'The female is often enduring several sacrifices to make the relationship work and the male isn't'

The ability to endure sacrifice renders an individual or an organisation much more powerful in terms of triumphing over conflict or achieving goals.

Sacrifice is also an essential element of the glue that bonds us to others. Another's sacrifice for us creates an obligation and attachment in stronger doses than practically anything else they could do for us.

But there are exceptions. Often when women consult me with doubts about boyfriends being good long-term prospects it turns out there is a one-way street when it comes to sacrifice. The female is often enduring several sacrifices to make the relationship work and the male isn't. It is interesting that women are often more wary of requiring a sacrifice of a partner than the other way round, yet this is an acid test of how much a relationship means to someone.

One reason we often make mistakes in who we pick for long-term relationships is that the seduction process requires little sacrifice from the other. After people have committed to each other, the sacrifices or compromises begin to come thick and fast, then the realisation dawns that the ability of the other to make sacrifices was never tested in the first place. Yet this is a key quality that will determine the true strength of a long-term relationship.

A useful analysis of relationships is to compile a balance sheet of sacrifices you make for someone and what they endure for you. A lopsided register is an ominous sign.

One key characteristic you should look for in a prospective long-term mate is their ability to make sacrifices - in general, in connection to relationships, and for you in particular.

People who find it difficult to make sacrifices are unlikely to be helpful when the going gets tough in life and you need more from them than you can necessarily return at that moment.

This also applies to the workplace. One theory about leadership is that great leaders are those who can conjure a group to dispense with their own individual self-interest and instead work together for the good of the group as a whole.

Dr Raj Persaud is a consultant psychiatrist at South London and Maudsley trust and Gresham professor for public understanding of psychiatry.