Arguments – skip the martyr routine

I am fortunate that my wife has never been into playing the martyr. I would say I nudged on it a bit many, many years ago, but I saw it as counter-productive and never really went down that road.

That said, I had several “opportunities” to view marriages where one is forever playing the martyr card.  “Woe is me, I always do what you want, I always give in, I always lose”.  I’ve seen martyrs go out of their way to be inconvenienced, or to end up doing far more than their fair share.

Thing is, I don’t see this tactic as overly successful. Those who are not close enough to know it happens all the time are often moved, but I’ve never seen it work on a spouse. If anything, the spouse gets tired of it and just refuses to even engage when the martyr routine is used.

My guess is folks play the martyr not to win, but for some other reason. Sometimes it seems clear the effort is to garner sympathy from others. It’s “look how rude, negligent or horrible my wife/husband is – don’t you feel sorry for me?” Other times I think it’s because the person laying the martyr has significant self image issues. They don’t want to be walked all over, but on some level they think they deserve to be walked all over.

If you play the martyr, ask yourself first if it ever works. Then ask yourself why you do it. Figure out why, deal with that, and then find a better way of dealing with situations than invoking martyr mode.

If your bride is the one doing the martyr bit, deal with it straight on. Ask her why she does it, and point out that it does not really work out well for her. Ask her why she does it, and what she wants. Ask if she feels you take advantage of her, or if she feels that you don’t appreciate or respect her. Odds are she has been playing the martyr since before you met her, so it’s not likely that things will change easily or quickly – but stick with it, change can and does happen.

4 Comments on “Arguments – skip the martyr routine

  1. Careful, women who have been sexually abused and otherwise, may get crushed under the weight of all those questions. Maybe the best thing to do is aprach her with a hug, and embrace her for how ever long it takes for her to feel safe again. You have to prove to her you are going to stop being a bully and love her.

    • @Jayme – I agree with you in theory, but if the husband is not the abuser, he may not be able to prove he is safe, even if he is, and he may be seen as a bully even if he is not. In such situations it is necessary to get outside help, and the sooner that happens the better the chance of the marriage surviving and thriving.

  2. This reminds me of a quote from a character in The Brother’s Karamazov:

    “The man who lies to himself can be more easily offended than anyone. You know it is sometimes very pleasant to take offence, isn’t it? A man may know that nobody has insulted him, but that he has invented the insult for himself, has lied and exaggerated to make it picturesque, has caught at a word and made a mountain out of a molehill- he knows that himself, yet he will be the first to take offence, and will revel in his resentment till he feels great pleasure in it, and so pass to genuine vindictiveness. But get up, sit down, I beg you. All this, too, is deceitful posturing…” ~ The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoevsky

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