When gratitude is not appropriate in relationships (DW#641)

Over the last little while, we spent considerable time talking about how practicing gratitude in relationships will improve relationship quality and satisfaction.

We now need to address an important caveat about gratitude in relationships.

All the research that we have mentioned is focused on understanding factors that promote the maintenance of healthy relationships or turning around relationships that have the potential of being healthy.

There are, however, some relationships that will not be helped by gratitude.

If there is physical or emotional abuse in a relationship, telling the victim to look for the positive or to feel grateful may further victimize the person.

It is true that no one is entirely evil. The reality is that even abusers may have some aspects of their personality which are positive. A person who is aggressive or violent may be materially generous (a "good provider"). A serial adulterer may be charming, hardworking or a good parent. Someone addicted to substances may be loving and kind when they are not under the influence.

By telling the person to focus on these aspects while ignoring the abuse, infidelity or addiction may minimize the abuse or trauma that the person is going through, especially since living with such dysfunctional people often results in an erosion of self esteem and confidence in the individual.

When someone is living under such challenging circumstances, looking for the positive or working on gratitude may not be the appropriate response or tool of choice. Instead, they need support to clear their thinking, to regain confidence, to work on self-empowerment and self compassion, and to fully consider their options regarding the relationship.

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