Contrary to conventional wisdom, there is no honor in martyring oneself for a relationship. How many times has a friend said to us that they are staying in a relationship either for the kids, for their family, or for the other person? And how many times has that ended well? Oh sure. The relationship may continue and they may very well celebrate years of anniversaries. But will they really be celebrating the relationship or just the fact they survived another year? Is this all they deserve? If this is you, is this all that you want from your life? To survive? Or do you want to thrive? If the latter, my friend, I must tell you that you will never find the path to thriving by living or doing things solely because it benefits someone else. To thrive, you must by definition do those things that benefit you whether it is financially, emotionally, physically, or spiritually.
Now some will think this sounds selfish. But if you are a parent, consider thinking of it this way. If your child were to make a decision that didn’t benefit him or her in one way or another but only enhanced the life of another person at his or her expense, would you want your child to make that decision? I doubt it. We all want what is best for our kids and we know that their only path to having what is best for them is to act in their own self-interest. So why do we consider it a bad thing if we act in our own self-interest?
To be clear, I am not saying there is no honor to sacrifice in the service of others. Our military heroes, police officers, firefighters, and countless others die or are injured in the service of others. And their parents probably questioned at least momentarily if their child’s decision to take up such a profession served them. This must be a tough concept to contemplate. But only the individual can answer for himself if his choices served him. There are many heroes that derive such great spiritual benefit from their service to others that the physical injuries are a small price to pay to gain such immense payback. Of course, we don’t all feel this way which is why we don’t all choose such professions. And thankfully, there are many patriotic souls among us who do. But I don’t think we should call them selfless. That would actually dishonor them by implying they are without self… an empty shell. I think not. So bottom line, even those that befall seemingly negative circumstances did so in the pursuit of happiness derived on their terms and according to their definition of the word.
Now back to my point about martyrdom and its destructive path. Going back to others in your life whom you watched engage in this truly selfless endeavor, how many did you perceive as being happy? How many did you feel had just conceded their desires to another? How many of these relationships ultimately ended anyway? And for those that eventually ended, how much time was invested into the sinking ship they were on? What did they deny themselves in the process? And if this is you and you just can’t get past the idea that you acted selfishly to leave the other person, why do you feel it is your right to deny them the opportunity to have the quality of relationship that they really deserve? That’s right. You’re actually not benefiting them by forcing the relationship to continue. You’re either delaying their happiness or outright deny them of it.
When Bob and I first got together, there is no doubt that the relationship served both of us and continued to do so for a many years. But sometimes even when a relationship is great at the beginning or for a certain span of time, that doesn’t mean it will always continue to server our happiness. We are all continuously evolving and changing. As Bob and I grew as human beings and evolved, in our case our service to each other as spouses waned. There is no shame in ending a marital relationship when it ceases to serve up happiness to those involved. In fact, doing so may be the kindest thing one can do for another and for oneself.
I will leave you with one more thought on this topic whether you have already divorced and suffer from guilt or are considering ending your marriage. If you stay in a relationship strictly “for the kids”, what does that teach them about creating a successful romantic relationship in the future? Does it truly teach them a valid path to happiness? Does it teach them real compassion for others? What do you want them to learn?