Backstory to this post:  Someone emailed the Mean Lady Talking podcast to say they heard me say “Take the V off your forehead” on a podcast. 

I didn’t remember saying that recently, but it IS a saying of mine. It was said to me when I started this journey.  I emailed them back and said I would post something from LONG ago to answer it.  I have several Remove the Victim posts and this is one from way way back. 

Many of my posts talk about stopping your own victimization. Stop identifying as a victim, take the “V” off your forehead, learn that you have power to control what happens to you (to a certain extent) and that you get what you put up with. And I have also talked about “abuser’s remorse” which is when the abuser apologizes and promises everything will change from here on in. 

And that only lasts until you do something wrong and then it’s GASLIGHT CITY come to town!  The abuser was GOING to be GOOD, but YOU went and ruined it!!!  But part of getting healthy is OWNING OUR OWN STUFF.  That is very very important.  This is NOT about BLAMING THE VICTIM.  I just did a podcast railing against that, but this is TAKING RESPONSIBILTY for YOUR PART in your OWN VICTIMIZATION.  It is something I had to do to get well and it is something I would not have been able to forego.  Healing DOES NOT HAPPEN without self-responsibility.   

REMOVING THE VICTIM – original post date 8/11/07

by Susan J. Elliott, J.D., M.Ed.

It’s hard to be victimized by someone else. It’s hard to be abused. It’s hard to be pushed around.  Been there, done that.

But what about being horrifically wronged and deciding to stay and play? You may be parading around as a victim, a wronged lover or spouse, but you are using your position to torture the person who wronged you instead of trying to either figure out if you want to stay out of love and start again or leave because there is no true forgiveness.

Many times “abuser’s remorse” works because we want it to. We want this person who hurt us deeply, whether physically, mentally or emotionally, to “pay” and it seems as if he or she is. They are hurting (really seems like it!) and paying emotionally and begging and promising. We have the upper hand. That is what we want. We want the upper hand more than we want to sit back and think, “Does an apology here really cut it? Is it believable? Should I just get the hell out now?” 


Couples in abusive relationships do this dance with a certain regularity. One person is holding the cards at all times. But the person who is typically abused can become a tyrant when he or she has the other on the ropes. They can become punishing and withdrawn, thinking (erroneously) that they have the upper hand and this jackhole is now going to “pay” for his or her sins.

If you have survived abusive relationships, it MUST BE ONE AND DONE.   It cannot be anything else.  There are things that are simply unforgivable and MUST BE.  Do not forgive what should not be forgiven. I have told my clients and many others when I’ve done speaking engagements and media appearances – after I left my first marriage no man EVER called me a name – not once, not ever. I told them all in the beginning – don’t do it.  One and you’re done. And I meant it.  Don’t deliver ultimatums you can’t keep. I kept that one and will continue to keep it.  No one will EVER call me a name again and stay in my life. Not a man, not a friend, not a family member.  NO ONE. No one should abuse or cheat on you.


Many times people are not sure if they should end a relationship over one transgression. The victim is devastated, horrified, hurt beyond belief. How could you???  The cheater says, “I made a mistake, I’m sorry. It won’t happen again.”

For many, one is too many. It SHOULD BE.  One time – abuse or infidelity – and sorry, you’re gone.

But there are people who try to get over infidelity. They minimize it.  They rationalize it. They blame themselves.  They try to take a wait and see attitude. Maybe I can get past this. Maybe he or she has realized the grass is not greener. Maybe we can go to counseling. Maybe. We’ll see. Maybe I can find my way to forgiveness and we can move on. Or maybe this person is a true cheating jerk who will never be faithful and I have to get out while the getting is good. But right now I don’t know which it is and I have to postpone my decision to see how I feel.

They will either elect to go or elect to stay and forgive and move on.  They won’t stay in indecision forever. They will, eventually, figure it out. 


And then we have the person who listens to the abuser’s remorse or the cheater’s remorse- has some words of their own and say they forgive.  But they will never forget. 

They say they are willing to stay but spend the next (days, months, years) torturing the person with the infidelity (or sometimes a sin much less). It is something the other did that comes up all the time. This past sin is forgiven but NEVER forgotten. It is too awesome. Because it is used to manipulate, to hold power over, to keep the other person squirming. They insist on passwords, snoop around in drawers and pants pockets, wallets and phones. They never truly let it go. It’s the sword of Damocles hanging over someone’s head.

And by goodness, they like it.

