How Gratitude Affects Marriage
Gratitude continues to shine as a behavior that contributes to our happiness and well-being.
Yet, it seems we still forget to do on a regular basis. Despite it being an amazingly simple act to perform.
Gratitude has been found to be a key predictor in happiness. Not to mention the many other health benefits that science has found recently.
Research from the University of Georgia now shows how gratitude affects marriage.
Marriage can be wonderful. That doesn’t mean it’s always rainbows and butterflies, though. Like any relationship it takes work.
Fights are going to happen. It’s impossible to see eye to eye on everything. How you handle yourself and your behavior can go a long way in influencing marital outcomes. These are the types of things that the research touches on.
The study – published in the journal Personal Relationships – finds that gratitude not only plays a role in marriage happiness, but it can also help alleviate symptoms of negative situations.
Ted Futris was a co-author on the study. He’s also an associate professor in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences. He had this to say about the research:
“We found that feeling appreciated and believing that your spouse values you directly influences how you feel about your marriage, how committed you are to it, and your belief that it will last.”
Their results show that spousal expression of gratitude was the most significant and consistent predictor of marital quality.
When the Going Gets Tough
An interesting and useful part of the research was finding how it protects couples against divorce. Not only that, but it also protects a woman’s marital commitment from the effects of poor communication during conflict.
Ted elaborates on this interaction:
“Importantly, we found that when couples are engaging in a negative conflict pattern like demand/withdrawal, expressions of gratitude and appreciation can counteract or buffer the negative effects of this type of interaction on marital stability.”
The “demand/withdrawal” that Ted is talking about is a common behavior in couple conflict. It occurs when one partner demands, nags, or criticizes. The other person then responds by either withdrawing or avoiding confrontation.
This is a problem and can lead to a breakdown in communication and a lower quality of marriage.
Ray of Hope
Conflict is not only tough, but it can be an emotional mess. Gratitude can not only break the nasty cycle that can occur with stressful situations, but can have a protective effect as well.
Gratitude is a wonderful and simple strategy for marriage. Especially if you’re not great at communicating in a conflict.
So how can you accomplish this?
In the study, here’s how they measured gratitude. It was the degree of how much a person felt appreciated by their spouse, valued by their spouse, and acknowledged when they did something nice for their spouse.
So to practice gratitude, find ways to do those 3 things. Show your partner that you appreciate them. Show them that you value them. And when they do something nice for you, simply tell them that you noticed and are aware of their kind act.
While the study itself focused on fights concerning financial matters, the lessons learned can apply to other areas as well.
As a final bit of wisdom, Ted has a few last words:
“All couples have disagreements and argue. And, when couples are stressed, they are likely to have more arguments. What distinguishes the marriages that last from those that don’t is not how often they argue, but how they argue and how they treat each other on a daily basis.”