelled person a victim and almost blameworthy. Not sure how I feel about that but then co-dependency hasn't been an issue in my relationship with my H.

sisoon posted 2/6/2014 09:54 AM

Yikes! Karpman came up with 'Victim', 'Persecutor', and 'Rescuer'. I was introduced to the concept about 40 years ago. IIRC, he developed his concept after learning about some research into alcoholism.

I believe some 12-step folks refer to Perpetrator rather than Persecutor. I wouldn't quibble with that change.

Perhaps your H misheard what his IC said, or perhaps his filter caused the change. I certain quibble with 'Healer'.

The Rescuer only appears to be a helper. Actually, the Rescuer is more interested in appearing to help than in actually helping. The Rescuer's main goal is to move the Game forward so he can get his payoff - an opportunity to feel good because: 1) he 'helped', or 2) he was persecuted, or 3) he felt justified in persecuting someone.

I'm not an expert. I just read this stuff and remembered it. It's really easy to understand at a high level.

I just wish it was easy to recognize when you're in the DT and easy to get out of it!

Thanks for this thread - it hit me when I was deeply in the Victim role and about to switch to Persecutor. Having written about it, I'm out of the DT, at least on the issue before me right now.

ETA: I started this reply before 8:59, got distracted, came back after LA heard the term was 'rescuer', not 'healer'.

Karpman writes about this immensely better than I can, and I think anyone can understand him, and the link to his original article is in a post below this.

[This message edited by sisoon at 1:19 PM, February 6th (Thursday)]

NikkiD posted 2/6/2014 09:56 AM

Ok. Let me use "hood-slang" terms for the word Healer when it comes to the WS:AP dynamic:

We call them "Captain Save-a-hoe"

Now, do you see how a wayward could be a healer?

[This message edited by NikkiD at 9:59 AM, February 6th (Thursday)]

sisoon posted 2/6/2014 10:48 AM

Link to original DT article:

Another term for Rescuer used often on SI is 'KISA' - Knight In Shining Armor.

Personally, I could possibly accept 'healer' with the quotes, and I can see healer gaining currency as irony, but I'd be sorry to see that happen, because irony is hard to communicate in a web forum.

Of course, 'Captain Save-a-hoe' communicates irony and contempt beautifully....

[This message edited by sisoon at 10:49 AM, February 6th (Thursday)]

cl131716 posted 2/6/2014 10:52 AM

Niki is right. He was the healer or "rescuer" perhaps for his AP. Was your WS by chance a KISA? I looked into this recently and I definitely recognize it in my relationship. The way I understand it is you have a primary role but can cycle through all three. The cycles can be quick too, you could cycle between all three in one conversation.

Giving someone advice for a problem. (Rescuer)
Feeling let down or annoyed when advice is ignored. (Victim)
Lashing out at person for not following advice. (Persecutor)

cl131716 posted 2/6/2014 10:54 AM

@ "Captain Save-a-hoe"

momentintime posted 2/6/2014 11:35 AM

This is his take from IC. Doesn't mean he heard or understood her her correctly.

Rebreather posted 2/6/2014 11:37 AM

LA, girlfriend. That example you gave of all that stuff you did for his family? = Me. Same. (as usual, lol)

LA44 posted 2/6/2014 21:05 PM

Hey guys, just to reiterate. I heard wrong - it was Rescuer vs Healer. Thanks Sisoon et all for the further input. I see me, my sister, his sister, him! And yes, it makes sense that he was a KISA for her!

Karma, yes. Thank you for suggesting this. These things are finally starting to gel w me. As people before said, the first year is spent in shock, anger, just making our way. Y2 is when the work begins and the info/knowledge has a better chance of getting thru the trauma brain. I am starting to really connect w this info only now even though I have heard it before. Cool!

Funny but we spoke this morn and came to the conclusion that just prior to the A we both saw ourselves as "victims". Not good!

I am so excited by all this info! That seems odd to say but I am determined to grow from the awful-ness that occurred

blakesteele posted 2/7/2014 05:06 AM

Karma....well written post . Wife and I are surprised how we remember the same occurrences so differently. Shocking! However, I have seen some of those times align more closely as we learn about ourselves and share more.

LA and Sisoon...I see how my KISA interacted with the events of my life....your posts reminded me of this "discovery ".

One of the earliest confessions my wife made to me about her fAP was how he was a "broken man with faults" and she found that attractive. I guess KISA or rescuer is NOT limited to just one spouse in a M? The roles can and do oscillate? I realize it is NOT healthy if the motives are not sincere or honest....if the motives are pure, meaning you genuinely WANT to be a real part of the experience for self- less reasons (rather than self-ish reasons) you allow true mature intimacy to grow??????

Still seeking when reaching out to your spouse is healthy. I am learning to check my motivations regularly.

Interesting post.......

God be with us all.

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