The Teeter-Totter Syndrome: Saint vs. Sinner?

Yup, Louie looks like the bad guy sitting on the low-end of the teeter-totter;

Victoria seems the perfect , suffering saint. Look again!

 At first glance, the relationship looks bleak. Victoria, with low self-esteem and a victim complex, is in an emotionally abusive relationship. Louie, her husband does love her but he is a miserable man, struggling with cancer and the progression of M.S. In an attempt to dull the effects of depression, Louie drinks. In addition, he resorts to verbal abuse, venting his pain on poor Victoria.

 Yep, Louie looks like the bad guy sitting on the low-end of the teeter-totter; Victoria seems to be the perfect, suffering saint, running the household and holding everything together. Look again!

The teeter-totter shifts. Victoria injures her knee and suddenly, bam, she is now on the low-end of the teeter-totter. She does not like it one bit. She does not want to accept this shift in power. Frantically, this good, little wife tries to stay in charge of her realm by hobbling around her house in order to do all the chores. of course Victoria finally breaks down in tears and asks her husband for help.

Louie responds to her requests! At first Victoria only asks if she is desperate but soon, without being asked, Louie is the one to pick up the morning paper at the corner, make his wife a cup of coffee and even cook dinner. Victoria bemoans the fact that her kingdom has crumbled and struggles to accept help. Yet, as she does, Louie continues to rise even higher on the teeter-totter. The balance of power has shifted.

Biggest surprise of all is that Louie drinks less and less everyday. Without his wife’s constant nagging or silent disapproval, Louie is now free to change.

The teetter-totter of life.

No one is always the bad abuser.

No one is always the helpless victim.

Both partners are part of an intricate dance because it really does take “two to tango”.

Husband and wife react to each other by triggering positive emotions or setting off volcanic erruptions that are rooted in old wounds, often from childhood.

When we change ourselves, our mates change. When we quit controlling and demanding change, our better half is free to change.There is nothing more damaging to a marriage than when one partner is a self-righteous, suffering Catholic marytr. Christ is powerless in the face of such pride; He is free to heal when both the good and bad looking partners come before Him with a humble and contrite heart.


7 thoughts on “The Teeter-Totter Syndrome: Saint vs. Sinner?

  1. Sounds like Al~Anon. It’s the Serenity Prayer at its finest. It’s a shock to many codependents when they attend a meeting only to find out that “they” may actually be part of the problem!

    You see, I watched this scenario unfold in my own home as a child. God bless my parents who really did do the best with what they had to work with. Thanking God for the ability to recognize these tendencies in myself and to have benefited from this wisdom in my own marriage.


  2. I read this and thought of my grandparents. From a child’s point of view, it was quite confusing, dramatic, and scary to see and hear their interactions. I loved my grandma but she was the suffering martyr, grandpa was an alcoholic. Perhaps this marriage could’ve been turned around. It was a different age, time and culture.


  3. What a wonderfully “balanced” article. 😉

    I was amazed to find that when I quit thinking of myself as a victim, people quit victimizing me! Their behavior changed in response to the changes within me. Very cool!



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