“Love Is Sacrifice”: Learning To Be Selfless In Your Relationship

Medically reviewed by Julie Dodson, MA
Updated April 29, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

The art of sacrifice can be important when building a selfless and fulfilling relationship between two people. Individuals who prioritize their partner’s needs and well-being while being skilled at compromise are often successful in relationships because of the sacrifices they make. Sacrifice can seem one-sided at times, but it usually benefits both partners and promotes individual growth at the same time. Between partners, sacrifice can develop a sense of trust, intimacy, and respect. For individuals, it can develop boundaries, communication, and reflection. However, there normally needs to be a healthy balance between sacrifice and taking care of oneself. Sacrificing too much without balancing it out can lead to resentment, while only prioritizing individual needs can be inconsiderate to a partner. Understanding the benefits of sacrifice, learning strategies to maintain a healthy balance, and practicing effective communication can help individuals build healthy relationships on a foundation of respect and trust. Individual or couples therapy may help you strike the right balance between self-care and sacrifice in your relationship.

The role of sacrifice in a fulfilling relationship

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Building a solid and loving partnership often requires sacrifice from both partners. Putting a partner's needs and well-being ahead of your own and making compromises for the sake of the relationship can be great examples of sacrifice. These examples often demonstrate a willingness to work together and prioritize the relationship over individual needs. 

Selflessness can also lead to increased happiness and satisfaction for both partners. Time supports these ideas: "Scientific research provides compelling details to support the anecdotal evidence that giving is a powerful pathway to personal growth and lasting happiness. Through fMRI technology, we now know that giving activates the same parts of the brain that are stimulated by food and sex. Experiments show evidence that altruism is hardwired in the brain—and it's pleasurable. Helping others may just be the secret to living a life that is not only happier but also healthier, wealthier, more productive, and meaningful.”

When both partners are willing to sacrifice for each other, it can create trust and intimacy for both partners. This can lead to a deeper emotional connection, greater understanding, and improved communication. 

Strategies for prioritizing your partner's needs

Understanding how a partner expresses love can be an important aspect of building a healthy and fulfilling relationship. Everyone tends to have different ways of expressing and receiving love, so taking the time to understand a partner's unique love language can show them they are valued in a way that is meaningful to them. 

Effective communication and active listening can also be crucial components of a healthy relationship and sacrifice. It can be important to listen to your partner's needs, concerns, and desires while also communicating openly and honestly about your own.

Time quotes a study in which “participants were asked to record instances in which either spouse put aside personal wishes in order to meet their partner’s needs” for two weeks. Researchers assumed “the couples would reap the most benefits when acts of kindness were recognized and acknowledged—and that hypothesis proved true, for both husbands and wives. But they also found that givers reported emotional boosts even when their actions weren’t consciously noticed. In these cases, emotional benefits for the giver were about 45% greater than the benefits for the recipient.”

Showing a partner their needs and wants are valued usually involves actively prioritizing their well-being and happiness. This is not always limited to small gestures of kindness and thoughtfulness; it can also include more significant acts of sacrifice and compromise. Understanding a partner and their needs, practicing active listening and communication, and showing them that you value them can build a strong and fulfilling relationship based on mutual respect.

Maintaining a healthy balance between self-care and sacrifice

Sacrifice and selflessness are frequently important in a relationship, but understanding the importance of self-care can also be crucial. Compromise can be an important component of a successful relationship, but it typically needs to be balanced with prioritizing your own needs. Recognizing when you're sacrificing too much and when to prioritize your own needs can be challenging, but it can also be essential for maintaining a healthy balance in the relationship. Signs of sacrificing too much can include: 

  • Feelings of resentment toward a partner

  • Neglecting your own needs and desires 

  • Feeling burnt out in the relationship

Strategies for finding a healthy balance between self-care and sacrifice may include setting boundaries, practicing effective communication, and engaging in hobbies or activities that bring joy. It can be vital to communicate with your partner about your needs and seek their support when necessary. Individuals can build strong and fulfilling relationships by finding a healthy balance between self-care and sacrifice while maintaining their own needs and well-being.

The challenges of building a selfless relationship

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Building a selfless and fulfilling relationship can be challenging, and putting your partner's needs before your own may not come naturally. One of the challenges of putting your partner's needs before your own may be the potential for feeling neglected or resentful if your own needs are not being met in the same way. Setting healthy boundaries in a relationship can be an effective way to address this challenge. This may involve respectfully communicating your needs and limits, setting boundaries, or being willing to say no or take a step back when necessary. 

Conflict can be inevitable in any relationship, even when both partners are committed to practicing selflessness. Handling conflict healthily usually involves effective communication, active listening, and a willingness to find a compromise that works for all parties. Partners who prioritize healthy boundaries and effective communication can address conflict as it arises and reach a compromise. 

Seeking professional support in relationships

Seeking professional help for relationship issues can be a valuable resource for individuals looking to improve their relationships and develop effective strategies for finding the balance between self-care and selflessness. Mental health providers specializing in relationship issues can offer guidance and support for individuals who desire to strengthen their relationships and understand selflessness on a deeper level. Speaking to a professional can help individuals identify their unique needs in a relationship and develop strategies for managing them. This may involve working on communication skills, practicing self-care and stress management techniques, or addressing specific issues related to sacrifice and compromise in the relationship. 

Online therapy can be a valuable resource for individuals looking to build fulfilling relationships and learn more about the art of sacrifice. With online therapy, individuals may have a safe and quiet space to discuss their relationship concerns and goals with a licensed mental health professional. This can be particularly important when discussing sensitive topics like sacrifice, self-care, and relationship dynamics. In addition to offering a safe space for discussion, online therapy can also provide flexibility in terms of scheduling and frequency of sessions, potentially making it easier for individuals to fit therapy into their busy lives. 

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As online therapy becomes more and more reachable, it is generally becoming an increasingly effective option. This study looked at the efficacy of online therapy in comparison to traditional in-office therapy and found that both were typically equally effective.

Takeaway

The art of sacrifice frequently plays a crucial role in building a selfless and fulfilling relationship. Prioritizing a partner's needs and being skilled at compromise can help individuals create trust, intimacy, and respect within their relationships. While sacrifice may sometimes seem one-sided, it usually benefits both partners and can lead to individual growth as well. However, it can be important for individuals to maintain a healthy balance between sacrificing for their partner and taking care of their own needs. Without this balance, feelings of resentment and burnout may arise. Using effective communication skills, learning strategies to maintain balance, and understanding the benefits of sacrifice can all be helpful in building a healthy relationship. An online therapist can help couples develop the skills and strategies they may need to find a healthy balance between focusing on their individual needs and sacrificing for their partners.
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