This guest article from Psych Central was written by Christy Matta, M.A.
Popular culture in the form of romantic comedies and pop music would lead you to believe that happiness in any relationship comes from finding that special someone whose personality is the perfect counterpart to your own. However, well-being in relationships is not simply a magical mix of personality characteristics between two people. Improving and maintaining relationships involves skills that can be learned.
If you want an intimate relationship in which both partners can trust one another and admit vulnerabilities, you might want to try expressing a little gratitude. The expression of gratitude, it seems, more than other positive acts such as expressing thoughts of positive shared activities, improves your partner’s view of you and creates an open environment within the relationship in which concerns can be expressed.
You may not be surprised to hear that gratitude is an important element in successful relationships. In fact, appreciation was listed as one of the most important factors contributing to a satisfying long-term marriage. A 2005 study found that expressing gratitude for one’s partner was related to higher marital satisfaction and better adjustment to marriage among newlyweds, as well (Schramm, Marshal and Harris). Newlyweds also viewed appreciative partners more positively. Those partners who expressed gratitude in a relationship regularly for 3 weeks saw their relationship as having greater communal strength.
Clearly gratitude and the expression of appreciation for a partner has a significant impact on the strength of and satisfaction in a marriage.
Exactly how gratitude effects relationships is somewhat complicated. A recent study in the journal, Emotion, found that expressing gratitude improves your relationships by improving your partners positive view of you (Lambert and Fincham 2011). The study suggests that this, in turn increases your partner’s investment in the long-term well-being of the relationship as well as your partners comfort in voicing relationship concerns, which is important to relationship well-being.
Ways to express gratitude:
Go the extra mile in your thoughts and think about what you appreciate about your partner.
Express your gratitude. Do something you wouldn’t normally do to express gratitude either verbally or in writing.
Do small and simple appreciative actions (say unexpectedly cooking a meal or folding the laundry).