It's Mohandas K. Gandhi's* birthday today and he would have been 140. The great leader and freedom advocate was known for a lot of things; uncommon wisdom, unwavering resolve, uncompromising compassion and seemingly effortless leadership, but the relationship lesson that some people take from him is martyrdom. Read: Love Lessons From Gandhi
Martyr is classically defined as "one who dies rather than renounce his/ her religious belief." And, generally, lots of people think that's a pretty good thing (the jury is out in my book). But, perhaps because of our love of pop psychology or its perverse use by extremist groups, "martyr" has taken a very negative connotation.
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My favorite TV character and yellow, four-fingered doppelganger, Bart Simpson, once got into the crawl space as a way to punish Marge and Homer for a transgression (Marge became his teacher after a strike). While getting into the crawl space is a hilarious examples of spite*, martyrdom in relationships is bad. Read: 7 Relationship Deal Breakers
Of course, if you're suffering, you should speak up. But, for instance, agreeing to do something you don't want to do just so you can wear it like a hair shirt is absolute horse sh*t. It makes the act itself almost as miserable for your partner as it is for you.
Jesus, we all have our own crosses to bear but constantly sacrificing and using the closer, "But don't worry about me" is also, um, horse sh*t. Eventually, since her/his horse sh*t detector is blaring like the abandon-ship claxon in Spaceballs, she/he will cease worrying as soon as you're out of earshot.
While guilt is one of the most powerful tools in a mother's (or religion's) arsenal, it never makes anyone feel better. Being put upon sucks, but intentionally making someone feel like they're the cause of your pain is even worse. If the oppression is intentional, the dick won't care about your bellyaching. If it's unintentional, or likelier self-inflected, the other person will just feel like a dick.
While women often take the hit for martyrdom, it's a tool in some guys' belt too (don't read into that). In fact, nice guys often kick the "whoa is me" game for the same reason. Regrettably, I've pulled that horse sh*t and would prefer not to repeat it... I'm probably no Gandhi, either.
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Martyr stories are welcome.
*Mahatma is an honorific meaning "great soul."
**My best bud Zach has the greatest definition of spite ever, "it's drinking poison hoping everyone else dies." I tend to agree.