Gratitude Could Help Your Marriage Last

4 min read
Anthony Tran/Unsplash

Source: Anthony Tran/Unsplash

My neck aches from leaning over the desk all day, and a headache pushes in against my temples. A few minutes earlier, I’d sent the document off to editors, and now I’m stooped over the cutting board, chopping carrots and celery for the soup I’m making for dinner. The kind with tortellini in the broth. A family favorite.

I do not feel like cooking, and my inner voice is complaining about it. After a few minutes, I decided to focus on gratitude instead.

I am grateful for the warm house and good food we have available and the rain clattering against the windows.

Gratitude Is Good For Us

A growing body of research shows that gratitude is not only a powerful aid in health and well-being, but it may also work as a salve to soothe relationship stress.

A new study published in Behavior Therapy indicates that individuals who feel appreciated, an aspect of gratitude, by their partners are more satisfied and committed to the relationship, according to Allen Barton, assistant professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

And that could protect the relationship from outside stressors.

The Gratitude Exchange

For more than a year, Barton and his team looked at how expressed gratitude, which he defined as conveying direct appreciation, and perceived gratitude, which is the feeling of being valued and appreciated by your partner, had on 316 couples.

The research focused on the gratitude exchange between people in the relationship, both how people expressed appreciation and felt appreciated by their partners.

Researchers surveyed the couples three times over a year and asked about their conflicts, financial stresses, how often they expressed gratitude to their partner, and how they perceived their partner’s levels of gratitude.

It is no surprise that those individuals who felt appreciated by their partners had better marriages. But the next indicator is even more interesting.

Barton’s research found that those relationships where individuals felt and gave gratitude more frequently were also more resilient.

With people facing so much hardship and stress in the world, it’s hopeful to know that the expression of gratitude not only feels good now but offers some protection from tough times to come.

The study shows that even during greater conflict in the relationship, such as more frequent arguments, the relationship quality did not decline as dramatically over time as in those partnerships where individuals felt less appreciated.

Protect Your Partnership with Gratitude

Here are some ways to practice gratitude in your relationship.

  1. Be authentic. Sometimes, an expression of gratitude can feel vulnerable because it requires you to get a little personal, noticing and sharing something you value. But this kind of sincere expression is powerful. Be true. It’s good for both of you.
  2. Pause in the moment to give thanks to each other. Thank you’s are important, and it’s good to be in the habit of thanking others for their help. But make it meaningful. Put your phone down. Stop what you are doing. Look at your partner and share your appreciation.
  3. Notice something every day. When in a long-term relationship, it’s easy to overlook the things that you both do to support each other. They become so expected, so familiar. But challenge yourself to notice and appreciate something about your partner each day. Recognizing the little things, like taking the garbage out or being a good listener when you complain about your boss, shows that you value them and pay attention.
  4. Check-in with your partner. Barton suggests couples discuss whether there are things that aren’t being appreciated or acknowledged in the relationship and start expressing appreciation for those. It’s always nice to be noticed when you make an extra effort—like making soup after a long day.

By the way, the soup was delicious. But I was exhausted by the time dinner was over.

After the dishes were done, my husband turned, looked me in the eye, and said, “Thank you for making the soup. I know it takes a lot of work, and it was really good.”

I make dinner most nights, but that mindful comment meant so much. He gave me his time and attention, recognized my effort, and appreciated it.

Gratitude Essential Reads

So, is gratitude good for a marriage?

Well, I don’t need a study to help me to answer that question: absolutely.

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