Identifying Dysfunctional Relationship Patterns

“When relationships are dysfunctional, there are three basic roles people play: persecutor, rescuer, and victim,” Marlen Chism. The lists that follow are adapted from, Stop Workplace Drama.


  1. Constantly complain.
  2. Resist solutions.
  3. Lack boundaries.
  4. Feel they’ve been done wrong. (sometimes you have)
  5. Fear conflict. Won’t speak up.
  6. Borrow money.
  7. Rely on parents, even in adulthood.
  8. Blame, negativity, and excuse making.
  9. Say, “I didn’t have a choice.”


  1. Need to win every argument.
  2. Feel right most of the time, they can prove it.
  3. Believe others don’t see their own faults.
  4. Are blunt even if feelings are hurt.
  5. Seem unapproachable.
  6. Make fun of others.
  7. Are disrespectful and sarcastic.
  8. Hit below the belt.
  9. Have consistently angry outbursts.
  10. Roll their eyes and use other forms of discounting.
Yesterday’s post describes rescuers: Three Ways to Escape the Rescuer Trap.

Stop Workplace Drama on Amazon

I read the lists of things rescuers, victims, and persecutors do to my wife. In my typical style, I told her what she was and in her style, she asked me what I thought I was. She’s a rescuer and I’m a persecutor. Our combination explains the reason our children survived their childhood.

In reality, we all play all three rolls with one being dominant. Push a victim too far and anger fuels their courage, they become persecutors, same goes for rescuers.


The first step of growth is seeing the dysfunctional roles we play. Your view of your role – victim, rescuer, or persecutor – determines your view of the world, your future, and your relationships.

“The only way to get off the Triangle is by accepting responsibility and adopting the mind-set of becoming a creator,” Chism.

After leaders see themselves in new ways, what can they do to break out of the dysfunctional patterns they’ve adopted?


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