What? Me a Martyr?
“No one wants to be married to a martyr.”
Those words shot off the page and struck me between the eyes. Wow. Of course they don’t. That’s like adding insult to injury.
There are two messages I received growing up.
From my family I learned about faithfulness and commitment. Love is primarily a choice – not a feeling. Marriage takes work. Getting married is not one great big, fun filled, never ending, romantic date. It is more like Dan Fogelberg’s thoughts on life:
Cursing the quest
Measureless nights forebode
Moments of rest
Glimpses of laughter
Are treasured along the road.
My cultural instruction consisted of the teachings of the “me generation” marinated in Disney Princess ideology . . . marriage is about self-fulfillment and happily ever after.
My own expectations for marriage were formed mostly by my family . . . tinged with some cultural wishes.
When my husband became ill, I never considered abandoning him. After my brain bleed, our roles could easily have been reversed. However, it was clear that our life together would never look like the one I pictured, so I buckled down for the bumpy road ahead.
He had to come to terms with loss and disappointment; acceptance of the new realities of life . . . but so did I. What I came up with was a patiently enduring stance.
It seemed like the right thing to do. I was even complimented on it . . . until I read those words. . .
I thought back to the first few months after my brain surgery . . . and how frustrating that had been. I hated being a “burden” on my family. My husband was cooking and cleaning, doing laundry and giving baths, chasing after kids and putting them to bed – and on top of all that, he had to wait on me hand and foot. Stress was oozing out of his ears and I felt so guilty – so frustrated – so useless.
That was a temporary situation. The bad feelings went away when I was able to jump back in to taking care of my family.
My husband was not so fortunate. Although he is always working towards a better quality of life, he will never have the physical, emotional, or mental capabilities he once did. . . and now he gets to have a martyr for a bride! Yay! That’s just the cherry on top!
And why was I a martyr? Because I was disappointed.
Why was I disappointed? Because of the happily-ever-after mentality! I guess I fell for it more than I thought. I placed too much importance on what my husband did, rather than who he is.
My husband is kind and compassionate, intelligent and funny, unwavering in love, loyalty and faith. He is a champion of the underdog and crusader for justice.
Seeing someone hurt or in need, his immediate response is to help. He does not question why – or if it is their own fault. All that matters is a fellow human is in need . . . and he will help, even to his own detriment.
No illness or damage has taken these qualities from him. He is more limited in his expression of love and concern, but that does not change the core of who his is . . . a truly amazing person.
When I take the time to remember and be grateful for those characteristics, the ones that attracted me in the first place – and which have not changed – the outlook of a martyr falls away. Love is a choice . . . and sometimes being in love takes some effort.