By Alex S. Morgan
What would it be like to give and not regret it? How would it feel to receive knowing the other shoe would never drop?
Nobody wins in martyr dynamics. The person who gave more than they really wanted to now feels taken advantage of and resents the person they helped. The person who took or received now is frustrated or resentful of the guilt trip, or feels like they became an inferior through the exchange.
This is a non-consensual power exchange, where time, resources, or goodwill are traded for a feeling of power or superiority. And we all engage in it, usually with those who are the biggest presences in our lives.
The difference between generosity and martyrdom is consent, both yours and theirs. Do you *want* to give? Do they *want* to receive? What do you get from the giving?
You’re not proving you’re a good person if you give something you don’t want to give and feel frustrated with them for taking it later. That’s not genuinely kind to either of you.
If you gave or did someone a favor and now feel resentment: That means you just found a boundary you may not have expressed or may not have known you had. Now you know. Honor that boundary in the future and you’ll find yourself silently hating people so much less often.
This is an ongoing calibration, and it’s one worth doing. It feels so good to do someone a favor knowing it’s genuine. It makes learning to say no worth it.
Alex S. Morgan is a writer and sex educator based in the Bay Area.