When giving feels good. The intrinsic benefits of sacrifice in romantic relationships for the communally motivated

Psychol Sci. 2010 Dec;21(12):1918-24. doi: 10.1177/0956797610388815. Epub 2010 Nov 15.


Who benefits most from making sacrifices for others? The current study provides one answer to this question by demonstrating the intrinsic benefits of sacrifice for people who are highly motivated to respond to a specific romantic partner's needs noncontingently, a phenomenon termed communal strength. In a 14-day daily-experience study of 69 romantic couples, communal strength was positively associated with positive emotions during the sacrifice itself, with feeling appreciated by the partner for the sacrifice, and with feelings of relationship satisfaction on the day of the sacrifice. Furthermore, feelings of authenticity for the sacrifice mediated these associations. Several alternative hypotheses were ruled out: The effects were not due to individuals higher in communal strength making qualitatively different kinds of sacrifices, being more positive in general, or being involved in happier relationships. Implications for research and theory on communal relationships and positive emotions are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Altruism*
  • Emotions*
  • Family Characteristics
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Models, Psychological
  • Motivation*
  • Personal Satisfaction
  • Psychological Tests
  • Self Concept
  • Social Behavior
  • Social Perception