The belief that love is made up of commitments has long permeated our lives, and we make pacts with the person we love in order to give stability to the relationship. This is normal and healthy; in the end, if we care about someone, it is natural that we give them guarantees that the emotional bond exists and we take it seriously. Loving in words is easy, and it’s the facts that matter.

However, not everyone succeeds in defining the nature of the commitment that should exist in their relationship. In some cases, the purpose of this type of agreement is confused, and instead of being a means through which to consolidate the relationship, it becomes the objective of the agreement, which gives it meaning. That is: becomes a constant demonstration of sacrifice and of the degree to which we are willing to suffer for the person we love.

This belief, which seems absurd when explained in this way, is more common than we think. In fact, it is the pillar on which the traditional conception of romantic love is built. How can we recognize those moments when we confuse reasonable sacrifices with the simple spirit of whipping?

Love and sacrifices

Let’s say it now: falling in love doesn’t come for free . From the beginning it opens up the possibility that we suffer a lot for the other person, even before this feeling is reciprocated (and even when it is not going to be reciprocated).

When the love relationship is consolidated, the possibility of going through bad times is still very close: anything that has to do with getting away from that person for a long time, or seeing him/her having a bad time, is something that produces a clear discomfort. Moreover, in order for the two lovers to fit together, it is also necessary to give in on many things.

Perhaps that is why, because love relationships are not characterized by comfort but by intensity, some people decide, unconsciously, to add even more intensity to them by way of suffering, which is the easiest way for us to make ourselves feel something.

The fact is that mixing that minimum of discomfort produced by relationships with the possibility of adding enormous amounts of self-made discomfort in an express way is a way of making that love story apparently more meaningful, more justified.

Of course, this tendency to make love synonymous with sacrifice is totally toxic, even if it is hard to see in the first person. Unfortunately, this logic fits in very well with old ideas about marriage, so it often happens indecently because we assume it is normal. Why does this happen?

The origins of sacrifice: the family

In psychology there are very few things that are not related to context, and love is no exception. Love is not something that just comes up in our brain when we see another person: it is a consequence of the way in which several generations who have lived before us have learned to manage those emotional ties so intense that they arise from falling in love. And, for most inhabitants, this way of managing this emotion has to do with marriage : a way of managing resources and organising people with a small community in mind.

In practice, love had to be experienced in such a way that it went hand in hand with the mentality necessary to maintain the family, and this has to do with personal sacrifice. Until very recently, resources were scarce, so anything that could be done for the welfare of the other was justified and welcome. The strange thing was not giving up everything in favour of the family , but living as autonomous and free people.

When two things always happen at the same time, they often end up being indistinguishable, and this is what happened with love and sacrifice. If we add to this the fact that the predominant male chauvinism made the wife the property of the husband, so that he had to look after her and she had to do everything the master of the house wanted, the result is not surprising: the normalisation of relationships of emotional dependence. After all, most of the time our emotions accompany our actions, and so does the need to constantly sacrifice for the other.

Common efforts, not punishment

The patriarchal model of coexistence has long been the target of all kinds of criticism, and for the first time it is possible to live without depending on the family unit. There is no longer any excuse for living love as autonomous and self-sufficient persons, which implies making sacrifices go from being the motor of affective relationships to a consequence of adopting reasonable commitments , with a pragmatic sense. The opposite would be to fall into the trap of dependency.