By Maria Simpson | October 14, 2020

Marriage Communication 101: How To Be the Hero In Your Story


"All the world’s a stage; And all the men and women merely players."

As You Like It, Shakespeare

Most people love getting wrapped up in a good movie or anxiously awaiting the next episode of a favorite television series. We inevitably have our favorite characters, the ones we rally behind and share in their joys and pitfalls, the way we would a friend. We also notice, but don’t necessarily invest in, other characters. Generally we can’t relate to them and therefore don’t connect to their characters' stories and experiences. Still other characters get under our skin, reminding us of real people in our lives, and we fantasize they will get what they deserve or even be written off the show.

Why do we get so wrapped up in the fictitious lives of the silver screen? Each character we connect with is written in a relatable, three-dimensional quality that reflects real life people and the complexities involved in why they do the things they do. Heroes have weaknesses and make mistakes. Villains have heart-wrenching reasons they became the destructive forces they are. Either way we find ourselves invested in the evolutionary journeys of both kinds of characters in the hopes that they will figure out the right path. We see our experiences and suffering mirrored in them and feel less alone. 

"Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way."

Victor Frankl, Man’s Search For Meaning

hands together(Written about his experience in a Nazi Concentration Camp during WWII.)

All the world’s a stage and we each have a story of our own to play out. We may not get to set the stage, but we can choose our role and write our own lines. We can choose the tone, volume, and conviction of our words. Will we be the hero of our own story? Or a side character watching life pass us by? A victim feeding on the pity and charity of others? Or the villain who hurts others in order to pass off their own pain? Roles are usually learned young, and have played out in our lives for so long, we don’t even realize we are repeating unhealthy patterns that keep us miserable and disconnected. Connection is essential to, not only our happiness, but our very survival. We can nurture or destroy connection depending on the roles we take on. Read through the following descriptions and take an honest assessment of which roles you tend to take on with different people in your life.

The Victim:

Tends to put themselves in the lowly state; looking for pity as much as compassion; waiting to be dominated to reinforce their believed helplessness and/or be rescued rather than help themselves; makes passive statements; aims to guilt others and insinuate their failings in order to get their needs met.

The Villain (or perpetrator): 

Creates dominance and needs to be in control; makes passive-aggressive, cruel statements armed with barbs; aims to hurt others and entrap their loyalty and subservience. 

The Rescuer: 

Sacrifices their own well being to save others; does not teach others to help themselves; needs to feel needed and creates a codependency with those they are helping.

The Hero (or Leading Role protagonist): 

Creates true emotional intimacy through honest and equal interactions; sees their own shortcomings as well as others and chooses to proceed with compassion; finds the good in life and is a light in their own darkness; seeks and uses direct appeals for support; encourages empowerment and reliance in self and others; is not perfect, is willing to admit mistakes, and take the steps necessary to correct them. 

girl smilingEach role is looking for safety and connection, though the first three struggle due to misguided attempts at creating it. We play these roles because it’s what we know. It’s how we’ve learned to get our needs met. In learning to shift our roles, pity becomes compassion; bravery overpowers passivity; and a need for dominance is pushed out by vulnerability. These shifts in each character type evolve the broken, hurting and hurtful to the hero type, the leading role we all long to play. 

We must ask ourselves: what part do we want to play on the stage of life and how do we create that person from who we intrinsically are? Although we come with a specific personality, we have a choice in how we play out our individual characteristics and what we choose to give to ourselves and to the world. 

Here are some tips that have helped me learn to communicate more effectively:

Observe yourself: 

How do you treat others? How well do you listen? How do you get what you need? Do you ask or demand? Do you hint around and hope someone will hear you? Is that the way you want others to speak to you? If not, how can you start rephrasing your words and actions so they are more direct, kind, and helpful?

Observe others: 

Start noticing how other people speak to each other. What do you like? How do you model your behavior after that? 

Be honest with your loved ones:

Tell them you’re working on communicating better.  If appropriate, apologize for the mistakes you have made, ask them to be patient with you, and spend some time understanding what they need from you in order to feel heard.  

Learn more:

This blog is a taste of some really good information. There are excellent resources listed here that give a good start in learning more about the roles and patterns we play out, why connection is so important, and how to face adversity with strength and hope.

Each and every day we can choose the part we play in our lives. Understanding our current patterns in our relationships is the first step.  Doing something about them is the next. We can each become the leading roles in our own stories, no matter the roles the other people play in our lives. We can choose to interact with our spouses and loved ones with compassion, kindness, and support; utilizing flexibility and compromise. While we cannot force change on those around us, we can choose our own attitudes and we can play a role that invites and inspires the best in those around us, especially in our homes. 


Relationship dynamics, better communication, and understanding the roles we take on and how to change them for the better:

  • Games People Play by Eric Berne. 
  • Love Sense by Sue Johnson

Inspiration for mustering the courage for a positive attitude in the face of adversity:

  • Man’s Search For Meaning by Victor Frankl
  • East by Sleeping at Last (a song about reclaiming the leading role in our lives)

Understanding our need for love and connection:

  • A General Theory of Love by Richard Lannon MD and Thomas Lewis MD