Relationships Study by Ashland University Psychology Professor Shows Clear Message for Couples: Reasons for Sacrifice Matter More
ASHLAND, Ohio – A study conducted by an Ashland University psychology professor shows that individuals’ reasons for making sacrifices in romantic relationships are more important than the sacrifice itself.
“It is true that research consistently indicates that individuals who are willing to make sacrifices – both small and large – for their romantic partners tend to have more satisfying romantic relationships,” said Dr. Brent Mattingly, assistant professor of psychology at Ashland University.
“However, my research demonstrates those individuals’ reasons for making these sacrifices may be more important than the sacrifice itself.”
Mattingly said that, in particular, individuals who make sacrifices as a way of obtaining positive outcomes in their relationships, for example to make the partner happy or become closer to the partner, tend to be more satisfied in their relationships, whereas those who make sacrifices as a way of avoiding negative outcomes such as conflict or upsetting the partner tend to be less satisfied.
“If the reason an individual makes this sacrifice is because he or she wants to become closer to his or her partner, then the relationship will likely benefit,” he said. “However, if the individual makes this sacrifice more so out of obligation or because he or she wants to avoid an argument, then the relationship may actually suffer.”
Mattingly said the study clearly shows that the same sacrifice, like going to the opera if an individual would rather stay at home and watch football, can lead to different relationship outcomes.
“In essence, doing the behavior isn’t good enough – you have to want to do the behavior in order for it to be beneficial and in fact, begrudgingly doing the behavior may be counterproductive,” he said.
Mattingly released specific details of the study, which showed that of those people who made few approach-motivated sacrifices, 15.2 percent were unsatisfied. However, of those individuals who made many approach-motivated sacrifices, only 3.1 percent were unsatisfied, he noted.
“Of those who made few avoidance-motivated sacrifices, only 2.6 percent were unsatisfied, however, of those who made many avoidance-motivated sacrifices, 17.5 percent were unsatisfied,” he said.
He also noted that of all individuals who were classified as unsatisfied, more than 85 percent did not make many approach-motivated sacrifices.
“So the research clearly shows a take home message for couples here,” Mattingly said. “Making more sacrifices for approach reasons and fewer sacrifices for avoidance reasons tends to be associated with more positive relationships. Thus, the sacrifice isn't what is important -- why you are sacrificing seems to matter more.”
Mattingly said he conducted the research project with Eddie Clark of Saint Louis University and he noted that a portion of the research is scheduled to be published in an upcoming issue of the “Journal of Applied Social Psychology.”
Ashland University (www.ashland.edu) is a mid-sized, private university conveniently located a short distance from Akron, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. Ashland University values the individual student and offers a unique educational experience that combines the challenge of strong, applied academic programs with a faculty and staff who build nurturing relationships with their students.