Anyone who’s been in a monogamous relationship for a while will tell you there are pros and cons to it. For example, pro: You feel comfortable and secure in the partnership (hopefully). Con: The little things you did to make each other happy at the beginning—like making their favorite dish for dinner or running to the store to grab toilet paper without being asked—might be going away, or going unnoticed.
If you need a jolt to help you get back into the giving spirit in your relationship, consider this: Doing nice things for your partner is good for you, even if the things you do go unnoticed.
Researchers from the University of Rochester and Florida Atlantic University studied almost 200 newlyweds and found that committing random acts of kindness aimed at your significant other can boost your own emotional well-being, regardless of the recognition you get.
For example, if your partner falls asleep on the couch, you might cover them up with a blanket to keep them warm. They likely won’t remember this happened, but you’ll feel good about doing it.
“Our study was designed to test a hypothesis put forth by Tenzin Gyatso, the current Dhali Lama, that compassionate concern for others’ welfare enhances one’s own affective state,” said Harry Reis, an author of the study and a professor of psychology at the University of Rochester, to the university.
For two weeks, participants in Reis’ study kept a daily log of the times they or their spouse did something self-sacrificing to the benefit of the other person, as well as their emotional states during the same period.
They reported giving an average of .65 compassionate acts per day and receiving .59 acts. So, some acts went unnoticed by the other person. And though a person who committed a kind act reaped the most benefit from it if it was recognized by their partner, making them feel valued, the researchers were surprised to learn that recognition was less important than they expected.
Clearly, a recipient needs to notice a compassionate act in order to emotionally benefit from it,” Reis said. “But recognition is much less a factor for the donor.”
Even though they didn’t get credit where credit was due, the partners who committed kind acts that went unnoticed benefitted about 45 percent more than the recipients did from them, suggesting that “acting compassionately may be its own reward,” Reis said.
Want another insight to help your relationship move in the right direction? Find out how puppies and pizza can help.
Katie Moritz is Rewire’s senior editor and a Pisces who enjoys thrift stores, rock concerts and pho. She covered politics for a newspaper in Juneau, Alaska, before driving down to balmy Minnesota to help produce long-standing public affairs show “Almanac” at Twin Cities PBS. Now she works on this here website. Reach her via email at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @katecmoritz.