Over the years, I’ve been approached by women and men who want to know if they’ve made the right choice in sacrificing their needs for their relationship. Whether it’s moving to a new town you aren’t thrilled about so that your spouse can accept his dream job, or agreeing to choose the country house your partner fell in love with instead of the city loft you liked best – we all face tough decisions like this at one point or another when in a serious relationship.
I have found that women tend to make these type of common relationship sacrifices more than men. Your physiology creates more oxytocin than a male, and combined with the hormone estrogen, you are set up to be better at relationships and more willing to sacrifice for others. It’s really built into us to be more sacrificial than our male counterparts. In other words: it’s biology.
This, of course, doesn’t make it any easier on us. As with any sacrifice, there is always the potential for resentment. When we find ourselves resenting our partner in these situations, it’s usually because of how the choice was made and not about the choice itself.
What I often suggest to friends who find themselves in this type of situation, is to use my Empathic Process. Take turns listening to each other, without defense, each taking a third of the time… and then, take the remaining third to communicate openly together. You must work to find mutual ground, wherever possible. There are always sacrifices that each of you can make which evens the playing field.
And, if one must eventually sacrifice more than the other, make sure the decision is made together. When that decision is truly mutual, there is less of a chance that resentment will rear its ugly head.
Once a decision is made by both of you, it is critical that whichever partner is benefiting, recognize the immensity of the gesture, and to be appreciative. This way, the sting of a sacrifice is soothed a bit by gratitude and love. After all, love is the reason we sacrifice in the first place.