The ultimate sacrifice

In most relationships, sacrifice is inevitable.
To be successful at your job, , (beyond the normal employment duties) one might have to sacrifice their values, their beliefs, their integrity, or their location. To be a good mother, one must sacrifice their time, their energy and finances.
Sometimes we don’t want to sacrifice. Or, We want to dole out our sacrificed commodity. And, “what” is really considered a sacrifice? often, The thought of sacrificing is much more appealing than the reality of such an action. After all, we do tend to romanticize the situations that surround “sacrifice.” Usually when we imagine such sacrifices; the results are often favorable. Therefore, there is a silver lining to the sacrifice which makes the sacrifice worth the effort. And, there is a notion that there is a direct link between the size of the sacrifice and the desired accomplishment. “The only question to ask yourself is, how much are you willing to sacrifice to achieve this success?” —
Larry Flynt. “Dreams do come true, if we only wish hard enough, You can have anything in life if you will sacrifice everything else for it,” — James M. Barrie And, romantically speaking, even when the sacrifice does not yield the desired results, the one who has sacrificed is deemed a martyr for —- Love … or freedom … or truth … or something. In this way, the efforts that have made up the whole of the sacrifice have been, in some way, redeeming.

In opposition to these romantic notions, counseling books everywhere (typically those that either have a very feminist bent or those exemplifying “reality therapy”) have dispelled the notion that a sacrifice is neither admirable or noble. Usually, these books talk about the sacrifices that women make and not the ones that men make. In fact, most literature says that “women sacrifice too much” and “men sacrifice too little,” – at least as far as relationships are concerned. “Sacrifice, sacrifice, sacrifice! That’s the condition of the female. Women have been conditioned to sacrifice for centuries,”
Betty Dodson. Much of this literature debunks any honorable attitudes surrounding the act of sacrifice. After all, they claim, women have been sacrificing for men way too many times and, let’s face it, the men are neiter reciprocating the action nor are they greatful for such sacrifices (the customary words seem to fall short of conveying real feeling). There is also a notion that has cropped up in the last twenty or so years that we should get something for our sacrifice. And, women are told not to sacrifice too much for their children for these same reasons. There is an added reason for the children, however, it is simply because we want to set a good example. We want to show our daughters that they don’t have to sacrifice and should not do so for a man (especially) or their children. I Too, have fallen into the trap of warning my family members about “the act of sacrifice.” I am always telling my daughter that she should not sacrifice her interests – those things that she enjoys doing (Music, volleyball, basketball, exercising, and baking), for her relationship. This would make her less of “Dominika” and more of “Someone’s Girlfriend.” and, I do believe that I am right to caution her. It does seem that people go to extremes: either giving an unhealthy sacrifice or not sacrificing at all. Of course, there has to be a balance, but many times, I wonder if we are teaching selfishness and fostering an unhealthy attitude of entitlement in relationships.

Yet, when it comes to a job, people are encouraged to “be adventurous” “embrace the unknown.” Sacrificing for a job is (in most cases) seen as a good move. To Americans, sacrificing for money is appropriate, but sacrificing for family is not. I wonder if it is because money is valued much more than a husband or family. After all, marriage is not valued as it once was. People seem to give up too easily. Or, at the least, the partnership seems to be unbalanced. And, since your children will always be your children; regardless of how much or how little you sacrifice, most people see no point in doing so.
[climbing down from soap box to return to original topic]. {hmm, if I could only insert an image of a person falling from a very high ledge—smile}.

I have noticed that sometimes Desi men and women have to sacrifice their family bonds for their relationship. Sometimes, women give up their high paying promising careers (ones that they might have taken years to build) to stay home with the children. Do we ever look at the naked reality of Sacrifice? When we unearth sacrifice, do we ever actually consider the possibility that we might encounter a raw wound that might grow into a festering sore, if we are not diligent about its care?

