People often ask what it takes to make a relationship work. What special secret do those in long term loving relationships know that they don’t? While I don’t believe there is one secret that makes all couples successful I will say one of the most fundamental aspects of relationship success is mutual sacrifice.
Sacrifice sounds hard. It sounds uncomfortable, and at times ugly. The truth is, it can be, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it. It also doesn’t have to be that bad, and in some instances can even be welcome. We often confuse ourselves by believing that relationships should just work and should, almost always, be easy. Because we love each other that should be enough right? While love is critical in making a relationship last, it doesn’t cause our relationship to grow and change and evolve. Sacrifice does.
So what do I mean when I talk about sacrifice? It means knowing what is truly more important. When you are getting stuck in the same pattern over and over again, sacrifice means taking a step out of the pattern and asking yourself if the fight or the negativity is really worth it. I know the clothes on the floor drive you crazy but if you were to step outside of that discussion for a minute, wouldn’t those 2 hours of not getting along have been better spent connecting and spending time together?
I also know that “work has been busy lately” which is why you have been more distracted at home and not doing your part to check in and take care of your partner. But what happens when work just remains busy (as it inevitably does) and before you know it you have been disconnected from your partner for months or even years? Sometimes regardless of how tired we are or how burnt out we are we have to sacrifice our own needs in the interim to meet the needs of our partner.
There are two safe-guards you need to always have in place with regards to sacrificing in your relationship: meeting in the middle and having a bottom line. You can’t always be the only one sacrificing in your relationship or else your relationship will transfer from one of equals to an unbalanced power-based dynamic. Both people need to sacrifice in order to make the relationship healthy and successful. You also need to establish a bottom line so that you know when you can no longer sacrifice yourself for the relationship. Everyone has a point in which they can no longer give of themselves and need to be given to. Establish this and know when you need to make yourself the priority over your relationship.
Sacrifice is about getting out of the short term to focus on the long term. Things won’t always go the way we want them to on a day to day basis. And quite honestly I am guilty of sometimes being too tired to want to focus on what I can do to make my relationship better. But those are the moments when it is most important to do just that because those are the moments that count. It is really easy to have a great relationship when everything is going well and things are easy. It is much more difficult to do this when you are feeling burnt out or upset. If we give when we feel we have very little to give it sends the message that at the end of the day our relationship is more important than the clothes on the floor, the tv shows you are watching or the to-do list waiting to get done. Because it is and it always will be.
What are you going to sacrifice this weekend to ensure you are making your relationship as healthy and happy as it deserves to be?
Useful help in defining sacrifice- especially the part about shifting focus from short term to long term. I’m using this in terms of addiction. Addicts must make sacrifices to get unstuck in their unhealthy patterns to find a long term freedom and healing. Shift of focus is the sacrifice; giving thanks and creatively expressing joy instead of self-destructive and self-gratifying indulgences. It changes the focus from inward to outward.