I always say you have three choices in a given situation: accept it, change it, or leave. Torturing is not on the list.

Bitter, angry people who are too stupid or too stubborn or too hellbent on revenge stay and torture.  Even if the “whatever” isn’t as terrible as abuse or infidelity, they use it over and over again. Their spouse NEVER gets a get out of jail free card. They keep the spouse “making it up” forever and ever. 

Many times people who do this convince themselves that they are being a “good spouse” or keeping it together “for the children,” but their resentment and inability to let go creates a corrosive atmosphere where love and forgiveness cannot and will not exist.  Even if they talk a good game and put on a good show. It’s all not okay and never will be okay. It can’t be. 

One of the reasons I left my marriage was because I was becoming bitter over things I could not change and could not forgive. There were lots of infidelities and abuse and it swung between abuse and abuser’s remorse.  When he was doing “abuser’s remorse,” I actually got to tell him how much he sucked and he had to listen.  And I got personal satisfaction out of that.  Even if I knew this apology was bullshit and he wasn’t really listening and this was all temporary. Me having the upper hand wasn’t real and wasn’t going to last. 

Nothing was going to change. Most of the time there were recriminations and lots of loud and dramatic testimony as to why I sucked and he didn’t.  But when he was doing “abuser’s remorse,” I got to turn the tables and make him LISTEN.  Only he really wasn’t.  And one of these days I will talk about all the passive-aggressive things I did to him when I felt powerless over his cheating.  Things he never caught on to that happened to him because I caused it, but he was perplexed over these things. I was like a marionnette pulling the strings and having a gloat-y satisfaction, but he never knew it.  Just watching it drive him crazy was enough for me, but it was strange and dysfucntional behavior.  AND I had no right to do that.  I only had the right to accept it, change it or leave, not stay and pull passive-aggressive bullshit. Yes I was hurt and yes I was angry…but it was coming out sideways because I was too afraid to leave. 


It’s no way to live. If someone has been unfaithful or acted in a terrible manner there ARE only 3 choices: accept it, change it, or leave. You cannot accept it or change it (via counseling) without a true measure of trying to forgive it and move on. You can’t be a bonehead about it and rush to forgive someone who is just going to ride roughshod all over you the minute you do. You have to get all the information, find out what is and has gone on and why, and see if you really have the wherewithal to see it through and let it go. Being stupid about it is not the answer, but soul searching to come up with what you are a capable of and is this person worth it is the key.  And no one is worth your dignity and self-preservation. NO ONE.

This is why I rail against breaking NC to tell someone off or to “take the opportunity” to say one more thing or one last thing or whatever.  Because they didn’t listen then and they are not listening now and you’re wasting your breath and fooling yourself.  Becoming healthy is not about those things.  It’s about not wasting your breath and NOT fooling yourself.  And when you think you are satisfied because you “had the last word,” that is fooling yourself. 

Changing a bad relationship involves work for both parties Can this be saved? Who has to do what? And how much of your bananaheadedness can be cured? And what are my issues and what do I need to do about it?  If someone has been abusive or unfaithful, that is a HUGE hill to climb. Very few make it. I have counseled couples a long time and very rarely can a couple get past that unless the bad behavior was connected to alcoholism or drug addiction and the person is now in a program. 

We always always talk about the bad things done to us as victims of others’ behavior. But that does not give us the right to stay and torture anyone with it. To use their bad behavior as a power tool we keep by our side and bring it out whenever we want to drill someone in the head just for the fun of it because they deserve it because they did x, y and z once upon a time.

That becomes victim as sadist and it’s not okay.  If you don’t have the guts to leave, you don’t get to stay and act out about it. 

It’s actually worse than being a bananahead.

Never a tortured nor a torturer be.

Not okay.  Your responsibilty is to YOU.  Your responsibility is to REMOVE THE VICTIM.

Nothing less will do. You cannot cannot cannot be healthy without removing yourself as the victim of others.  How? 

Learn the healthy way of doing things. Learn how to have real boundaries and to enforce them on the regular. 

Resolve to change the things you’ve done in the past to survive dysfunctional relationships. 

Leave that behind and make sure – from here on in – you are going to keep your side of the street clean.   

GPYB is about healthy living and being a torturer – even a passive aggressive one who is the true victim in the relationship – is not okay.  And you must own up to what you have done in bad relationships in an effort to fool yourself into staying. 

ou have to bring every single relationship in your life down to “Accept it, change it or leave.” 

There are no other options. 

Get healthy and be true to you.  TODAY.


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