Who are you in your relationship? (The Drama Triangle)


Hi, and welcome to this post, in which I’ll be touching on the topic relationships and who we are in our relationship.

I will be talking about how we view ourselves, our partner, and how we act in our relationship.

The way we act will ensure a better or worse experience, but it is not set in stone. We have the power to take control of what we do, what we say, and how we say it.

2Being aware of our behaviour patterns – both conscious and unconscious, will help us regroup and reframe our actions and our reactions to what our partner does or says.

In order to  guide you through this, I want to discuss the Drama Triangle (by Steven Karpman).

Of course, there are other ways to define what we do and say in our relationships, which is why I will be writing more posts on this topic, for example using Transactional Analysis, Genograms, Timelines and Psychodynamic theory (and others) to explain what might be happening in our relationships. The underlying theme will be that of communication – conscious or unconscious.

Karpman’s Drama Triangle categorises people into three behavioural realms:

  • Rescuer
  • Persecutor
  • Victim


Each one of these has specific attitudes, behaviours, thoughts and reactions to the world and people around them.


Whether you feel identified with either of these as you read, don’t fret. These are not permanent. I will give you some ideas on how to move out of the drama triangle into a healthier pattern of behaviours and communication.


Let’s define each of these modes of being:

The Rescuer

A person that positions themselves as the rescuer are usually wanting to save someone else. This other is someone that is perceived as vulnerable, and will help out even when the help hasn’t been requested.

The rescuer will look after everyone else first and neglect themselves. If they are not actively taking on the roles and doing things to remedy someone else’s problem or worry, they feel guilty and even anious.

4The rescuer depends on the “victim” to feel connected to them, which also allows them to feel good about themselves.

Some identifying phrases:

“you need me to help you”

“you’re not ok, but I’ll fix you”



The Persecutor

Or the bully.

They are unaware of how powerful they can be, and they will use this in a destructive manner towards the victim or the rescuer.

5The persecutor can be very critical and make a habit of putting other people down; they are quick to blame and point fingers; they thrive on keeping their victim down and are driven by anger and resentment. They are also unable to open their mind to alternative ideas, can be bossy and dominating.

Some identifying phrases:

“this is your fault”

“you’re not ok but I am, so do what I say”

The Victim

The victim is vulnerable and unable take responsibility for the position they’ve taken in life. They are often overwhelmed by this, but they will refuse to get professional help or look after themselves.


Part of the vulnerability of the victim is feeling oppressed, hopeless, powerless, incapable, misunderstood and a sense of shame.

The victim will seek a rescuer to confirm their need for help.

Some identifying phrases:

“poor me”

“i’m not ok, everyone else is ok”

Did you identify yourself with either of these?

In relationships, we can move from one to the other, depending on the situation and how we are feeling. It also depends on the dynamics of our relationship.

These positions are neither effective nor functional. Nobody gets what they need or want. Not really. Reality is skewed.


Can you pin-point more clearly who you are or have been at different points in your relationships?


Are you thinking of improving your relationship by moving out of the victim, rescuer or persecutor roles?

It might be tricky to move out of either position as we might have been in this position for a long time.

It is by no means impossible though.

Small steps will lead to success in behaving in a healthier way and learning how to communicate our needs and feelings will be important to counteract the forces that want to pull us back in to the drama triangle.

It is only when we acknowledge and are aware of what position we are in, that we can begin to change it.

You might now have a clearer view of who you have been in your relationships in the past.

The question now is – who do you want to be in your relationship?

Moving out of the drama triangle into a healthier way of being will be the subject of next week’s blog post. 

For now, I leave you with this quote:


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