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Classic martyr complex?

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Relationship advice Hi Guys,
My first post here and trying to find some answers. I have recently broken up with my Fiance that I had been with for 3 years. I have been noting down some observations and would apprieciate if someone can tell me if this sounds like Martyr Complex?


Kerry:

Previous relationships –

Was in an abusive relationship with someone called Dan. Would completely control her life, picking her up and taking her to work. Telling her what she could watch on TV and would make her sit on the bed and stare at the wall for extended periods. Came out of the relationship because he ended it.

Got with Dave (her 2 boys father) because she felt it a “safe bet” and wanted children. Dave had an affair with a woman (Diane) who he is still with today. Was willing to stay with him for the sake of the children however he kept the affair going and lived together for the next 12 months until they both moved out of the home. Dave told Kerry that Diane was more intelligent, better looking and was all round a better person than her.

Dave’s mother would also comment to Kerry when sitting round a table to eat about her weight and how she looked. She had also made comments recently about Kerry being on a diet.

She hasn’t admitted any fault or wrong doing in this relationship that may have caused the affair.

Younger life –

Kerry’s father had an affair and her mother also decided to stay with her father for the sake of her and her sister (Corrine).

Kerry’s father passed away in 2003, she was very close to him and they would do many things together.

Body Image –

Kerry is self-conscious about her appearance and constantly sees herself as overweight. She is now size 6-8. I questioned her recently on her weight as she looked so skinny, she said she had recently bought the size 8 trousers she had on, wore them to work that day and her boss made a comment saying “is this baggy trousers day?”. I told her she is probably underweight on the BMI scale and she said that’s a good thing, I told her no it isn’t and she went on to say how she could feel all her bones across her chest etc.

She never eats breakfast and will go through the day on some cheese, pack of cut pineapple and some nuts. Before moving in together she would eat crisps, 8-10 biscuits and chocolate of an evening. She had a draw full of chocolate next to her bed that she would dip into at night.

On a Tuesday she will do a full day at work come home then goto an evening spin class, then go food shopping and finally have something to eat around 8:30-9pm

She will get up at 5:30am on a Wednesday morning, go for an 8-10 mile run then goto work for the day, eat very little,. She will also do HIIT training every day she can and running (8-10 miles) any other day she can fit it in.

She wakes up every night having to stretch out and put ice spray on her knees due to the amount of exercise. Both myself and others who work in personal fitness have said how the amount of training vs the amount of rest/food ingested is far too unbalanced.

Told me recently that she doesn’t like eating in front of me and has given up biscuits since moving in together. Before this when living apart she told me she only eats a hot meal with me.

In her previous house she would keep an old photo of herself where she was much larger to remind herself that’s what she looked like and to not let that happen again.

For her 40th birthday I offered her the opportunity to go and have breast implants as she has always commented about them being small. I told her I am offering it only because that what she was asking and I would pay for it. She has made 3 appointments since then to see a consultant and cancelled every one before going.

Kerry would often ask me if it’s ok if she takes her make up off or comes round without it on.

External image to others –

Kerry is known as the happy go lucky girl amongst all her friends and family, would do anything for anyone and is a really nice person who has bad luck with guys and wouldn’t hurt a fly.

Kerry will do a favour for anyone that asks from watering peoples plants, getting prescription medicine, feeding pets while they are away and collecting friends children from school and feeding them each week.

What many people don’t see/hear is her complaining about what she’s doing for them and is being taken for granted however she never says no.

When things do go wrong in her life she is always portrayed as the victim and everyone rallies round her. As far as everyone is concerned/knows she has done no wrong and it’s all down to someone else.

Examples of behaviour –

June 2019 – I was at Kerry’s house one Tuesday evening and she was saying about worries in our relationship. She felt she was making all the effort by coming to me on a Tuesday night and the weekends. I asked her at the time why didn’t she say something sooner and I had no problem coming to her house instead. Her response was your house is much nicer and mine is small and not well presented. I told her there is nothing wrong with her house and I am happy to be there. By the end of the conversation after I said from now on we can alternate or I will simply come to her house each time, she said no, she was just being silly and we’ll carry on as we were.

July 2019 – Holiday to Wales. Stayed in a caravan 10 yards from a main trainline with 80mph trains going past through the night. No one was getting any sleep and tempers were becoming frayed. Come to ahead at the end of the day at a theme park, we both agreed one more ride for the kids then we will leave. Her eldest(11) came off the ride and demanded to go on again, I said no we are leaving now and Kerry undermined me in front of him by telling him he could go on again. That night I asked Kerry what she wanted to do and she said go home. Next morning I am packing up, when the boys found out what was going on Kerry then said she wanted to stay making me out to be the bad guy. Got to a point where I asked Kerry does she want me to stay or go and she said go even though I said I wasn’t going to leave her there stranded. She called the boys father an hour after I left to go pick them up.

