The Power of Gratitude in a Relationship
Gratitude in a relationship means recognizing what your partner has done for you. Indeed, it’s an act of consideration but, above all, of recognition. Feeling grateful means you indirectly improve the image you have of them. Moreover, it makes them appear kinder, more generous, honest, and even smarter.
For the recipient, gratitude often acts as a reinforcement. It’s as if they’ve been injected with a dose of vitamins that increases their self-concept and, indirectly, their self-esteem. Also, if they detect that the gratitude is really sincere, it reinforces the relationship.
The importance of gratitude in a relationship
“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson-
Being grateful to those you love is a great way to make them feel good, appreciated, and valued. This improves your relationship overall.
Gratitude is associated with behaviors that seek to maintain an emotional bond. In other words, it promotes reciprocal maintenance behaviors in relationships. Research claims that gratitude is a good predictor of the satisfaction generated in a relationship. Furthermore, it seems to predict increases in relationship connectedness and satisfaction for both the recipient and the benefactor.
In addition, it’s been observed that people who take the time to be grateful to their partner not only feel better but also feel more comfortable expressing any concerns about their relationship. Moreover, gratitude enhances the feelings of those with avoidant attachment styles. This helps increase their feelings of satisfaction and commitment in their relationships.
Recent research claims that gratitude in romantic relationships not only increases feelings of satisfaction and commitment, but it also protects couples from the ill effects of arguments and financial stress.
The power of saying thank you
In a study conducted over 15 months, Barton et al. (2022) examined the effects of expressed gratitude and perceived gratitude (feeling valued and appreciated by a partner) in 316 African-American couples. The objective was to investigate the protective effect of gratitude in romantic relationships.
“This study was really motivated to understand gratitude in relationships and if it can protect couples from challenges and hardships, be it negative communication or broader factors like financial strain”, Barton said, on the Illinois News Bureau website.
The couples in the study were surveyed about arguments, satisfaction, level of relationship stability, conflict resolution, confidence in their future together, expressions of gratitude toward their partner, and levels of perceived gratitude. In addition, they reported their current levels of financial stress.
Most of the participants were middle-aged and lived in rural Georgia. They all had jobs. Approximately 65 percent of the couples had incomes below 150 percent of the federal poverty level. Consequently, they could be classified as working poor.
“Our main hypothesis was that perceived gratitude from one’s partner would have what we call stress-buffering effects – that it would protect couples from the decline in relationship quality that typically happen when you have negative communication or when you have higher levels of financial strain”, Bartón said.
Gratitude can dampen stress
The researchers found that people with high levels of expressed and perceived gratitude were more satisfied with their relationships. They were also more confident in the future. Furthermore, they reported less instability, arguments, and thoughts about breaking up.
When the protective effects were tested, higher levels of perceived gratitude were found to buffer the stress of both financial stress and arguments. However, the same effect wasn’t observed with high levels of expressed gratitude.
“Even if the partner’s negative communication increased – provided they still felt appreciated by their partner – their relationship quality did not decline as much over time”, Barton stated.
Don’t forget to thank your partner
Here, we’ve examined the multiple benefits that gratitude can have in our lives. Now, it’s time for you to start demonstrating gratitude in your daily life. It’ll help your relationship grow.
While there’s no single way to do it, Barton suggests the following: “Be sure to make compliments that are sincere and genuine. And ask your partner if there are any areas in which they feel their efforts aren’t being appreciated or recognized and start expressing appreciation for those”.
It’s also essential that you go beyond the superficial. Indeed, research suggests that greater bonds of intimacy are created by going beyond simple gratitude. For example, instead of saying “Thank you for picking me up lunch,” say something like “Thank you so much for finding the time to bring my lunch to the office. I really appreciate your help as I’m having such a busy week.”
When you go below the surface and are more specific, you’re telling your partner how much you value them and how fulfilled you feel. This type of appreciation is more beneficial to the relationship than simply highlighting a favor they’ve done for you.
Finally, gratitude isn’t only a gift of thanks, it’s also food for a relationship. It helps you strengthen your emotional bonds. As a matter of fact, being grateful means showing your partner how valuable and important they are in your life.It might interest you...
All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.
- Ackerman, C. E. (2017, February 28). What is gratitude and why is it so important? Disponible en: https://positivepsychology.com/gratitude-appreciation/#effects-gratitude
- Ackerman, C.E. (2017, April 12). Benefits of gratitude: 28 surprising research findings. Disponible en: https://positivepsychology.com/benefits-gratitude-research-questions/
- Algoe, S. B., Fredrickson, B. L., & Gable, S. L. (2013). The social functions of the emotion of gratitude via expression. Emotion, 13(4), 605. Disponible en: https://psycnet.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037%2Fa0032701
- Algoe, S. B., Gable, S. L., & Maisel, N. C. (2010). It’s the little things: Everyday gratitude as a booster shot for romantic relationships. Personal relationships, 17(2), 217-233. Disponible en: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1475-6811.2010.01273.x
- Barton, A. W., Jenkins, A. I. C., Gong, Q., Sutton, N. C., & Beach, S. R. (2022). The protective effects of perceived gratitude and expressed gratitude for relationship quality among African American couples. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 02654075221131288.
- Gordon, A. M., Impett, E. A., Kogan, A., Oveis, C., & Keltner, D. (2012). To have and to hold: gratitude promotes relationship maintenance in intimate bonds. Journal of personality and social psychology, 103(2), 257.Disponible en: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22642482/
- Harvard Health Publishing. (2021, August 14). Giving thanks can make you happier. Disponible en: https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/giving-thanks-can-make-you-happier#:~:text=Other%20studies%20have%20looked%20at,expressing%20concerns%20about%20their%20relationship.
- Illinois News Bureau. (2022, november 14). Study shows the power of ‘thank you’ for couples. Disponible en: https://news.illinois.edu/view/6367/772090023#:~:text=New%20research%20suggests%20that%20gratitude,ineffective%20arguing%20and%20financial%20stress.
- Kubacka, K. E., Finkenauer, C., Rusbult, C. E., & Keijsers, L. (2011). Maintaining close relationships: Gratitude as a motivator and a detector of maintenance behavior. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 37(10), 1362-1375. Disponible en: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0146167211412196
- Park, Y., Impett, E. A., MacDonald, G., & Lemay Jr, E. P. (2019). Saying “thank you”: Partners’ expressions of gratitude protect relationship satisfaction and commitment from the harmful effects of attachment insecurity. Journal of personality and social psychology, 117(4), 773.
- Park, Y., Visserman, L., Sisson, N. M., Le, B. M., Stellar, J. E., & Impett, E. A. (2021). How can I thank you? Highlighting the benefactor’s responsiveness or costs when expressing gratitude. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 38(2), 504-523.