Is martyrdom keeping you from creating a happy relationship or marriage? Taking an honest look at your relationship will help you decide if you are behaving like a martyr—and how to break out of this habit.
Let's be honest: Martyrs may seem heroic on the surface, but what's the real reward for your martyrdom? If you're noticed, people may...call you a martyr. Is that worth the potential cost of destroying your relationship? More important, is behaving like a martyr worthy of you?
If you adopt this style, you may not realize something crucial: You could inadvertently abdicate responsibility for your happiness. When you behave like a martyr, you give your power away, including the power to solve your own problems and to learn new ways of responding to your emotions of anger, depression, fear, shame, guilt, or embarrassment. This can make you feel helpless.
10 Ways to Tell If You Are Being a Martyr in Your Relationship:
If you engage in any of the above behaviors, you may be partaking in martyr behavior that can insidiously destroy trust, intimacy, and eventually the very fabric of your relationship, in addition to your own sense of integrity. Repeating behaviors often means repeating results, leading you to feel beaten. As George Matthew Adamas says, "Beaten people take beaten paths."
If you want to feel less helpless, stop spinning and circling. Take a deep breath, relax, and realize that digging deeper into a hole is only going to take you deeper into the hole. The sooner you stop digging, the less climbing you'll have to do to get out.
Getting out involves changing your mindset to become more aware of your personal power and changing your skill set, usually in the area of communication and relationship enhancement.
10 Steps to Help You Break the Martyrdom Habit:
For example, in the first column, you might write, "My partner said something rude to my friend." In the second, "My friend wasn't leaving our house after dinner." In the third, "I failed to set an ending time and didn't speak up to my friend when I saw that it was getting late for us." And in the fourth, "I can ask my partner to approach me to talk to my friend, rather than saying rude things to my friend. I can also make sure to put an end time on any socializing we arrange."
Moving Away From Martyrdom
As you move away from martyrdom, begin to study communication, learn how to stop blaming, and practice properly asserting yourself. Learning to ask for what you want, and accepting that you cannot always get it, will help you to release martyrdom once and for all. Sometimes, the first step is becoming aware you are playing the blame game. As Dr. William Knaus writes in his book, Take Charge Now, "Blame is such a consistent presence in our everyday life that we take it for granted."
Generally, those who move into the blame game and martyrdom do so because they lack adequate communication skills.
They may move between passive communication (meeting the desires of others but ignoring their own), aggressive communication (becoming bulldozers plowing over others' points of views in favor of their own demands), and passive-aggressive communication (utilizing subtle behaviors to annoy, inconvenience, and anger others with whom they feel angry). As Robert E. Alberti teaches in his book, Your Perfect Right, assertive communication is "an approach which honors everyone."
Sometimes, your anger may get the better of your good intentions to communicate properly. If it does, you may want to consider training yourself to shift out of unhealthy negative emotions so you can be in the right headspace to behave assertively. The REBT-Super Activity Guide (CreateSpace Publishing, 2009) contains chapters which discuss how to shift yourself both emotionally and behaviorally, and offers you steps for assertive communication. In addition, there is an excellent REBT self-help form available at the REBTNetwork's site, developed by Will Ross in consultation with the founder of REBT, Dr. Albert Ellis.
When to Seek Relationship Help
When your car needs a tune-up, you simply get it done. Sometimes, relationships simply need a tune-up. If you find that you are not able to get the results you want on your own, it might be time to contact a therapist who works with couples. You don't have to do everything by yourself, and you may make faster progress with a skilled professional on your side.