We get a lot of mixed messages about sacrifice in relationships today. Sometimes we hear that sacrificing is harmful because we’re “giving in” or “losing power.” Other times we’re told that sacrificing our own desires for the good of our partner is “the right thing to do”. Recent research reflects the same confusion by showing that sacrifice is sometimes good, sometimes bad for a relationship, so a team of researchers in California wanted to figure out the difference between the two and we think their results are life-changing!
The study explored two different motivations—approach and avoidance–for sacrifice and found that approach motives increased personal well-being and relationship quality, while avoidance motives hurt both. So how can you tell when you’re using approach vs. avoidance motives in your relationship?
We know we’re using an approach motive when we have a desire to develop the relationship with our partner. For example, we might give up time with friends because we want to spend more time with our partner and allow the relationship time to grow stronger.
Approach motives usually lead to healthy relationships because when we make this type of sacrifice we feel we have a choice, we feel the relationship is more important than what we gave up, and our partners may be more likely to see the sacrifice as a sign of how much we care.
If you are trying to improve your relationship and make a sacrifice in order to show your partner that you are committed to them and the relationship, chances are both you and your partner will benefit from your choice, as well as your relationship.
We’re using avoidant motives, however, when we have a desire to avoid punishment of some kind, such as criticism from our partner, or withholding of affection. Using the same example as above, this motive might lead us to give up time with our friends only because if we don’t we know our partner will give us the cold shoulder for a day and be angry about it.
Avoidant motives do not help relationships. Instead, we feel that we didn’t really have a choice in what we gave up, we’ll be more likely to resent our partner, and our partner might start to use threats more as a way of getting what they want.
So whenever you’re wondering if something is worth giving up, ask yourself if the sacrifice will bring you closer to your partner or if you’re just afraid of what will happen if you don’t give it up. This doesn’t mean making sacrifices to appease a partner is 100% bad all the time, but if it becomes the only reason you make sacrifices, your relationship quality and personal well-being are probably going to suffer. (Side Note: The study found that avoidant motives for sacrifice were particularly difficult to maintain in long-term relationships.)
Written by: Dallin
Read the original article here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16248717