I’m going to say two words in a second, and I’m predicting with about 95% confidence that nearly everyone reading this is immediately going to think of someone else. Ready? Here goes.
Here’s what I mean by that phrase:
That person whose life is always in some sort of full-tilt crisis–financial, emotional, spiritual, etc.
That person whose Facebook reads a lot like a wish list–“Can anyone help with X?”, “What I really need is Y”, “If you have a Z to spare, I could seriously use it right now”.
That person who has a spectacular list of Folks Who Done Done Me Wrong–their ex, their boss, their neighbor, life in general.
That person who has identified–sometimes repeatedly–the One Thing That Must Change So That I Can Be Happy/Fulfilled/Productive/Etc but which they are, for whatever reason, flatly refusing to change (if asked, they’ll say they can’t change it, and give you a long list of excuses. Er, reasons).
That person who is always waiting for someone else to come solve their life for them–via infusion of money, by divorcing them, by graduating and moving out, by perpetually validating them and bolstering their ego so they never have to learn their own coping skills, etc.
That person. You know the one.
Now that you’ve got that person (or people) fixed firmly in your mind, delete them. Erase the image. That person is out of play. Instead, reread the list above from the bottom to the top, and check all the boxes that could by any stretch of the imagination apply to you:
Are you the one who is just waiting for the day that your spouse finally quits loafing around and starts looking for a job for reals? Who knows for certain that if you could just sell the house and move to the country, everything would be ok? Who can, off the top of your head, think of the Top 10 People Whose Choices Drove You To This Chaotic Place?
Are you the victim in your own story?
‘Cause honey, if it’s you (and yes, I am looking pointedly at a few of you right now, and no, I won’t tell you who they are), then grab a helmet right quick because I am about to drop three brickloads of truth onto your head in rapid succession.
Here’s the thing: I get it that change is hard. I get it that in some cases, change really isn’t practical–for example, right now Moon Man and I are living in a house that neither of us is particularly enamored with (his ex-wife picked it out), but it’s old enough that it needs some pretty costly upgrades before we can sell it for enough money to break even on what’s left of the mortgage. Yes, we could theoretically do a short-sale, and we could theoretically just walk away from it and let the bank sort out why the payments stopped and the house is suddenly vacant, but it’s not quite so dire that we’re willing to take that step. We just, y’know, grumble about it sometimes.
But six months or so ago, we decided that we needed to make an active choice in the matter. We had spent a (really pretty embarrassing) amount of time playing the “We’re So Tormented” fugue on the world’s smallest violin, blaming his ex for picking this house and “forcing” him to buy it despite it being wildly overpriced, blaming the builders for using cheap materials in its construction, blaming the economy for “stranding” us here–but the bottom line was that there are not, in fact, any guard dogs patrolling the property and keeping us from leaving. We’re here because we choose to be, and if that’s a choice that really, truly makes us miserable, then we are the only people who can change that–so we either had to commit to leaving or commit to staying, and either way, we had to accept that the choice was completely, entirely, utterly ours to make.
So we stayed. We’re being aggressive about saving money so we can start making upgrades, and once it’s ready to sell and we line up another house, then we’ll make the big jump. But in the meantime, this house is ours, and we are here by choice, and we are taking ownership of that decision.
But it all had to start from the realization that we are not, in fact, trees. We can move. We can just get up and go.
Now, look, I’m not saying that there aren’t repercussions. Every choice has consequences, and you have to factor those in and decide whether you can live with them. You don’t exist in a vacuum, after all.
And you’re the only one who can make that judgement call. I can’t really even advise you, let alone decide for you whether declaring that from now on you get to spend one night per week doing something that is of interest only to you (a hobby, a sport, a night out with friends) is worth having your spouse grump around the house–but I can tell you that if you decide it’s not worth it, then you have to own that choice, and you do not get to blame your spouse for keeping you from your friends. You are keeping you from your friends, by choosing to prioritize your spouse’s desires over your own. I can’t tell you whether you really will be better off by leaving a relationship that looks toxic from way over here, but I can tell you that if you stay, you have to own that choice, and you do not get to blame your partner for “making you miserable”. I can’t tell you that keeping the job that is driving your blood pressure higher than your bank balance is better than the financial risk of leaving it and just hoping you find something else, but I can tell you that…ehh, you get the picture.
Here’s the bottom line: I’m pretty much over the professional victims in my universe. If you never have any money, then you need to have a come to Jesus meeting with yourself and sort out why that is–perhaps “I don’t currently have a job” is a good starting point (and do not come to me with “nobody will hire me”. What you really mean is “I do not want any of the jobs that will hire me, because I would rather complain about my finances and try to get other people to solve my life than take a job at the fast food restaurant down the street”). If your marriage is miserable and you dread going home, why do you keep doing it? Have you considered counseling? Don’t come to me with “we’re staying together for the kids’ sake”, either, because a Google search for “does it damage kids if parents stay in an unhappy marriage” brings back 2.2 million results and the entire first page is full of blurbs that say, in a nutshell, “yes, yes it does”.
If you are unhappy where you are, why don’t you change it? You are not a tree. And if you choose not to change it at this time, then own that choice. You cannot be the victim if you are in charge of your own narrative.
And trust me, honeychild, ain’t nobody impressed with a professional victim.
**Note: if you are in a situation that is unsafe, where you are not safe at home but have been threatened or “warned against” trying to leave, please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7223 (SAFE). If you are so overwhelmed by your current situation that you think the only way to change things is by ending everything, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). I love you hoodlums, and while change can be scary, it needs to be the sort of scary that turns out well for our heroes/heroines in the end, y’know?