Making sacrifices for your partner after a stressful day may not be beneficial
“If I have a terrible day at work, I’m going to come home feeling grumpy, and probably my quality of interaction with my partner won’t be as great,” says Casey Totenhagen, a research scientist. “And if my partner has a stressful day, they’re probably coming home feeling grumpy and they won’t have the energy to have positive interactions, so I still suffer from my partner’s stressful day.”
So a pile of dirty dishes looms in the kitchen and it’s the other person’s night to wash, but knowing about their bad day, you step up to the plate (har har). It’s a minor sacrifice in the name of love, right? But new research reveals that if you had a long, stressful day too, your sacrifice doesn’t actually help either of you. Turns out, we aren’t very good at compartmentalizing between work and home, and making a sacrifice can just add to your own list of stressors.
Totenhagen says that the ideal solution is for couples to work through these daily hassles together. “It’s really important that couples work on coping with those daily stressors as they occur, before they have a chance to build up,” she says. “Even if I had stressful experiences that didn’t involve my partner, it can still impact my partner, so it might be beneficial for us to work on those together.”
“You need to be mindful of the resources that you have to do those sacrifices at the end of the day,” she adds. “Maybe trying to pile on more sacrifices at the end of a really stressful day isn’t the best time.”
It’s worth noting, Totenhagen says, that individuals in the study who were on the receiving end of the sacrifice did not report feeling more committed to their partner.
“I want to understand what makes good relationships good and bad relationships bad, and I think that a lot of that comes in our daily interactions with our partners and how our daily lives seep into our relationships,” she says. “I think it’s really useful, then, to try and understand not just the big things that happen in relationships but the things we can do every day to foster positivity with our partners through our everyday interactions.”