does this sound like a martyr complex? - Mothering Forums

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Old 07-06-2010, 04:09 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm pretty sure my mother has a martyr complex. I've listed some of the things she does that put a strain on our relationship.

1)She routinely allows toxic people into her life and tries to "reform them". She will go so far as to allow drug addicts etc to move into her house. She thinks that she has some sort of ability to help reform lost souls, even though not one of these toxic people has been helped in any measurable way. Eventually she gets incredibly angry at them and cuts off the relationship. This has happened countless times.

2) She cannot handle any sort of criticism, making it impossible to communicate with her. For instance it took my dad 3 years to get the nerve to ask her to cook his breakfast a different way, because he was afraid of her reaction.

3) She cannot be a "guest". She insists on cooking and cleaning in my home and it drives me nuts. I always look forward to spending time with her when she's in town, but she ends up cooking and cleaning the entire time. I've told her that I would like to do fun things with her and just hang out when she's in town, but she wont have any of it.
4) She acts like I abuse her. When she's at my house she walks around on eggshells because I've asked her not to clean. She still insists on cleaning, but now she checks with me before she puts anything away. For instance we were unloading the dishwasher, and she asked me where I put my bowls (which is ridiculous because she has unloaded that dishwasher 300 times). After I showed her where the bowls go she asked if she should put them in the back of the cupboard or the front, if they should be stacked or not etc. Then she will ask repeatedly if she did it right "Like this, is this how you like them"she will pretend to be really nervous and look at me meekly, as if she is cinderella or something. I would like to point out that I am far from organized. I am not a neat freak at all. My house is pretty much total chaos! So the bowls could be in the oven and I wouldn't care.

5) She takes it personally if I don't mirror her. For instance she doesn't like the way I decorated my house, and seems genuinelyhurt that I don't have the same taste as she does.

I could go on and on, but I don't have enough time! Does this sound like a martyr complex to you? I would like to add that I am a very reasonable person. In fact I tend to be very even keeled. In other words, I am not being mean to my mom. I just wish that we could have a normal relationship. Instead it seems like my mother is bent on suffering and self sacrifice. It's getting really old!
ETA
Sorry about the typos, my keyboard is acting weird.

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Old 07-06-2010, 06:42 PM
 
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Sure, it's a martyr complex. It's also passive aggressive, which is absolutely maddening.

The little bit I read about martyr complex just now indicates that the martyr tends to be drawn to harsh or abusive partners. That doesn't particularly sound like your dad, though!

Do you want to do anything about it?

==============

Edited to add, the more I read about it, the less it sounds like a martyr complex. I'm sure there are lots of definitions, but this one at least seems a little different from what you describe. She certainly does seem to enjoy being a victim. Will she agree to babysit your kids even though she's got plans, and then bitch and moan about the sacrifice she had to make?

Is she a praise junkie?

=============

Edited again, I take it back, I think the article describes her perfectly! The last two paragraphs have some good insight.

Someone moved my effing cheese.
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Old 07-06-2010, 07:43 PM
 
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Originally Posted by scottishmommy View Post
I'm pretty sure my mother has a martyr complex. I've listed some of the things she does that put a strain on our relationship.

1)She routinely allows toxic people into her life and tries to "reform them". She will go so far as to allow drug addicts etc to move into her house. She thinks that she has some sort of ability to help reform lost souls, even though not one of these toxic people has been helped in any measurable way. Eventually she gets incredibly angry at them and cuts off the relationship. This has happened countless times.

2) She cannot handle any sort of criticism, making it impossible to communicate with her. For instance it took my dad 3 years to get the nerve to ask her to cook his breakfast a different way, because he was afraid of her reaction.

3) She cannot be a "guest". She insists on cooking and cleaning in my home and it drives me nuts. I always look forward to spending time with her when she's in town, but she ends up cooking and cleaning the entire time. I've told her that I would like to do fun things with her and just hang out when she's in town, but she wont have any of it.

4) She acts like I abuse her. When she's at my house she walks around on eggshells because I've asked her not to clean. She still insists on cleaning, but now she checks with me before she puts anything away. For instance we were unloading the dishwasher, and she asked me where I put my bowls (which is ridiculous because she has unloaded that dishwasher 300 times). After I showed her where the bowls go she asked if she should put them in the back of the cupboard or the front, if they should be stacked or not etc. Then she will ask repeatedly if she did it right "Like this, is this how you like them"she will pretend to be really nervous and look at me meekly, as if she is cinderella or something. I would like to point out that I am far from organized. I am not a neat freak at all. My house is pretty much total chaos! So the bowls could be in the oven and I wouldn't care.

5) She takes it personally if I don't mirror her. For instance she doesn't like the way I decorated my house, and seems genuinelyhurt that I don't have the same taste as she does.

