Acting compassionately towards your partner makes you feel better, even if your partner doesn’t notice it.
Compassionate acts include things like expressing tenderness, showing your partner they were valued and changing plans to accommodate your partner.
The study examined 175 newlyweds who had been together an average of 7 months.
Professor Harry Reis, the study’s first author, said:
“Our study was designed to test a hypothesis put forth by Tenzin Gyatso, the current Dalai Lama.
That compassionate concern for others’ welfare enhances one’s own affective state.”
For the study, the couples kept a diary over two weeks recording when they acted compassionately towards their partners.
The study’s author describe ‘compassionate acts’ as:
“…caregiving that is freely given, focused on understanding and genuine acceptance of the other’s needs and wishes, and expressed through openness, warmth, and a willingness to put a partner’s goals ahead of one’s own.”
The results showed that partners benefited from receiving compassionate acts, but only if they noticed them.
However, performing the compassionate act was beneficial to the partner that did it, whether their partner noticed or not.
Professor Reis said:
“Clearly, a recipient needs to notice a compassionate act in order to emotionally benefit from it.
But recognition is much less a factor for the donor.”
The study was published in the journal Emotion (Reis et al., 2017).