Sacrificing For Love: An Exhausting Behavior

The sacrifices you make for love may sometimes lead to emotional debt: "If I gave up on certain things for you, you must do the same for me…”
Sacrificing For Love: An Exhausting Behavior
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 15 November, 2021

When it comes to sacrificing for love, find fair sacrifices to make. In a relationship, making sacrifice after sacrifice doesn’t strengthen love nor does it make the whole thing more romantic. In fact, it’s the opposite. Continuously giving up the things we want to do wears us out and pushes us away from ourselves until we become something we’re not.

In a loving relationship, commitment is more important than the sacrifices we make. 

Self-esteem and personal boundaries

When someone crosses your boundaries, you have to make it clear that you don’t like it. If you don’t, the other person will most likely continue to cross those boundaries since they assume it doesn’t hurt you. This same thing goes for the bond you have with your partner. Everyone makes sacrifices for love now and then, and it’s very normal and understandable.

However, no one can ignore the fact that all sacrifices come at a price. Every single thing that you have to give up on hurts you. Those last minute change of plans aren’t pleasant. Every change you experience in your life due to another person isn’t easy. Changing hurts and sometimes feels like a burden, but you do it from your heart because you’re committed to your partner.

Now, if the other person doesn’t appreciate this or isn’t aware that you’re making emotional and personal sacrifices for love, then you’re not on the right path. Trust will slowly fade away until you start complaining and blaming the other person. The ghosts of the sacrifices you made will haunt you even more because you’ll feel that you lost a piece of yourself that will never come back.

Infinite selflessness in a relationship isn’t very healthy either. Always giving in is a sad way of destroying one’s own self-esteem and a painful way to replace love.

“If nothing saves us from death, may love at least save us from life.” 

-Pablo Neruda-

Blindfolded couple.

Sacrificing for love: Where do we draw the line?

People often say that great love, like great achievements, requires sacrifice. No one can deny this. In fact, if we asked some couples this right now, many would mention more than one sacrifice they made for each other. Some of them might have had to completely change their lives, and it undoubtedly worked for them. They now live happy lives.

But there are many sacrifices for love that aren’t acceptable. And lots of people still believe that the greater the sacrifice, the more authentic and romantic the relationship. It’s as if love was an ancient god we must worship.

You must understand that not everything is valid or acceptable. When it comes to love, you shouldn’t have to sacrifice everything. Sacrificing for love doesn’t mean total selflessness, nor forgetting your values, your identity, and your self-esteem. There are limits that you must discover. 

A willingness to sacrifice for love is better than constantly sacrificing

Psychologists Caryl E. Rusbult, Paul A. M. Van Lange, and others carried out an interesting study that was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. They demonstrated that one of the variables that most predicted commitment, stability, and happiness in a relationship was the willingness to sacrifice for love.

  • A person doesn’t need their partner to sacrifice constantly. They value simply knowing that if the time comes and something extraordinary happens, their partner will be willing to make a sacrifice for them. 
  • Knowing that we’ll have their unconditional and absolute support during times of need is what makes us feel secure and satisfied.
Couple with wings.

Sacrificing for love and emotional debt

We all know that love implies commitment. We also know that in certain situations we must make some sacrifices in order for the relationship to last. We make those sacrifices with security and freedom because we understand that it helps the relationship grow.

But in many occasions, sacrificing for love can turn into debt. In fact, there are people who like to blackmail and manipulate by saying this like, “All the things I’ve done for you and you’re not willing to give in?”

Debt is a very important aspect of all sacrifices that we can’t ignore because of how dark it can be. Some people understand love in absolute terms: “I gave up everything for you and now you owe me everything.” Those situations force us to sacrifice our own identity to turn a “me” into an “us”.

Sad woman painting.

In love, there’s no reason to set aside who we are nor eliminate what we value or what defines us. We may do many things for the person we love, even make some sacrifices. However, there are unbreakable boundaries like giving in to blackmail or turning into something we’re not.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Visserman, M. L., Impett, E. A., Righetti, F., Muise, A., Keltner, D., & Van Lange, P. A. M. (2018). To “see” is to feel grateful? A quasi-signal detection analysis of romantic partners’ sacrifices. Social Psychological and Personality Science. Advance online publication. DOI: 10.1177/1948550618757599
  • Van Lange, PAM, Drigotas, SM, Rusbult, CE, Arriaga, XB, Witcher, BS, y Cox, CL (1997). Disposición al sacrificio en relaciones cercanas. Diario de la personalidad y la psicología social72 (6), 1373-1395.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.