I could go on and on, but I don't have enough time! Does this sound like a martyr complex to you? I would like to add that I am a very reasonable person. In fact I tend to be very even keeled. In other words, I am not being mean to my mom. I just wish that we could have a normal relationship. Instead it seems like my mother is bent on suffering and self sacrifice. It's getting really old!
ETA
Sorry about the typos, my keyboard is acting weird.
Your mother seems self-focused and uninterested to realize how she impacts others. There is a good book, BOLD LOVE by Dan Allendar, that has helped me to relate to people similar to your mother.
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Old 07-07-2010, 01:05 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you both! It's as if my mother wants to fight with me. Maybe she likes toxic people because she loves the drama. My older brother told me to completely ignore the behavior and eventually she will figure out that there is no fight to be had. He thinks that if I try to talk to her it will just feed the fire. What do you think?

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Old 07-07-2010, 05:40 PM
 
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I think your brother is absolutely right!

It's about power and control. Your mom is probably uncomfortable relating as an equal with other adults. When she insisted on unloading the dishwasher it was her way of controlling her relationship with you, putting herself in control. Then when logically you're baffled and push back she sabotaged the situation and acted like you were abusing her.

It may be that she's actually looking for nurturing and support for herself.

Someone moved my effing cheese.
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Old 07-07-2010, 07:54 PM
 
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Originally Posted by scottishmommy View Post
Thank you both! It's as if my mother wants to fight with me. Maybe she likes toxic people because she loves the drama.
Exactly! She is trying to play the drama triangle game with you and anyone else she can get to engage. In the drama triangle, ppl alternate playing the rescuer, persecutor, and the victim. In the dishwasher story, she was trying to turn you into the persecutor so she could play victim. It takes two (or more) to play, so I advise you not to engage. That is, of course, a lot harder than it sounds because she is going to try her hardest to make you play.

This game gets played all the time in my family. I once tried to explain the drama triangle to my aunt b/c she *loves* to play the rescuer. She listened to me, but hasn't changed one bit (I'm pretty sure she doesn't want to change b/c she likes to feel needed). One thing that rescuers don't realize is that by rescuing you, they are sending you the message that they don't think you're capable of taking care of yourself. For example, when your mother cooks and cleans for you, she's letting you know that she doesn't think you're capable of cooking and cleaning for yourself. If you're feeling brave, you could confront her from that angle.

Btw, you do sound very even keeled. Your mother probably just grew up in a family that played the drama triangle a lot.

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Old 10-01-2012, 10:06 AM
 
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Hi,

 

Thank you for this post.  I know it's been over 3 years since you wrote this but I was so desperate to find something that I could use to help me figure out why my mom insists on playing the martyr.  My mom is definitely a martyr, a right-fighter and she can't move on even when I've explanined why I feel the way I do about situations.  I even tell her I don't want to fight and things that happened in my childhood don't even need an apology as I know she didn't do this on purpose to hurt me.  She brings it up EVERY time we have a disagreement even if the NEW disagreement is not even remotely related.  She'll say, "I'm sorry you feel I've failed at the most important job God gave me."  She's making me and my family CRAZY.  Okay, truthfully, she's making me crazy and I in turn take it to heart and talk about it until my family wants to throw me out.  I don't blame them.  I'm hurt and have to try to find a reason for her insanity.  I have finally told her not to contact us unless she's ready to move on, which haunts me.  However, I can't allow her to steal my joy.  To bring drama into my life.  To make me focus on things that aren't resolvable to her satisfaction.  ARGH,  I'm frustrated.

 

I will be purchasing the "Bold Love" By Dan Allendar so that I can find a way to move forward with my life with our without her.  Oh how I wish that she would stop this nonsense!!!

 

Thank you again for your post and the other post to give this book as a possible help.  Even though it's doubtful you will read this, I already feel better for writing what little I have.  I think this is an indication that I should journal all this feelings instead of forcing my family to hear it. :-)

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Old 10-15-2012, 07:51 PM
 
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It does not sound like a martyr complex.  Definitely a control thing.


The truest answer to violence is love. The truest answer to death is life. The only prevention for violence is for the heart to have no violence within it.  We cannot prevent evil through any system devised by mankind. But we can grapple with evil and defeat it, but only with love—real love.

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Old 10-15-2012, 10:15 PM
 
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I am so sorry for all the pain you ladies have gone and are going through. hug2.gif But...

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by BaffledbyMom View Post

Hi,

 

Thank you for this post.  I know it's been over 3 years since you wrote this but I was so desperate to find something that I could use to help me figure out why my mom insists on playing the martyr.  My mom is definitely a martyr, a right-fighter and she can't move on even when I've explanined why I feel the way I do about situations.  I even tell her I don't want to fight and things that happened in my childhood don't even need an apology as I know she didn't do this on purpose to hurt me.  She brings it up EVERY time we have a disagreement even if the NEW disagreement is not even remotely related.  She'll say, "I'm sorry you feel I've failed at the most important job God gave me."  She's making me and my family CRAZY.  Okay, truthfully, she's making me crazy and I in turn take it to heart and talk about it until my family wants to throw me out.  I don't blame them.  I'm hurt and have to try to find a reason for her insanity.  I have finally told her not to contact us unless she's ready to move on, which haunts me.  However, I can't allow her to steal my joy.  To bring drama into my life.  To make me focus on things that aren't resolvable to her satisfaction.  ARGH,  I'm frustrated.