She completely blanked me for 2 weeks after this and everyone I spoke to said it seemed like an overreaction and she owed me an explanation. This was our first argument in 2 years.

She has never taken any responsibility for what happened on that day or undermining me in front of her eldest even though very early on in our relationship she told me she had no issue with me disciplining him.

After we got back together in September she stipulated that she didn’t want to come to mine on a Tuesday night anymore to which I said no problem.

August 2020 –

Kerry had taken all 3 (her 2 boys + my son) boys to the beach with the girls for the day. During the day the her boys were using body boards and had developed rashes on their tummies while in the water.

The following day we took them to a sea water baths swimming pool to play on the inflatables. Both her two boys were crying and wanting to get out because their tummies were hurting. Kerry was shouting at them to get back in the water as this has cost her £45 which she cannot afford and they are being ungrateful. (at this time Kerry had £70k+ in the bank and we have a combined weekly disposable cash of £1000).

On the Saturday before going on our most recent holiday away Kerry took her boys into town to get them school shoes etc, I took my son in separately. When we bumped into each other we talked about lunch, I said I had already promised my boy Five Guys and her youngest also said he wanted to go. Kerry’s response to her youngest was I’ve just spent all this money on you and your brother and I can’t afford Five Guys.

Kerry expects the boys to always finish the meals she makes for them and takes offence when they don’t. She made a comment about my son when he didn’t finish a meal saying that she spent all that time making it and he didn’t even eat it.

I have heard Kerry make comments to the boys on many occasions when they have asked for something while she is doing something else. Her comments always refer to her not having time because she is doing XY and Z for them (getting things out for the beach the next day) and she still has to cook dinner for them etc.

On another occasion on the way to the beach, the boys were playing up in the back of the car. Kerry told them off saying how she had to get up early, exercise, make the lunches and pack the car and they could at least behave for all the effort she had gone to.

Kerry would often complain about how much she has on at work and I would say to her you can only get done what you can during one day, if you don’t get it all complete and your boss complains tell him you have too much on and that he should employ more help. She would often work additional hours during the evening to get things done.

She would work through her lunch hour and then tell me how she never stopped but never made her boss aware.

She was cleaning the conservatory at 9pm at night I told her that doesn’t need to be done now and I could do it in the morning however she implied she must do it there and then or it won’t get done.

Most recent conversation about me being able to discipline her eldest (we supposed to be getting married and I will be his step father) Kerry told me that from now on if he is misbehaving I am to tell her and she will deal with him.

Before we moved in together I told Kerry we would share the house chores and work as a team on everything. Since moving in she has taken herself to do all the washing, cooking and cleaning, when I try to ask her for me to help she says no and then makes comments if I am sat on the sofa on my phone. I attempted to get a schedule together for example she leave the washing by the machine in the morning, I will get it washed and pegged out and she can bring it in the evening. The very next morning she had put the washing in and pegged out before going to work.

In the last couple of weeks I said again about creating a schedule but we do it together. Kerry took it upon herself to write down some of the chores she would do then left a note to say anything else write it down and she will do it.

Where her boys are concerned I am not allowed to do anything for them, she creates a bubble around them where she will cook, clean and do everything. I have offered to help with cooking, looking after them so she can go out and exercise and she says no every time.

Most recent example was Kerry was working at the table in the kitchen, her eldest was there making mozzarella sticks. I was getting a drink and he asked me if I could help him drain the cheese, I said of course however Kerry said no she will do it and go back to what I was doing.

When I do try to talk to her about my interaction with the boys she then comments how I never take them out on my own, my response is she is always around, when has she ever asked me to and when have I had the opportunity?

When I tried to talk to Kerry on recently in the evening she complained she had a bad headache, tired because she “had” to go running in the morning, then goto work, then sort the boys out when she got home and how hard things were. I told her she doesn’t have to go running and let me help with the boys, her response was no you can’t help me.

During the last month she still insisted on doing all the washing and cleaning (even making my bed) to “pay her way” while living together. I told her on several occasions I don’t want her doing this and she carried on anyway.

Since back from our last holiday Kerry insisted in sleeping downstairs even though I told her it makes sense to have our room and I will sleep in the downstairs bedroom. I offered her this several times and she declined, all coming to ahead when her youngest woke up in the night came into the bedroom looking for her. Since then insisted on sleeping on the floor in her youngest room even though I was still offering her the bedroom.

I have asked Kerry to take some responsibility for some of the recent trouble in the last month to which she has not done. Put everything down to being my fault and blames me for selling her house and now ending up where she is.

This is our second big argument in 3 years, for the past 12 months we had not had a single cross word. Our time together as a couple has always been 100% harmonious and blissfully happy. She told me our time away to New York and getting engaged in Canada are some of her most happy memories however due to one argument in this time she was happy to tell me she doesn’t love me anymore and create the situation where she is now living with her mother. Kerry has made no effort to attempt to repair the damage and thinks all the problems stem from me and my behaviour.

