2 Words Way More Important Than 'I Love You' In A Relationship

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man and woman embracing

You may not realize it, but saying "thank you" to your partner does more to make a romantic relationship last than simply saying the words "I love you."

If you want to know how to have a healthy relationship, know that one of the characteristics that set the blue ribbon relationships apart from the rest of the pack is the tendency for both partners to live in a state of appreciation and gratitude for all the ways they enhance each other’s lives.

RELATED: People With These 10 Personality Traits Have No Idea What Gratitude Means

Couples in a relationship with an attitude of gratitude are prompted to continually seek out ways to make each other’s lives easier, more pleasurable, more enriched, and more fun.

They make it a point to do this through various acts of assistance and support, spontaneously offering words of acknowledgment, kindness, and affection, small gestures, and physical touch that say, "I love you."

Relationship problems will always exist for a couple, but when they say "thanks" for every little thing, they continue thriving in a healthy relationship.

In a variety of imaginative ways, they show up, are present, notice the tiniest things, and are generous of spirit. They know better than to take things for granted.

Even couples who have been together for fifty years or more still deserve to hear the words "Thank you" when they've done something that has enhanced the well-being of the home or the relationship. And contrary to popular movies, love does not mean never having to say you’re sorry.

They know, in fact, that when you love someone, you can’t help but say "I’m sorry" when you’ve done or said something, intentionally or inadvertently that has caused pain or distress to them. They notice and express appreciation for even the smallest actions because they never take their relationship for granted.

There are many ways to say thank you and show appreciation. In fact, the word 'appreciation' has two definitions: "thankful recognition" and "an increase in value".

When things appreciate, they grow in value. Loving relationships embody both meanings because they not only involve expressions of thankful recognition to each other but in doing so they are increasing the value of the relationship.

By taking advantage of the countless opportunities that present themselves on a daily basis to offer sincere gratitude through our words and behaviors, we are doing more to enhance each other’s mutual well-being than giving each other anything that money can buy. Literally!

RELATED: 6 Ways To Practice Gratitude In Your Relationship (For Next-Level Love)

Many of the people we’ve known and worked with who offer words and acts that embody a "generosity of spirit" haven’t always been this way. They’ve learned from their experiences that "what goes around, comes around".

We refer to this understanding as "enlightened self-interest" or the recognition that when I do something that is intended to enhance the well-being of another, my own well-being is correspondingly enhanced.

When two people in a relationship share this understanding, a positive cycle of reciprocal generosity is created which generates its own momentum and becomes self-perpetuating.

Many of us have grown up in families in which expressions of warm feelings towards others were inhibited or infrequent.

Words of appreciation, acts of kindness, and other forms of support were rarely, if ever, seen. Yet, even if we hardly ever witnessed or received these affirmations of love as children, it’s possible to break this pattern of withholding and cultivate a spirit of generosity that promotes a greater willingness to share these feelings more openly and spontaneously.

Old habits can be broken and replaced by new ones, particularly when the intention and motivation to do so are strong.

Many of us experience feelings of gratitude and appreciation towards others more frequently than we express them. When we fail to share them with the person towards whom we feel them, the feelings fade away, and are lost in the myriad of thoughts that constantly compete for attention in our minds.

In experiencing these feelings, our sense of well-being and happiness is enriched, but a great opportunity to enhance the quality of another’s well-being is lost when we fail to share our appreciation with them.

The gift of gratitude does not diminish our own happiness; it amplifies it.

The more we give it away, the more we possess. Don’t take our word for it, try it out and see for yourself.

What have you got to lose?

RELATED: People With These 5 Personality Traits Know The True Meaning Of Gratitude

Linda Bloom, LCSW, and Charlie Bloom, MSW, are psychotherapists and relationship counselors who have worked with individuals, couples, groups, and organizations since 1975. To learn more, visit their website, Bloom Work.

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This article was originally published at PsychCentral. Reprinted with permission from the author.