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However, sacrifice is a ificant part of any healthy relationship.
Your spouse comes home from work and excitedly tells you that she just was offered a promotion—in another state. Do you quit your job and move away from your family to an unknown city so that she can pursue her career ambitions? Should you? Close relationships require sacrifice. In fact, many people include sacrificing in the very definition of what it means to truly love another person—and indeed, research has shown that couples are happier and more likely to remain in their relationships if the partners are willing to sacrifice for each other.
My father’s love
Sometimes that sacrifice can be life-changing, such as deciding to move to a different state in order to be with your partner; other times it might be something small and seemingly mundane, such as seeing an action movie instead of the comedy you would have chosen. I often find myself weighing my need to be true to myself— why should I be the one giving up what I want? Over time this imbalanced pattern of sacrifice may lead to an imbalance of power in your relationship—a recipe for long-term unhappiness and resentment.
In short, research by social psychologists such as Emily Impett, Paul Van Lange, and Caryl Rusbult suggests that sacrificing for someone you love may show them you care and may even make you feel good about yourself. But their studies also reveal that if you find yourself always being the one who sacrifices—or if you feel forced to make a sacrifice—then you should tread with caution.
Based on this research, I offer seven questions you may want to ask yourself when deciding whether or not a sacrifice is worth it. How committed are you? Is this the person you plan to spend forever with, or do you still harbor reservations?
According to Van Lange, commitment may be one of the most important precursors to sacrifice. In order for a big sacrifice to be worth it, you should make sure that you are invested in the relationship and confident about your future together. Nothing is certain, of course, but a sacrifice becomes much more palatable when it helps bring you closer to the person with whom you want to spend the rest of your life.
Would your partner do the same for you? Sacrifice is two-sided: While you are deciding whether or not to move across the country to let your spouse take his promotion, your spouse must decide whether or not to sacrifice his promotion in order to let you keep your job. Has your partner been willing to sacrifice for you in the past, or expressed his willingness to sacrifice in the future? In the current situation, are you working together to figure out what is best, or does your partner simply expect you to change your life to accommodate his? If your partner assumes that you are the one who must choose to sacrifice, without assuming any of the same responsibility on his end, think twice.
Does one of you want it more? When a situation requires sacrifice from you or your partner, the two of you may not be equally invested in the outcome. As you navigate the situation, make sure you are both clear about your own desires and priorities.
In addition, by not realizing that you are incurring a cost for the sake of the relationship, your partner might not understand when you want her to return the favor the next time a sacrifice is called for. Finally, it is important to know if your partner disagrees with you and does not see your actions as a sacrifice. Has your partner expressed thanks for your willingness to sacrifice? Is there a better solution? If your partner wants you to go on a tropical vacation and you really want to take in the architecture of ancient cities, perhaps a little research will uncover a place where you can do both.
I sacrifice my values for love
Can you negotiate? For example, you can work it out so that you eat at the restaurant you want, and go to the movie your partner wants to see. This may even work for the bigger sacrifices. You could make the move to the new city, but agree that there will be money set aside in a travel budget so that you can fly home to visit your family some of times a year. In many respects, this is the most important question you need to ask yourself.
6 things you should never sacrifice in a relationship, no matter how in love you are
Research shows that people engage in sacrifice for many different reasons, and not all of them lead to happily ever after. Are you moving cross-country to make your partner happy and keep your relationship going—or are you simply trying to avoid conflict? Sacrifices motivated by avoidance can undermine happiness and satisfaction in a relationship.
There is an alternative: When you sacrifice to make your partner happy, that can potentially increase trust and happiness. Sacrifice is a hallmark of a close relationship, but it should not lead to neglecting your own needs.
7 things you should sacrifice for a relationship
Psychologist Aleksandr Kogan has shown that genuine helping is healthy, but using sacrifice as a bargaining chip in your relationship may lead to resentment from your partner. In addition, although there is nothing wrong with negotiating with your partner, choosing to make a sacrifice and then silently expecting your partner to take the fall the next time may mean disappointment for both of you.
In close relationships, people typically hold mutual expectations—they believe their partner will help them when they need it and sacrifice without expecting to be paid back in kind. In fact, studies show that people can become upset when a close partner does try to pay them back in kind.
So your partner may be disheartened to learn that you sacrificed only to ensure that he would have to sacrifice for you—perhaps because it makes your romantic relationship feel like a series of economic transactions. It is important to consider the pros and cons, have clear communication with your partner, ask the tough questions, and make sure you are sacrificing for the right reasons. The right kind of sacrifice can bring people together, but sacrificing for the wrong reasons may be worse than no sacrifice at all. Amie M. Gordon, Ph. Barbara Novotny pm, August 15, Link.
But I think you are right to be frustrated — being forced into a position of power can be uncomfortable. Also, planning things in advance might facilitate discussion about what you both want, rather than last minute plans that require a quick decision. Amie pm, August 15, Link. Thank you very much for writing this article and I sacrifice my love sharing your interpretation of the research. I found the information extremely rewarding, and I really appreciate all your efforts.
Michael pm, August 18, Link. Great article. Thanks for taking serious scientific research and presenting it in a straightforward and informal style. Articles like yours can only do good. I particularly enjoyed your emphasis on motivation.
Dustin Vegas pm, August 20, Link. I really liked reading this because some of it is my life right now as i speak. I feel very alone were i am i dont like were we are living now im a very family oriented person and were i moved to i have no one at all. The thing im having a really hard time with is again i have no one here and i feel alone i have developed anxiety and i think im getting depressed. I just dont know what else to do. I met my partner in the town I grew up in.
Seven months later I moved with him to his home town. I thought that I was making a reasonable sacrifice at the time, but now 12 years later I feel so miserable. I feel extremely lost about my interest and partly because he told me that all my interests are pointless. I have been unsuccessful in making friends. I have found that the town I am living in really dislikes the town I grew up in and therefore I have extreme difficulty finding work.
I even attemped opening my own business and was crucified at the stake for being from my home town. I feel that my current situation is limiting my personal growth in every aspect of my life. My partner and I have a son and want what is best for him. I am trying to think of creative ways to change the situation but it always requires my own personal sacrifice.
Family is the most important thing to me and I really do not want to sacrifice my family. Casandra pm, January 16, Link. Become a subscribing member today.
Scroll To Top Your spouse comes home from work and excitedly tells you that she just was offered a promotion—in another state. John Templeton Foundation as part of our Expanding Gratitude project. Get the science of a meaningful life delivered to your inbox. About the Author. Best of luck! Amie Amie pm, August 15, Link. Dear Amie, Thank you very much for writing this article and for sharing your interpretation of the research.
I look forward to following your work, and I wish you the best in your studies. Please have an incredible day. Warmly, Michael Michael pm, August 18, Link. Amie, Great article.
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