A recent research has shown that both small sacrifices, like doing the dishes for your partner, and big ones, like moving across the country for a new job he or she really wants, may help in improving the relationship.
The research, from University of Rochester research assistant professor Heather Patrick, demonstrates that doing something positive for your partner means more if you do it out of a genuine consideration for the relationship, and not because out of obligation.
To answer one of the most ordinary mysteries of romantic relationships, Patrick asked 266 men and women in relationships to document either their own or their partner's pro-relationship behaviors (PRB) for two weeks.
Pro-relationship behavior can be any sacrifice or adjustment made out of concern or one's partner or one's relationship.
Patrick found that partners who engaged in PRB because they wanted to, not because they felt pressured or compelled to, were more pleased in their relationships, more committed to them, and felt closer to their mates following PRB experiences.
But she also found that people who simply perceived that their partners engaged in PRB because they wanted to, were also more satisfied and committed to their relationship after a partner's PRB.
Patrick says her research has realistic applications. She sees it being used for individual and couples therapy. She says this new information gives couples and psychology professionals insight into why some relationships aren't satisfying even when everything looks rosy from outside.
"It's important to understand what makes positive relationships positive and what might undermine positive experiences,'' Patrick said.
Patrick will be one of more than 300 researchers from 25 countries at the University of Toronto this weekend sharing their work within Self-Determination Theory, a groundbreaking psychological theory of human motivation developed by
Edward Deci and Richard Ryan, University of Rochester professors of Psychology. Patrick's research illustrates the crux of Self-Determination Theory: A self-motivated person derives more satisfaction in completing a given task, and is more likely to do it well.