Over the last couple of months I have been focusing on my work with couples, as a way of enabling my clients- the partners- to better understand themselves and also one another! Couple therapy can be a lot of work from all three sides, my side and the couple’s side, especially because each partner brings along his insecurities, difficulties, patterns and belief systems in the equation that is called relationship! So what that means is that you are faced with the task of dealing with the presenting problem together with all the individual, sometimes underlying difficulties, so at times it feels like you are giving two, three or even more battles simultaneously! But don’t get me wrong! Couple therapy is definitely worth it!!! (I will speak another time about that!)
A very common discussion among the couples that I tend to work with has to do with house chores, such as washing up the dishes, getting up to feed the baby, etc.; usually as a little act of love!
But could it be that sometimes these small gestures, or even “sacrifices” might end up being a bad idea? Have you ever felt that although your initial intention could have been great, you end up feeling like you are engaged in a unpleasant activity???
Usually sacrificing to help out your partner is good for your relationship — it makes you feel more committed.
But when you’ve already had a stressful day, even small sacrifices can be a bad idea. What is even more common is for people to expect that their sacrifice will be appreciated by the other person. But unfortunately the following study did not support this assumption…
The study was carried out by researchers at the University of Arizona, and was published online in the Journal of Personal and Social Relationships. Their aim was to follow 164 couples for seven days. Couples were asked to keep an online diary detailing any sacrifices they made for their partner, together with the daily hassles they had to deal with. Participants were also asked to record their feelings about their relationship quality – how satisfied they were with their relationship, how close they felt to their partner, and how committed they felt to their relationship with their partner.
Most of the time, people who sacrificed for their partner generally reported feeling more committed to them. But on days when they experienced significant hassles, the sacrifice became just one more burden.
Some of the study’s other findings strongly suggest that couples need to do more talking with each other.
You’d expect that people on the receiving end of the sacrifices would at least appreciate them. But they didn’t show it in this study. It appears they didn’t even realize that their partner had done anything special on their behalf if they were already feeling hassled.
The study also found that people’s daily hassles strongly reduced partners’ feelings of closeness and satisfaction with the relationship. No matter which partner had the tough day, both partners suffered. Many people are poor at compartmentalizing and often take a bad day at work home with them. They come home feeling grumpy and end up making their partner grumpy. If this happens often enough, it can poison a relationship.
Couples need to find a way to work through it. And while there’s no single surefire cure for stress, all solutions start with talking things over.
Evanthia Lychrou is an Individual and Couples’ Psychotherapist in London. She provides psychotherapeutic and counselling sessions, (both face to face as well as Skype sessions) to those struggling with a wide variety of problems including work and career stress, relationship problems, panic attacks, etc. She offers her services for people in Harley Street, London, Marylebone, Fitzrovia, Regents Park, Baker Street, Regent’s Park, West End, Oxford Circus, Tottenham Court Road, Bond Street, Marylebone, Oxford Street, Euston, Marble Arch, Regent Street, Soho, Hyde Park, Park Lane, Piccadilly Circus, Bloomsbury.
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