Ask: Overcoming Martyrdom in Relationships

I have just been dropped by a friend. She’s no longer talking to me. She thinks I “dissed” her – I can understand her interpretation of events but it's an interpretation and not a fact. It’s interesting how she just stopped communicating without even telling me she was angry so I was just left hanging. I could go back and ask her for her side of the story, beg her forgiveness, etc but it's hard work - and I don’t think I've done anything wrong. I'm familiar with this place and have fallen on my sword many times in this kind of situation. Usually, I would rather take the fall than lose the friendship. But I'm sick of doing it and to be honest, my instinct is to just leave it. Still, it's hard to think that a friendship is over. Any advice? Thanks. – SD

What stands out to me in your story is that you think that to maintain a friendship you have to be a martyr. It was never a friendship to begin with if you can only maintain it by “falling on your sword”. It was a power game.
From what you have written, it sounds like you said something that your friend misinterpreted. This is inevitable between personal selves (egos). Every personal thought system sees through the filter of its own story for itself. All personal selves see themselves as victims of a harsh world, each in their own way. You must’ve said something that played into the particular victim-story that she has for herself, which apparently has nothing to do with what you intended when you spoke. You are responsible for what you said, but not for how she heard it.
All that you can do in this situation is to clarify your meaning: “I’m so sorry you heard it that way. But what I meant was….” Now it is up to her to release her interpretation of what you said, or not. If she chooses not to, then you have to wonder if it is such a loss to lose someone from your life who is unwilling to learn and grow. It is very hard to be around others for very long when they are not willing to accept that they made a mistake and to learn from it, Also, her not talking to you and not telling you that her feelings were hurt is another sign of immaturity, and also that perhaps she doesn’t value the relationship enough to want to clear the air between you.
What you have to look at in yourself is this pattern of martyrdom in relationships. It seems clear that the personal thought system in your mind has decided that your “story” is that you have to sacrifice yourself for others in relationships. Some or all of these three things are occurring: The personal thought system in your mind interprets others’ behavior in such a way as to make you feel that they are demanding your sacrifice, it creates situations in relationships so that you have to sacrifice to maintain the relationship, and/or it attracts or is drawn to people who will demand sacrifice from you as the cost of the relationship.
Understand that the personal thought system in your mind is not going to change. As was said above, all personal selves hold some variation on the theme of victimhood for themselves. The most that the personal thought system might do is change in which situations it feels like a victim, but the victim-aspect of its story for you will always be there in some form. But, when you decided that inner peace was your goal, you began the process of letting go of the personal self as your identity, because your misidentification with it is your obstacle to peace. Your True Identity is in God.
Keep in mind that you will only let go of the personal identity when you have some experience of God as Reality.You cannot be without an identity, so you will not let go of the personal thought system until the Truth in your mind is real to you. Once It is, then you will find the willingness to begin to let go of the particular story that the personal thought system has for you. So, you may have to allow this pattern of sacrificial relationships to continue as you put your efforts into building your awareness of God first.
Once God is real to you, you will find that you will be able to step back and observe what you are thinking and feeling when you are with others. When you start to feel that you are going to have to sacrifice, stop and look at those thoughts. Look at what is really happening, as opposed to what the personal thought system is telling you is happening. Is another really asking for sacrifice, or are you just expecting them to? When you are strongly drawn to others, check in to see if they are like others in the past with whom you played a game of sacrifice. If you find that you are repeating the pattern, stop, and either break the thought pattern that will lead to you making a martyr of yourself, or drop the person who is going to demand that you make sacrifices for the relationship. If you have trouble with any of this, ask the Holy Spirit to help you see what is going on in your mind. It takes willingness, time, and patience with yourself, but you can learn to avoid the pattern of sacrifice and have true, mature friends in your life.


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will said…
Very useful information.
Anonymous said…
I was in a similiar friendship for 40 years, until just a few years ago when I started to notice what was actually going on and it wasn't me - ask yourself why you are drawn to that friendship that is not giving back to you what you are giving to it ...
will said…
Anonymous, Don't know if you'll get this but your comment leading me back to this day three years ago showed up in my mail just when I needed it. Really something.


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