By: Mark Travers Ph.D. | July 14, 2022
"To love someone is to accept them fully, blemishes and all. We all know this definition of love. Over the years, certain behaviors, rituals, and symbols have become synonymous with this all-encompassing notion of an eternal bond, such as the institution of marriage.
However, such a binary and rigid view of love can cause us to ignore its many gray areas. We can start indulging in behavior that is to our detriment and allow for behavior that is obviously problematic.
Mental-health research has proven time and again that love can look and feel different from the way it appears in books, movies, and music. Here are three common mistakes people make when they view their intimate relationships too rigidly.
1. You’re too quick to make sacrifices for your partner.Yes, sacrifice is inevitable in most relationships. And yes, it is honorable. But is it always necessary? Research says not really. “It’s certainly honorable to put aside one’s own self-interest because of your partner or your relationship,” explains psychologist Francesca Righetti. “However, our research shows that there is a difficult aftermath for both the giver and the recipient.”
According to Righetti’s research, this is what the aftermath often looks like:
While sacrifice has this effect on both partners in a relationship, women are more likely to experience lower well-being after sacrificing because sacrifices are often viewed as their duty instead of their choice. This means they may especially experience the costs of sacrifice, but few of the benefits.
To avoid the pain sacrifice can cause in a relationship, Righetti advises partners to follow these two steps:
2. You’re too lenient in letting things go.Sometimes our loved ones may behave in a manner that is unethical and/or potentially harmful. These situations require us to be completely honest with our partners and ourselves – but it is possible that we fail to do so because we love them.
“When someone close to us behaves unethically, we face a conflict between upholding our moral values and maintaining our relationship,” explains psychologist Rachel Forbes of the University of Toronto in Canada.
Forbes’ research found that people often experience a deep ambivalence when responding to a significant other's unethical actions – possibly because of people’s tendency to share a sense of identity with their loved ones:
The costs of this ambivalence are twofold:
For people who might be struggling with being honest about a loved one's misbehavior, Forbes has the following advice: “The ambivalence we feel when confronted with close others’ bad behavior is difficult to reconcile. When faced with a loved one’s unethical behavior, it’s important to reflect on our moral values and whether the act itself fits within those values.”"