You Before Me
How do you define love? It’s a human experience with no universal definition that could completely describe the feeling that comes with being deeply connected to another person. Although we don’t have a concrete definition, we know that one basic engagement with love is doing things for that other person; giving and receiving, in whatever capacity that might be. All relationships require some degree of give and take, but sometimes, one person has to agree to a major life shift to accommodate the other or for the good of the relationship as a whole.
The ultimate form of giving is something that could be called the most profound expression of love: sacrifice. In many cases, your partner’s happiness is your happiness, but at what cost? Making a sacrifice for your partner could be the right thing to do and could absolutely be worth it, but with sacrifice comes the potential for resentment. So how do you know if you’re in the right place to sacrifice for love? Is it possible to get past the what-ifs?
Everything could feel perfect in your relationship until you come to a crossroads where one of you has to make a difficult choice. This could mean moving across the country, staying with someone through military deployment, changing your religion to align with your partner’s…etc. You’re not prepared for this for when you first fall for someone. It might make you ask, “why my relationship?” but studies show you’re not alone; relationship sacrifices happen more than you’d think. In one survey, 48% of Americans said they would consider either leaving their job or moving to another country for love. Even further, it turns out that women are the ones making these sacrifices more than men.
Sacrifice: It’s Biology
Hormones are king; they’re responsible for how we think, how we behave, the way our bodies look, and how we react to situations life throws at us. Not surprisingly, they’re even responsible for the tendency to make sacrifices in relationships, especially in women. Women are more likely to be sacrificial because of the higher amounts of estrogen in their bodies and the specific effect oxytocin has on their brains.
Estrogen is linked to an increase in desire and makes women feel closer to their partners. Oxytocin is “nature’s love glue,” which makes both men and women want to cuddle, but it has different effects on them in social contexts. In social settings, oxytocin helps women recognize true connections and develop sustainable relationships while it causes men to be more competitive and focused on climbing the social ladder. It’s further confirmation of the social difference between the sexes: women are typically more communal and familial in their behavior. Those qualities tie back to the likelihood to make sacrifices in the name of love.
Me Before You
When faced with that hard choice, you can mull over the uncertainties for days – and you probably will – but the one and only way to make the decision is from an empowered standpoint. When you’re in love and asked (or even feel compelled) to put your partner’s happiness before your own, start the decision-making process by checking in on the most important relationship: the one you have with yourself.
Evaluate the direction in which your life is moving, your personal goals and needs, and the realistic future you see with that other person. Are you happy with you and the life you’ve created together? Can that life withstand setbacks and is the foundation strong enough to face uncertainty?
Remember that the best thing your partner can give you is the feeling of freedom – the assurance that they want what’s best for you, with or without them. You should feel that freedom and autonomy in your relationship and have good communication skills with your partner to know if you’re in a good place to make a life-changing decision for them.
Tips for Going the Extra Mile
If you’re still not sure which road to take, we’ll leave you with these last few thoughts and tips:
- Change is good. Life is not meant to be lived in one place, and if you’re lucky enough to experience a new place with the love of your life, then you’re lucky enough.
- Make a list of pro’s and con’s. Literally write them down. Weighing different thoughts and emotions in our heads can get overwhelming and it can easily become hard to think clearly. You’d be surprised how much writing things down helps you compartmentalize and make rational choices.
- Unfamiliarity and discomfort stimulate personal growth. If you’re moving away from home, for example, your significant other will be your security, but it’s your responsibility to embrace the unfamiliar for that growth to happen.
- If you move to a new city for your partner, find your own favorite spots that are yours and yours only. Feeding your own passions helps you maintain your sense of identity and purpose. You’ll be forced to be more intentional about that in a new city if you keep the importance of nurturing yourself in mind.
- Resentment is usually tied to how a choice was made rather than the actual choice itself. If you feel forced or coerced into doing something for your partner, you’re fully going to resent them for it down the line. Trust your gut and don’t agree to anything if you’re under pressure.
- “You don’t want to uproot your life for someone you’re in lust with.” Real talk: don’t make an impulsive decision for someone you just met a few weeks ago. Make sure that there’s longevity to the relationship and you’re not blinded by the honeymoon stage feels.
- Sacrificing for your partner is not a way to save a broken relationship. Underlying problems should be addressed before you even think about making a major life change for someone else. Otherwise, you could end up feeling alone and regretful.
- If you happen to be the benefitter of the sacrifice, make sure to show your appreciation and gratitude. Recognize that your partner has given up a lot because they care about you that much.
- Entertain the what-ifs but don’t let them stop you either. It’s good to weigh your options and normal to have questions but have an open mind and heart at the same time.
The bottom line: life is a journey that you can never plan for.
When you’re in love and things don’t go according to your plan, that’s not always a bad thing. You’ll never get a yes or no answer as to whether you’re making the “right” choice, but you can know how to analyze the situation before pulling the trigger. These forks in the road can present themselves as opportunities to do some self-reflection that maybe you weren’t making a priority before. Finding balance between making sacrifices for your partner while having awareness of your own self-worth is a healthy way to love.
- (n.d.). United States – sacrifices Americans would make for their love | Survey 2017. Retrieved from https://www.statista.com/statistics/243659/sacrifices-americans-would-make-for-their-love/
- Rook, E. (2018, March 01). How to Know When It’s Right to Move for a Relationship. Retrieved from https://livability.com/topics/health/how-to-know-when-its-right-to-move-for-a-relationship
- Miller, K. (2018, May 25). Just How Much Should You Sacrifice to Make Your Relationship Work? Retrieved from https://www.womenshealthmag.com/relationships/a19909528/relationship-sacrifices/
- HealthcoachFX. (2018, April 05). What Happens When You Suffer From Hormonal Imbalances. Retrieved from https://www.healthcoachfx.com/hormonal-imbalances
- (2013, July 31). Another scientific proof of the difference in social perception between men and women. Retrieved from https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2013-07/uoh-asp073113.php
- Gravotta, L. (2013, February 12). Be Mine Forever: Oxytocin May Help Build Long-Lasting Love. Retrieved from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/be-mine-forever-oxytocin/