I consider the experiment a success for two reasons. First, my wife seems happier. I haven’t told her about the experiment, but my perception is that things to be a bit easier than usual— perhaps because I’ve given up constantly trying to negotiate for my own needs. Second, for precisely this reason, I feel happier. I never knew how much time and energy I devote to figuring out if I am going to get to do what I think I need to do. So what if I stay up late trying to fix her Blackberry? So what if I don’t get to work early? So what if I skip a few days at the gym here and there? In addition to feeling good about helping my wife, I feel good about not worrying so much about my own needs, which, in turn, enables me to be more available for everyone in my family.
To be clear, I am not advocating making my needs disappear. I am not her servant, but the key idea here is that if you can start thinking more communally, there’s a high likelihood the relationship will benefit and you will feel better in the end as well. This, of course, is predicated on the fact that you are partnered with someone who won’t take advantage of your desire to be more communal.
There is a very large research literature on the benefits of communal orientations toward a relationship, and this is why I attempted my experiment in the first place. For instance, a recent study showed that for people who are highly motivated to act communally (that is, to make sacrifices for the relationship and for one’s partner when they are not expected), doing so is associated with greater relationship satisfaction and feeling more appreciated by a partner. Importantly, feeling authentic explains the association between communal actions and positive outcomes. Said differently, we feel good when we sacrifice for others because this sacrifice can bring us closer to who we truly feel we are. This is a wild finding: To feel like your true self, sacrifice for others.
Who knows what will happen with my experiment, but I’d love to hear about your thoughts on being more communal in your relationship. What would happen if you tried the experiment? Let me know!
Copyright David A. Sbarra, Ph.D., October 5, 2011
Maybe... if you use a whole bottle of foundation at once. Here's what you need to know.
Be smart about skin cancer.
Get some inspiration from these ladies and learn to appreciate your behind.
Say "goodbye" to winter dryness and get your skin ready for the sunny days ahead!
Return to the Mobile Site