My experience with martyrs and conditional love

I made a relative breakthrough in my therapy recently. Namely, I realized that I had grown up with the knowledge that I did not deserve my mother’s care nor love. So when she gave it to me, it must have been because she was so giving and not because I actually deserved to be loved.

Yes, my mother was an excellent martyr. Excellent at pointing out what all she had given to me and how selfish I was. The thought of, maybe I deserved to be given all these things never occurred to me. It is funny, because I did not fully buy into my mother being this selfless creature either. I knew she was neglectful, but part of me still believed that I was undeserving of even what little she gave me.

The same pattern has continued in my current relationship. My boyfriend makes an excellent martyr. Unlike my mother, he does give more and he is more generous with his love. However, he has left me in no dark about all the favors that he is continuously doing for me.

I spent years feeling very thankful, but also resentful for everything that he had done for me. After all he was there when I really had a difficult time in therapy etc. It never occurred to me that maybe I deserved to be listened and helped. Maybe it was my value that motivated him doing these things. Maybe he did not love me because he was such a good and giving person, but maybe he loved me because I was such a good person.

Martyrs unfortunately have the tendency to make love about them. You hear them talking about how they are so loving and giving, but you rarely hear them saying how others in fact deserve their love. Hence it is not difficult to pick up a message that maybe you are unworthy of all their care and effort. Maybe you should be eternally grateful, because who else will love such a selfish beast you are?

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