How does gratitude help couples? (DW#631)

Experts try to explain the link between gratitude & appreciation and marriage success by suggesting that gratitude can help relationships thrive by promoting a cycle of generosity. When one person is grateful, it is likely to prompt both spouses to think and act in ways that help them signal gratitude to each other and promote a desire to hold onto their relationships.

Here is how this cycle works:

When you feel more grateful –> You want to hold onto your relationship
Moments of gratitude help people recognize the value in their partners and a valuable partner is a partner worth holding onto. A number of studies have found that on days when people feel more appreciative of their partners than typical, they also report increased feelings of commitment to their relationships. And the benefits of gratitude are not just in daily life – the more grateful people are at the beginning of the study, the more committed they are nine months later. So it seems that feelings of gratitude are associated with a psychological motivation to maintain the relationship.

When you feel more grateful -> You work to hold onto your relationship
In addition to being more psychologically motivated to hold onto a relationship, experiences of gratitude also appear to promote behaviors that will help people hold onto their relationships. One particular study found that people reported being more thoughtful and responsive to their partners needs on days when they felt more grateful for their partners.

In another study couple were brought into the lab and talk about important topics in their relationships. Participants who were more grateful for their partners were observed as being more caring and attentive listeners to their partners during these discussions. Since research has shown that being a more thoughtful and attentive partner is key for promoting intimacy in relationships, these findings suggest that gratitude might help people gain and maintain that intimacy.

When you work to maintain relationship -> Your partner feels more appreciated
Recognizing you have a valuable partner and acting accordingly can help your partner feel more valued. When people feel more grateful, they signal those feelings to their partners through their behaviors. For example, when participants feel appreciated by their spouses, they tend to listen better to their spouses.

When your partner feels appreciated -> Your partner feels more grateful
This is how the circle of gratitude completes itself: When you appreciate your partner through gratitude, your partner becomes more grateful towards you. On days when people report feeling more appreciated by their partners, they experience increases in their own feelings of gratitude for their partners. And this makes sense right? We deeply appreciate and value those who value us and recognize our worth.

So the next time we find resentment creeping into our relationships, let’s focus our attention on valuing and appreciating our partner and thus start the cycle of gratitude.

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