What is it about?

Relationship partners often face situations in which there is a divergence of interests, what is most preferred by one partner is not preferred by the other. In these situations, people need to make a decision between pursuing self-interest and sacrificing to promote the well-being of their partner or relationship. This meta-analysis investigated the link between sacrifices and personal and relational well-being for the giver and the recipient of the sacrifice. It was found that performing sacrifices was negatively related to personal well-being, especially for women. Although the recipient may benefit from sacrifices because they can pursue their preferences, this did not translate in an increase in personal or relational well-being for them.

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Why is it important?

Prosocial behavior is often thought to bring benefits to individuals and relationships. Do such benefits exist when prosocial behavior is costly for the individual, such as when people are sacrificing for their partner or relationship? The current meta-analysis shows instead that sacrificing for the relationship takes a toll on people's well-being and has no effects on relationship well-being and on the recipients' well-being. Thus, prosocial behavior does not unequivocally benefits well-being but sometimes may harm the benefactor.


I think this work has two take-home messages. First, whenever possible, it's best to minimize the sacrifices in a relationship (e.g., by selecting compatible partners and situations). Two, when unavoidable, it's best to re-appraise the sacrifice and focus on which benefits it brings to the self and the relationship (rather than focusing on its costs).

Francesca Righetti
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: The link between sacrifice and relational and personal well-being: A meta-analysis., Psychological Bulletin, October 2020, American Psychological Association (APA), DOI: 10.1037/bul0000297.
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