Constantly apologises for things she doesn’t need to (if she forgets something) however in the big situations like the last few weeks refuses to take any responsibility or apologise for any part in it.

Kerry acts like she is in competition with the boy’s father (her mother has confirmed this to me), on our last holiday she was commenting how they had a good week away before with their father and her holiday with them won’t be as good. She makes comments about what their father has done or not done while with the boys (not bringing back clothes or other items) and that how if it wasn’t for her they would lose out.

I have never said no to Kerry, whenever she wanted to go out (with or without me) I was always happy to go along with it, want to take the boys somewhere no problem, take them on holiday no questions asked except where she would like to go, I plan, book and pay for it. Most recently has accused me of coercive controlling behaviour.

Kerry’s view on things if everything doesn’t run perfectly it is a disaster and everything has to be perfect or it’s not been done right.

She wrote me letter which talked about all the nice things she had given me and said to me over the years, also saying I should look at what I had implying I should be grateful for all that and not to throw it away after we break up and she leaves.

The whole recent situation I have been trying to remedy since our return from holiday however Kerry showed no intention and was telling me she doesn’t know what to do all the while looking for somewhere else to live.

She started telling me that she was scared of me with no foundation of me ever even raising my voice to her let alone a hand. When she would start to cry if I tried to console her she would get hysterical like I was attacking her telling me not to touch her and running to the other side of the table.

I have suggested both family counselling and couples counselling both of which Kerry has flatly dismissed without further consideration. She has no intention to ever speak about her feelings or identify that she has any personal issues, closest she has said to this is she can be difficult to live with.

It seems more apparent that Kerry made her mind up to leave before we went on holiday (saying she’s not able to afford things, making no effort to try and stay together, continuing to look to move despite telling me she wasn’t). Why she decided to leave is still the mystery at the moment (something about the house? Rules for the boys? Not taking to living together in general?) but using the troubles from the holiday and recent events give her the perfect excuse to leave without it seeming to be her decision and being shown as the innocent victim.

Kerry gets upset when I have spoken to any friends and family on her side. Has come apparent now she has only been telling people her brief side of things without the wider information of the circumstances and context of the situation. I managed to speak to her closest friend recently and she had no idea of what happened last year or recently, only had brief information from Kerry that we had split up and that I asked her to leave so they believe she hasn’t done anything wrong.

Classic martyr complex?

REFINED_SILVER profile image
Hi MajorTom,



First, thanks for sharing in this forum. Also, I love the David Bowie reference! That makes you awesome!

Okay, it appears as though you really want to continue with this relationship, and that's great. You're meeting the challenges and figuring out how to solve them and make the most of every situation.

My question, which I believe only you can answer, is how similar are your backgrounds? What are/were your parent's relationship like and what are/were Kerry's parents? If the both of you are "evenly yoked" then maybe reconsider the breakup. It appears as though you love each other because there was no mention of infidelity or physical abuse, and obviously this matter has been weighing on you for quite some time since you have written at least two pages worth of a story.

Now the secondary issue is how much does Kerry want to commit to this relationship? Since she sold her home (instead of keeping it and turning it into a profitable real estate investment) she cared enough to do such a thing. And maybe that is where she may not have the courage (something I learned recently: The word "rage" exists in the word "courage!") to say that it hurt her to do so. Most women today are very connected to– and protective about– their independence, so for some, it's a major blow to their self-esteem to have that deprecated.

Now, since children are involved in this situation, in your opinion, what trajectory do you see occurring if the both of you continue with the relationship as-is, and then commit to being in a marriage?

Since Kerry is identified as the 'martyr', well what about the possibility that Kerry is experiencing emotional triggers to someone or something that has occurred in her past, and she may not have mentioned or fully overcame that trigger? Also what about the possibility that you might have a hero complex? Having a hero complex is not necessarily bad, but imagine if Superman grew tired of coming to the rescue of others, especially if so few thanked him for it.

Perhaps the best thing for the both of you is to make concerted efforts to change, but in small bites. Grand sweeping changes are like diets, when we attempt them all-at-once, we become overwhelmed and disinterested. If both parties prefer not to change, then what one has is what will be.

Finally, here's a lesson that is a work-in-progress, and this takes practice. Instead of labeling (read accusing) each other, try focusing on the how's, what's, and whys of the situation. (e.g.: What is the best way to arrive at a happy medium?) My favorite relative suggested a social exercise to stop using the word "I" in a sentence when making complaints or speaking in general. Since two people are involved, "We" will have to be used on a case-by-case basis so please use this pronoun carefully.

Whoops forgot one last thing. Both of you seem highly intelligent. Hopefully neither of you will weaponize your intelligence. Oftentimes that's what smart people do to each other and when it happens it can and will crush a person. Just remember no matter what age either of you are, you still cry and bleed, just like when you were children.

Hope this helps and blessings abound to the both of you.

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