Love and other bruises

You are a noble creature…aren’t you? I mean, you make sacrifices for the sake of your partner, right? Just last night, even though your boss asked you to rewrite that report because he gave you the wrong data, you still watched that cooking show your partner wanted to watch even though you wanted to watch Undercover Postmen. Such nobility and sacrifice, even in the wake of a stressful day, can only strengthen your relationship, right? Actually, according to a new study, perhaps it won’t.

The study involved married and unmarried couples whose length of relationship ranged from six months to 44 years. The couples filled out online surveys each day for seven days. The surveys asked the individuals to indicate the daily sacrifices they made for their partner in areas like childcare, household tasks, time spent with friends and so on. The participants also reported on the number of hassles they had experienced that day and how those hassles has affected them. After all that, the people rated on a scale of one to seven how committed to their partners they felt, how close to their partners they felt and how satisfied they felt with their relationship that day.

On a positive note, it did emerge that when people made sacrifices for their partner they generally did feel more committed to their partners. Let’s be clear, sacrifice for others — and specifically your life partner — is a good thing. However, this research did show that on days when people had experienced a lot of hassles, and a lot of stress, making sacrifices at home did not make them feel more committed.

In other words, if you have had a terrible day — and you know your partner doesn’t want to clean up after dinner so you step up and do that cleaning — you may not actually be doing your partner, you or your relationship a favour.

The research showed that sacrifice is not as strong a determinant of relationship closeness as is the stress that the people in the relationship experience. The researchers concluded that rather than sacrificing when you are stressed, it is better to not sacrifice but let your partner share your stress and try to diminish it.

So this is not about saying sacrifice is a bad thing, it is just about being a little discerning about when you do it. It is about allowing yourself to be in a space where you can’t give to others and accepting that, in order to be able to give to others, you also have to learn how to respect and nurture yourself. If you are a habitual sacrifice-maker that might be hard to hear but sometimes letting someone else help you, or admitting that you have nothing to give, is a gift in itself.

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

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