I think of my friend, Susie.
http://www.susieofarabia@blogspot.com
[I read many interesting blogs and she is up for an award] she has moved to Saudi Arabia with her husband. Even when her son went back to the states to go to High School, (although she visits him I think about once a year) she has made her home in KSA. her husband does encourage her to go and visit her son and even stay as much as possible until he exits high school. But, when deciding to embark on such a trip, She probably received the same sort of advice that I give to my own daughter.
I know that there are lots of American women who have married men of foreign origin and have had to move to a land where they did not speak the language and found culture and customs unlike their own. I am not trivializing your experiences. I chose Susie because there were many factors that could have inhibited her sacrifice. Susie was not young when she moved. Sure, she was adventurous. But, she was not young. I imagine that she had laid down relationship and comfortable roots somewhere. I know that she had an older daughter that she left behind. This comes at a time in her life when she (or most women even close to her age – myself included) would value security and familiarity; over adventure, new beginnings and discovering new lands with new possibilities.
It is not just the friend and familial connections; although, this is no small sacrifice because she has gone to a place where it is very difficult to forge new connections due to linguistic and cultural barriers beyond her control. She has sacrificed some of her freedom. She has sacrificed her routines, her comfort food, [should we start a comfort food campaign for you Susie??], her interests, her comfort zone and her profession. I don’t know if she feels that her self confidence has been compromised. I don’t know how it would feel to only rely on your husband for those comforts that are typically given by a multitude of family and friends. And, I don’t know if her husband is willing or able to attempt to be her emotional and social lifeline. In short, there are many questions that could be asked of Susie. Did she weigh all of the positives and negatives before deciding to make the sacrifice? Or did she instinctively make the sacrifice out of duty or affection? How much of herself has she sacrificed for her marriage? what is the outcome from that sacrifice? And, Is the beneficiary of such a sacrifice appreciative or even fully aware of the scope of such a sacrifice? I have not asked her if she regrets her sacrifice or if she resents her husband? I have only wondered how many times she must “wander,” down the lane of “what if.” (with some shame, I must admit that) I probably would make that familiar trek all too often. [mental note: I am embarrassed to admit that I am so rigidly connected to *what* I want and not able to be flexible enough to trust in the fact that, if I allow it too, my sacrifice can yield great and unexpected joys].
Rather than delving into Susie’s particular situation, we can use Susie’s circumstances as a springboard to analyze our own questions about sacrifice and how it relates to our lives and relationships. When thinking about our own sacrifices, Here are some questions that we might want to ask ourselves. [Hey, feel free to add to the list].

1. Is there a difference between a gift and a sacrifice? and What have/ are you willing to sacrifice for your marriage or relationship? (money, time, health, energy, friends, freedom, family, interests, career, intellect, pride, ego, faith, …)? And, how much of these things are you willing to sacrifice?

2. What are you *not* willing to sacrifice and why? What fears are behind your unwillingness? Are they founded or unfounded? Do you only feel comfortable sacrificing when you can control the outcome? Has your spouse or family needed/wanted you to sacrifice something that you are unwilling to give up? Was it an appropriate or inappropriate request? Why?

3. What are the obvious and unintended consequences of sacrificing such things? Or, should we even analyze the negative aspect of our sacrificing? By making such an analysis, does it somehow ruin the heart behind the sacrifice?

4. Do you expect to get something for your sacrifice, if so, what? Even in relationships, we sometimes hope that our sacrifice might yield peace, happiness, gratitude, a more loving spouse, etc. Should we have this expectation?

5. When is a sacrifice unhealthy or “not ok?” And, can you make that decision for others?

6. Should you only make a sacrifice if you can do it willingly and/or if you believe that you will arbor no resentment regardless of the outcome? And, should you make the sacrifice only if you can do it cheerfully? “The sacrifice which causes sorrow to the doer of the sacrifice is no sacrifice. Real sacrifice lightens the mind of the doer and gives him a sense of peace and joy: The Buddha gave up the pleasures of life because they had become painful to him,” — Mahatma Gandhi. “Love is not a feeling of happiness. Love is a willingness to sacrifice,” —
Michael Novak

7. Can a sacrifice be conditional? Should a sacrifice be doled out and contracted like a business agreement? And, if so, What types of conditions would you impose … … and what happens if the condition has been breached. Sometimes the breach can leave the sacrifice feeling hollow. What happens then? Do you make a new agreement concerning the sacrifice? Does it make it a sacrifice if there are conditions attached?

8. Should you always talk about the sacrifice with the one you are sacrificing for so they understand the breadth and depth of your choice? In effect, should the one you are sacrificing for always be aware of and know the gravity of the sacrifice?

