It’s easy to spot someone who is grateful; they exude a type of energy that you want to be around, an energy that draws people to them. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, since research now shows that experiencing gratitude is actually good for you.
Even better, the latest research demonstrates that gratitude is good for your marriage/relationship too.
In a research study by Nathaniel Lambert, people who experience and share feelings of gratitude and appreciation with their partner rated their relationship more positively compared to only thinking appreciative thoughts about one’s mate (without vocalizing their appreciation).
These findings suggest that it is the act of communicating appreciation or gratitude that feeds positivity into your relationship.
How can you use this information to strengthen your marriage/relationship?
As a marriage/couples counselor, I’ve seen expressions of gratitude give relationships a much-needed boost and I’ve seen expressions of gratitude go nowhere.
Here are some points to remember that can make gratitude the antidote to a hurting relationship:
1. When it comes to gratitude, think small.
It’s easy to be grateful when your love surprises you with a new car or a dream cruise, but grand gestures such as these are usually few and far between.
Instead, focus on the small things you feel grateful for: the way s/he smiles, when your partner lets you sleep an extra half hour while s/he takes care of the kids, when your mate stops to pick you up your favorite Starbucks drink…you get the point.
2. Feel the appreciation before you express it.
You can begin to lose your partner’s trust if s/he senses that your words of gratitude are inauthentic. Remember, it is your feelings of gratitude that will stay with your partner long after your last spoken words of gratitude.
3. Don’t expect anything in return.
The gift of gratitude is in the act of sharing your feelings. When you anticipate or expect something in return (like reciprocated words of appreciation), you dilute the benefits of gratitude. Be selfless when you express your appreciation.
4. Don’t express gratitude when your spouse/partner is upset with you about something.
There’s a time and a place for everything, including gratitude. Expressions of appreciation when your partner is upset or angry with you can feel invalidating to your partner (since what you’re saying is so contradictory to what s/he is currently feeling about you). Resolve any current conflict or pressing issue before expressing your gratitude.
5. Gratitude is a mindset rather than a one-time event.
When couples hear about the benefits of gratitude, they frequently make the mistake of poor follow-through. For instance, they might keep a gratitude journal for a few days or weeks but then revert back to rarely communicating appreciation.
To overcome this problem, think of gratitude as a mindset, a way of being and a way of viewing the world rather than an isolated, special event to do on a particular occasion.
Finally, be patient and allow the benefits of gratitude to slowly take hold of your relationship. Now it’s time to take this latest research and make it a regular part of your marriage/relationship!
Wishing you and your relationship all the best,
Dr. Rich Nicastro