 

I will be purchasing the "Bold Love" By Dan Allendar so that I can find a way to move forward with my life with our without her.  Oh how I wish that she would stop this nonsense!!!

 

Thank you again for your post and the other post to give this book as a possible help.  Even though it's doubtful you will read this, I already feel better for writing what little I have.  I think this is an indication that I should journal all this feelings instead of forcing my family to hear it. :-)

 

 

... Oh my gosh. That is my mother. This is her. This is 100% her. Right down to the dismissal of my reasons/thoughts/opinions for things relating to my emotions/thoughts/ideas and the "I'm sorry I failed...." line (I've got the email from her to prove it). And reading this post (and thread) right now is making me feel a billion times better because other people understand the cyclical headache that comes with having a mom who seems to nail herself to her own cross every chance she gets. I had to get out of that cycle because it just made me feel so horribly and completely corroded the joy I had in the things around me because I would keep trying to figure out what had happened or why it was happening again.... In short, I just stopped communicating with her. I don't read her emails, I don't pick up the phone, nothing. I do feel badly because I have kids that should ideally have their maternal grandmother in their lives but each and every time I've re-initiated contact and read her replies the cycle repeats itself (initiate contact, nice comment, nice comment in response, martyr comment, ignore comment - nice response, "I don't know what I've done to make you cut me out of your life like a criminal" (exact phrase), cease contact). 

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Old 12-12-2012, 09:31 PM
 
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Yes, my mother too. I have a text where we are arguing because I caught my niece(who lives with my mom) in a lie. She did nothing about it and now she and my dad are ignoring me. I told her how hurt I was and she texted back "I'm sorry I am such a disappointment to you." I am so over it. It almost seems she is jealous of my success and outgoing personality. She has no college degree and lives with her mom after being unemployed 2 years. I teach and have a comfortable lifestyle/house with a husband and 2 kids. She seems resentful of my happiness. It hurts but I almost feel I need to stop trying to make her part of my life.
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Old 08-05-2013, 09:53 AM
 
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This is my mother to a "t".  She has done this for as long as I can remember.  In my adult years, I think she has gotten worse or at least really knows how to push my buttons.  It always ends up in a blow up argument.  Days later, she will call me and leave a message as if nothing happened and it starts the cycle all over again. 

 

Some other things that bother me that she does is she will call my house and leave a message on my voicemail.  Not like a normal mother leaves her daughter, no.  Her messages go something like this, "Hello, this message is for Sally, this is Jane calling.", Like she is speaking to someone at the telephone company.  Most mothers call and say, Hi Sally, it's mom, call me back.  Not my mom. She is very big on acting like she has to walk on eggshells with everyone and how she is not aloud to throw anything away in the house or she may get yelled at, by who, I have no idea, since my father past away a few years ago and she lives alone.  My mother loves playing a victim.  Everyone is always saying something to "hurt her feelings"  Or "treat her badly"  Every conversation we have,  I have to hear about how this one or that one said something and how my mother is the brunt of everything bad.  This IS a MARTYR COMPLEX!  Martyr's love to control things and this is how they do it.  My mother will go out and talk to anyone who will listen, people she doesn't even know, strangers at the grocery store, etc.  just to tell them how lonely she is, how her kids ignore her, how poor she is, you name it then she will turn around and say she doesn't want anyones help because she is not a "begger".  Then why tell the world in the first place? I have had people come back to me telling me how rotten I am and I had no idea what they were talking about.  It's hurtful and embarrassing.  Her other favorite pass time is to get in the car and randomly drive to find someones house.  I live about 1 1/2hours away.  She has been to my house once.  It's not easy to get to my house without directions.  She will drive around for 4 hours without directions, getting lost and then a week later tell me how she tried to come to visit me without calling first.  I don't like unannounced visitors.  She knows this but does this anyway.  It bothers her that I am strong willed.  I learned to be from a young age how to do for myself and my mother dislikes the fact that I am the way I am.  She will do whatever she can to draw attention to herself and I always end up being the one that "is badgering her or abusing her". 

 

I have always wished I had a normal relationship with my mother, but have come to realize that it will never happen.  I try and keep my distant, calling a few times a week, seeing her maybe once or twice a year.  I believe everyone is entitled to happiness and joy in life.  These type of people are happiest being the way they are.  I am glad I am not the only one. The stories on here I have read, have really hit home.

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