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7 - Sacrifice in Romantic Relationships: An Exploration of Relevant Research and Theory

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 October 2009

Anita L. Vangelisti
Affiliation:
University of Texas, Austin
Harry T. Reis
Affiliation:
University of Rochester, New York
Mary Anne Fitzpatrick
Affiliation:
University of Wisconsin, Madison
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Summary

Sacrifice is a construct that has received very little attention in research and theory on intimate relationships. One reason for this neglect may be the controversial nature of sacrificing for one's personal relationships; how sacrifice relates to relationship factors and individual wellbeing is highly disputed. On one hand, some individuals (ranging from clinicians to feminists to individuals who simply have experience in romantic relationships) display strong negative opinions of sacrifice in the context of intimate relationships, suggesting that it is harmful to the individual and associated with “codependency.” Followers of feminist theory go so far as to state that sacrifice is one of the major causes of depression and relationship dissatisfaction in females (Jack, 1991; Lerner, 1988). On the other hand, researchers have recently been reporting the positive role of sacrifice in relationships (Van Lange et al., 1997; Stanley & Markman, 1992). Further, some marital and family theorists (Bahr & Bahr, 1997) have emphasized the need to begin including the concept of sacrifice in marital and family theories because of the crucial, positive role it plays in those relationships. How do we reconcile these different views of sacrifice? Is sacrificing for one's relationship related to positive or negative factors of the relationship? What are its effects at the individual level?

In this chapter, we will explore the existent research and theory surrounding sacrifice, focusing on the question of how sacrifice relates to relationship stability, commitment, and satisfaction.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2002

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