Why Sacrifices Are Needed For A Healthy Relationship

Relationships are complex. There's the ecstasy of deep connection and the comfort of having someone you trust by your side, and then there's also the conflict that inevitably arises and tests your communication skills and commitment. They're a potential place for both you and your partner to be your most authentic selves with one another, and they also require a great degree of vulnerability that can lead to greater intimacy or hurt. Being in a healthy, lasting relationship is a beautiful thing, but it's not a simple one.

Communication is a core piece in successful relationships. Being aware of and in touch with your wants and needs and then communicating them clearly and respectfully is paramount. Listening to your partner's wants and needs and taking them into account is just as important. There will be times when you're at odds with one another regarding your desires — that is when sacrifice comes into play.

Sacrifice is "when people initially have an immediate self-oriented preference but then decide not to pursue it, after considering outcomes for the partner or the relationship," according to Psychology Today. It's prosocial behavior, which means it's an altruistic action.

What sacrifice looks like

Being in a relationship requires sacrifice, after all, you're not single anymore and have a whole other person to consider. It can feel like a big, daunting task, but it doesn't have to be. Sacrifices aren't always dramatic, sweeping gestures, instead, and more often than not, they're found in the details of the day-to-day. For example, your partner wants Italian food, you want Mexican food, you choose what they want. Another example: your partner wants you to join them for an event that they find particularly meaningful, but you want to spend time with your friends, so you sacrifice your plans for theirs.

When both partners prioritize one another's needs and the relationship in general, positive results usually emerge. Reciprocal sacrifice can help deepen trust, emotional connection, and intimacy, leading to stronger relationships. The key factor is that each partner willingly sacrifices. If it's lopsided and only one of you makes sacrifice after sacrifice, there's room for frustration and even resentment. So if you or your partner are constantly putting your wants and needs aside, it may be time to switch things up and prioritize your partner rather than yourself.

Prioritizing your partner

In addition to sacrifice and the willingness to do so, recognition and gratitude are also important. Once again, when there is sacrifice with no acknowledgment, it can garner feelings of resentment for the one who gave something up. With societal gender roles and expectations, women tend to sacrifice more. "[Women] are also expected to sacrifice more and they do not receive as much appreciation and validation as men for their sacrifices," psychologist Francesca Righetti told Forbes. "In sum, they may especially experience the costs and very little of the benefits." On the other hand, sometimes being on the receiving end can stir up complicated feelings of both appreciation and guilt and indebtedness.

Some ways to reduce the likelihood of negative feelings when it comes to sacrifice and instead increase the positive outcomes include focusing on the benefits of making the sacrifice — i.e. thinking about how your partner will feel after receiving it. Additionally, communicating your gratitude when your partner makes a sacrifice is a great healthy relationship habit, as well as focusing on how your partner felt when making the sacrifice to create a deeper appreciation.