9. Is a sacrifice really a sacrifice if you continue to evaluate the results of such a sacrifice to determine whether it was worth it or not?

10. Can you retract a sacrifice? If so, what are the conditions surrounding sacrificial retractions? ?

No, Imran and I are not moving to Pakistan and no, he has not overtly or covertly asked me to sacrifice anything important. Hmmm, it occurs to me that I just assumed that you would suspect from this post that I was being asked to sacrifice instead of the possibility that I am asking Imran to sacrifice. In any case, we have and are not going through such a trauma. Yet, in evaluating myself, I realize that I can be quite rigid and like the idea that “I certainly would sacrifice my routine and/or comfort level and/or dreams/thoughts about the way things should go,” much more than the reality of such a sacrifice. I also realize that Imran, in most situations, is much more open and flexible to such possibilities. I am a bit hesitant to say that I “HOPE TO WORK ON THIS,” because, the only way to truly develop a skill or habit or characteristic is to practice it often. I am much more inclined to analyze and discuss than to “practice.” (smile)

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8 Responses to “The ultimate sacrifice”

  1. Sara Says:

    Awesomeness and I have both agreed to make sacrifice; some we’re making now, others come in the future. I think it’s important to talk about sacrifices, because it’s important to talk out what you’re getting into. It’s also important to make sure that your partner actually values this sacrifice; there’s nothing like slaving away, only to find that your partner didn’t actually need your sacrifices.

    First, he agreed to raise our children within a church-like religious environment (I happily found a church that doesn’t focus on Christianity, and we both really value being part of that community even now). This was the easiest compromise, especially because we found a church that works for both of us.

    Second, we had very different ideas about economic aspirations (I’ve agreed to be more competitive in my career, at least until student loans are paid off and we have a house; he’s agreed to be less competitive, especially after we have kids and if we want to live near family). This compromise has been a little harder to work out, but we’re both pretty happy with it.

    Third, I agreed to become vegetarian. This has definitely been a sacrifice, especially in the beginning, but on the day-to-day I’m usually very happy with my decision. However, we’ve had many fights about it, and there have been times that I have resented his request for me to make this sacrifice. I’ve also been very self-conscious about others’ judgment of this sacrifice, because I would not have chosen to give up meat, although I was happy with a reduced-meat diet. I still wonder if it was a reasonable expectation, but I haven’t had meat in over two years. In fact, arguments led to lightening of the “rules,” but I haven’t actually changed my eating habits.

  2. jamily5 Says:

    Hi Sara,
    when i realized how strongly Imran felt about pork, i decided to stop eating it except under special circumstances. that is, if my father makes pork, i will eat it because i know how offended he will be if i don’t. But, otherwise, there will be no pork in the house and i will not eat it.
    Similarly, there has been a lightening of the rules but, as of now, i have chosen to keep a strict commitment. Imran asked that pork not be cooked in the house or stored in the house.
    But, he did not want to place conditions on my specific habits.
    that was my doing.
    there have been other sacrifices that we have both made. i have written about them in this blog.
    some were willingly made and some were not.
    some were resented and some were not.
    I think that conflict comes when we have different expectations surrounding the sacrifice. And, I agree that the other person should know about the sacrifice. if they don’t, then they might not even realize that you “sacrificed,” and what that meant to you.
    But, a ‘sacrifice’ by its very nature means that you have given up something that was important to you.
    thus, if Imran asked me to give up cigarets, it wouldn’t be a sacrifice because I don’t smoke.

  3. luckyfatima Says:

    I haven’t found yet that I have done anything that is a sacrifice. Instead I feel I have made compromises. If that makes sense.

  4. Sara Says:

    I think that sacrifice and compromise can mean the same thing, or can mean very different things, depending on the person. Some people say “sacrifice” with bitterness, but not all.

    I personally think of a sacrifice as being a long-term or major change and a compromise as more of a short-term, minor change. I also tend to think of it as a “sacrifice” when I completely give up what I want (like when we both have a headache and don’t want to drive, but one of us has to), and a “compromise” when we create a new, alternate solution that works for both of us (like when we want to go different places to eat and choose a third place that sounds “ok enough” to both of us).

