Dear Family, I won't be a martyr anymore. I will live for myself


“I got married to Anup just before the lockdown was made official. Ours is a love marriage—we met at work—and since everything rolled out so quickly, I wasn’t been able to spend enough time with his family members before marriage. Ours is a joint family and now, that everyone is at home—his parents and sister—I am getting to know each person. I’ve realised that each person here has his/her own set of rules, preference and ideas. Though they have asked me to be as open as possible with them too and not to feel shy but, HOW? 

It is so difficult. I don’t want to say something that might offend my sister-in-law or I don’t want to do something and disappoint my parents-in-law. They have a whole lot of expectations from me—taking care of them, being with them, managing the whole house—I am not averse to it and would like to fulfill my responsibilities but fulfilling all their expectations is making me scared, worried, and anxious.

I am scared to say ‘NO’ to something even if I don’t feel like it. My father-in-law asked me to wash the bathrooms inspite of us having a full-time servant; I didn’t want to do it and could  have asked the servant to do it since he had been washing the bathrooms before my marriage, but I couldn’t say no and so I washed all the four bathrooms in the house without anyone helping me. By the end of  it I was wet, tired and mentally exhausted...I was crying internally...I had never done it at home and now to wash all four bathrooms together that too of people who are yet to accept me totally. I was missing my mother and wanted to run to her and cry out my heart. I felt cheated, betrayed and worst victimised. I think it was intentional on my father-in-law’s part—he wanted to make me understand clearly that I will have to do all the dirty jobs of the house as well, ALONE, and that them being parents of the groom, puts them at a higher status than me.

It is not MY house to do whatever I please. Yes, I mean technically it is my house too but still I don’t feel I belong. They hide conversations from me, don’t let me in on important decisions. Initially I thought it was my mistake and I wanted to be liked by all, but now, I realise, in this process, I am just exhausting myself. I don’t get time to read or watch my favourite series. I can’t have evening strolls because there is all the work to be done. I can’t even be with Anup for longer hours because when everyone is at home, what will they think? Plus, he has his work. I feel like an outsider who is always trying to fit in. Is it normal to feel like this? Is it ok to keep saying ‘Yes’ to everything just because I want to make others happy?” 

This was the concern that Diksha, a 26-year-old newly-married woman, struggling with a martyr complex shared with us. All this ‘trying to make others happy’ has confused her mind and her own identity.

She doesn’t anymore know her own preferences for food, colour, decor, TV shows etc. She likes colours and clothes that her mom-in-law likes, food that her father-in-law likes, TV shows that her husband likes.

When it comes to families, for most women the fine line between creating a happy home and martyrdom gets blurred. They usually forget where to stop. And sooner or later, in an attempt to get accepted, they lose themselves—a sacrifice that comes to bite them later...once the high of the wedding and wedding ceremonies is over. They bend backwards to adjust their new family in their life to  a point where their resolve starts to break. And then the pandemonium in the family starts.

By that time people are so used to having  you adjust for them, that they can’t bear you saying a ‘No’ or not living as per their pleasure. 

Taking care of people and making them happy is good, but being a martyr is not. It can snowball right into exhaustion, burnout, overwhelming feelings and mental breakdown. For women, it  is important to learn the lessons of setting boundaries, taking care of themselves, and communicating clearly even if it means saying ‘no’. There are no rewards for martyrdom.