We’ve all been there—usually, we love helping make our partners’ lives easier. We happily take on dog-walking duty when they’re not feeling well, we do the dishes just because, we vacuum around them unwinding on the couch after work. And, sometimes, those same tasks just rub us the wrong way—we roll our eyes while folding their laundry (again), sigh when they call from the office and ask us to start dinner, and grumble to our friends that we don’t feel appreciated.
It can be a fine line between love and annoyance…but where does the line lie? A University of Arizona study aimed to figure that out. They sent daily online surveys to 164 married and unmarried couples for a week, asking them about daily stress, their commitment level to their partner, and the personal sacrifices they made that week. “Commitment level” in this study referred to how unified and satisfied they felt with their partner and the status of the relationship. “Sacrifices” were any small daily practices done to maintain the quality of the relationship, anything from childcare to housework.
The findings of the study were something you perhaps have noticed in your own relationship. Overall, people who made sacrifices for their partner said they felt more committed to the relationship…up to a point. When partners make sacrifices on particular stressful days, they actually felt less committed—the act became not a loving gesture, but just another aggravating task to do that day. Does that mean we can blame our bosses for fights we have with our partners? (Probably not.)
Another interesting finding? Those on the receiving end of their partners’ efforts and sacrifices didn’t report feeling more committed to their selfless partners… possibly, researchers say, because they weren’t even aware that their significant others had done anything special for them. Don’t hold your breath for a thank you card!