One of the blogs I read on a regular basis is a relationship-focused column on the Psychology Today site called Between You and Me. This kind of material is fascinating to me, because so much of what makes a romantic relationship successful is all in your mind – and your spouse’s. The particular article that piqued my interest was about how partners often make sacrifices for each other, but sometimes do it for the wrong reasons. We all know that compromise and cooperation involve putting some of your needs aside at least temporarily – that’s where trust comes in. But there are lots of wrong reasons why people sacrifice their needs, and think that it’s the right thing to do.
The author says that one very common reason a partner might sacrifice his or her own needs is to avoid conflict or other negative outcomes. A person does this in the belief that it will be better for the relationship, when in fact if the other partner finds out the reasoning behind the behavior, it will make things worse. In my experience this is absolutely true, because there is a feeling that if honesty had prevailed, a rough patch might have happened, but the couple would have been stronger for getting through it in an authentic way. This is something I have had to work on in my marriage, since I am a natural conflict avoider. By going against my tendency to put my own needs aside to avoid an argument or heated discussion, I have found that I am happier, and so is my husband.
Another wrong reason for self-sacrifice is putting your partner’s happiness above your own. If there is a choice to be made, and you decide based on what will make him or her happy, you might be neglecting your own need for happiness. This is a tough one, because, as the author says, one sign of a close loving relationship is doing this, because we want our mates to be happy. The problem is if it’s something that can’t make you both happy, then your happiness will decrease your partner’s happiness, and so on. Every situation is different, and calls for a different response.
Using self-sacrifice as something to put on your balance sheet is another no-no. If your plan is to be the martyr and than use your sacrifices to get some other need met, you are being dishonest and manipulative. When the truth comes out, as it always does sooner or later, your spouse will not appreciate your strategy. There is no way to argue with this one, because it’s a big mistake, and a very common one.
I believe another wrong reason for self-sacrifice is that the dynamic of the couple is skewed towards the stronger partner. The weaker of the two over time develops the belief that he or she can only be happy, positive, and fulfilled when the other person is – and whatever it takes to accomplish that state of affairs is OK. This of course includes putting his or her needs above your own, because after all, you can’t be happy if the other person isn’t. The cost of living this way is very high, because in the end you will have lived your life and perhaps wasted precious time for someone else. Keep in mind that happiness runs in a circular motion, as an old folksinger used to sing, and it runs both ways.
You can read the original article at http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/between-you-and-me/201206/are-you-sacrificing-the-right-reasons