Sit and Stay Awhile...

Claudia Confidentially
By Claudia Luiz/ Local Columnist


Dear Claudia,
I was wondering if you could address the problem of being a martyr. I have to do almost everything in my home, and I do resent it – I don’t deny it. I ask people to do things, but I just wish I didn't always have to ask, and sometimes it's easier to just do things myself. Of course, then I resent it, and then, people call me a "martyr". I don’t see a way out of this because I do get upset, sometimes. Do you see this problem often, and what is your recommendation when you do?


Dear Martyr,

I have yet to meet a woman who has never descended into martyrdom.  I see it all the time. And if I met a women who never did, I don’t know if I would even believe her.

Let me define martyrdom: a negative place where the ability to solve problems neutrally, and communicate them effectively, is no longer possible. A place of resentment in which the challenges of life build to a tense, rigid negativity in which a woman feels exceedingly alone, unloved, overburdened and angry. A state in which the resentment ekes out from every pore. 

What this looks like for different women is variable. But it’s in the nature of her walking around the house, muttering things, sometimes out loud, like “why is this all up to me?”

No matter how well organized or relaxed, rested or loving a woman may be there will be times when she gets overwhelmed. In the real world, that is to say, the world of flying curve balls, it happens all the time. Like I said, I have never met a woman who has never had those moments.

At these times, the overwhelmed woman may not have at her disposal the higher-brain functions that enable neutral problem-solving, solution-finding and the ability to deliver clear, direct, positive requests. All she will have is irritation.

However, I don’t like to call this being a “martyr.”   Instead, I think of it as becoming a little “fretful.”

Women who can enjoy becoming a little fretful in their family stand a better chance of training their families to respond with kindness and cooperation during those inevitable moments. It is one of the greatest luxuries in life to belong to a family that can tolerate unavoidable fretfulness in women, grumpiness in men, and crankiness in children.

It is not easy, however, getting comfortable with being fretful. Here are some of the top  reasons why women can’t enjoy it.

I shouldn’t be so resentful. I am hurting my family with my resentment.

Why am I such an awful person? I should be better/nicer/calmer/more giving.

If I keep this up, they are going to hate me. My husband is going to withdraw from me. They are not going to love me

I am just an unhappy person. Why can’t I be happy? I don’t blame them for being upset with me.

The negative judgments we make about our own unhappiness and resentment can make it difficult for us to get our needs met. This is one of life’s greatest ironies: when we need help the most is often when we know least how to actually get it.

The best time to work on the problem of martyrdom - once you have accepted that a little fretfulness is inevitable and your family should accept it - is when you are rested and not angry. At these times, you can troubleshoot the problem and see if there is any way to prevent feeling resentful in the future. Do you need more help? Do you need to make changes in your life?

If you suffer from guilt about being fretful, feel disappointed in yourself or fear that you won’t be loved if you have negative feelings, it will be hard for you to stand up for what you need and to feel justified in asking for anything. That is going to make it much harder not to feel like a martyr in the long run because martyrs often feel trapped.

Each of our emotions is an instrument; sometimes we need a little help learning how to play some of them. But ultimately, the more emotions we can learn to play successfully, the bigger and better and more in tune our full orchestra, otherwise known as life, can be.


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