    I described religion as a “compromise” because we created a new solution based on both of our wants/needs, but I described being vegetarian as a sacrifice because I had to decide if I was willing to comply with it as it stood (although it has become more of a “compromise” over time).

    • jamily5 Says:

      hi lucky Fatima, “compromise,” means that you both have given up something to arrive at an equitable solution. So, i understand the difference. i think that sacrifice might occur when one person gives up something important or at least “more,” than the other.

  5. blonde.bahu Says:

    There’s a lot here. Most of these sacrifices, especially those involving children, are things I haven’t had to deal with yet, but I see my friends struggling with them. Who will stay home with the kids? Who will give up a job for a move? Which person will work while the other person goes back for his or her doctorate? As someone who grew up with an extremely intelligent and creative stay-at-home mom, I am very nervous about giving up too much of my own career prospects for children. I see my mom who is so wonderful and so talented, and now that her kids are grown up, her creativity is limiting to knitting and crocheting. I don’t want to end up there!

    Since I grew up Catholic, I have a lot of conflict tied up in ideas of sacrifice, martyrdom, and erasure of the self. At the same time that I try to see these things as virtuous, I have to realize that there are limits.

    In retrospect, having only a Hindu wedding and having it in India was a sacrifice. At the time, I was just thinking in terms of “getting this over with,” but I find that I am a teensy bit jealous of people who got to have two weddings or who got to have their families at their weddings. Also, it was a disaster, so that colors the memories a bit.

    Every time my MIL comes to our one-bedroom apartment for a “short” eight week visit, I sacrifice my space, my privacy, my time, and, yes, whatever remnants of mental stability or self-esteem I have left.

    Every time we have to go to an all Desi party and I have to listen to people saying racist things about black people, sexist things about women, and generally hate-filled things about Americans in general, that is a sacrifice.

    I consider them sacrifices because they are unpleasant things that I wouldn’t choose to do of my own volition and I generally resent having to do them. I guess I am used to the parties by now (I no longer start a fight when certain Punjabi guys starts using the “N” word or refers to people I respect as “f-ggots”; I just have another drink–I can’t undo idiocy). There’s nothing I can do about the wedding other than laugh about it and know that it was awful for Mr. 4B as well. I do expect something back from the MIL visits, though. I usually get a vacation after she leaves.

    Compromise is easier to deal with because it is not imposed on you, but is usually a decision reached mutually. We haven’t had to make food compromises, but we have had to make religion compromises. Mr. 4B sometimes puts up with going to church with me, but otherwise he just drops me off. I don’t have to do any Hindu rituals that I don’t want to.

    I think that as long as we don’t sacrifice our deepest desires for ourselves (for me, that is writing books, always having a dog, and always being near nature), we don’t really hurt ourselves. When we look around at what we’ve sacrificed and say, “Was this worth it?” the answer should always be “yes.”

    • jamily5 Says:

      Hi Blonde, i think that you are right. We have to be careful when thinking about sacrificing and we have to be honest about the possibility of resentment.

      i want to be honest here. Our wedding was at the courthouse. i would have liked it to be a friendly gathering, but at the time, i inwardly focussed on “what it wasn’t,” and felt the nerves as well but, could have used that energy to make the day even more special for dh and myself. my regret! Wow! you get a vacation out of it! How Wonderful!!! It sounds like your dh understands your sacrifice when your mil comes to stay. I hope that it makes the sacrifice bearable. I have not met my MIL, yet and wish that I could have a good relationship with her. I think that this will center on how much Urdu that i can speak, though. Oh, I am with you about those racist comments. i can’t handle them or the people who say them. I hear them more from non-minority people. And: comments about America – now that is a whole other can of worms. have you written a post on it yet? someone should.

      i am glad that you have your desires clearly outlined. sometimes, i find for me (And maybe for Dh as well) that you didn’t realize something was so important to you until you have had to sacrifice it.

  6. blonde.bahu Says:

    “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone?” That’s definitely true.

    The closest I’ve gotten to writing about anti-American comments is this post about what I call “lecture uncles”: http://bigbadblondebahu.blogspot.com/2010/04/odd-lectures-from-cranky-uncles.html
    I might have to do a new one about people who say these things but live her by their own choice. I might have a post brewing about the world’s most awkward Thanksgiving dinner, which was rife wife racism and anti-America comments.

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