Psychologists Studied 40,000 Couples — The Single Phrase That Bettered Their Relationship

Two words, eight letters.

couple smiling at each other MandriaPix / Shutterstock

What if a single phrase could change the course of your relationship?

The language and the words you use when you talk with your partner always matter. They are at the core of how successful your relationship is gonna be — they can literally make it or break it.

After studying 40,000 couples, psychologists Dr. John Gottman and Dr. Julie Schwartz Gottman discovered the one phrase that can significantly contribute to any relationship’s success:


RELATED: 9 Daily Habits Of Couples Who've Built The Strongest, Longest-Lasting Bonds

“Thank you.” 

We all want to feel appreciated

The #1 thing we all want in our relationships is to be valued.

We want our partners to notice the things we do for them. We want our efforts to be acknowledged. We want to be seen.


A simple “thank you” can do the trick.

Making room for gratitude within a relationship builds intimacy and emotional safety. But anyone who’s ever been in a long-term relationship knows that it’s far more common to notice the things our partners do wrong instead of what they’re doing right — and vice versa.

To quote the Gottmans:

“But it’s easy to fall into the trap of only seeing what your partner is not doing. You develop a narrative where you’re the one putting in all the effort, and you start to believe it’s true.”

That narrative is a relationship killer.

RELATED: The Only Way To Know If The Man You Love Is The Person You Should Marry


We take the things our partners do for us for granted

We say “thank you” when our colleague or friend brings us a cup of coffee or holds the door for us, but when our partners do the same thing, we keep our gratitude silent.

Think about all the small and thoughtful gestures you and your partner do for each other. For example, you might make a cup of tea for them every morning. They, in turn, might cook your favorite meal every time you’re feeling down.

How often do you say “thank you” to each other?

The thing is, most of us take the little things our partners do for granted and act as if saying “thank you” should be reserved for some special occasions. Over time, we even forget how important saying “thank you” really is.


And it’s really important. Research has shown that romantic partners who express gratitude are more than three times less likely to break up. Another study suggests that individuals who feel appreciated by their partners have better-functioning relationships and are more resilient to internal and external stressors.

How to open a cycle of appreciation and gratitude

When it comes to relationships, “thank you” is the most under-appreciated and under-used phrase.

Saying “thank you” to your partner is like saying “I appreciate you”. You don’t always need grand gestures or big love words to show your appreciation. Those two “humble” words work their magic.

RELATED: 5 Words That Are Infinitely More Romantic Than Saying 'I Love You'


Here are some situations where you or your partner (probably) don’t say thank you to each other but should:

  • With every little thing you do for each other (making a cup of coffee every morning, washing the dishes when it’s not one’s turn, or bringing home one’s favorite snack).
  • When you receive a genuine compliment (say “thank you” instead of deflecting the praise by saying something like “oh, it’s nothing”).
  • When one of you shows patience (e.g., when you run late, or when your partner is having a tantrum).
  • When one of you actively listens and gives the other one their undivided attention (say “thank you for listening”).
  • When you support each other, especially in times of need (say “thank you for being there with me when I was going through “X thing”).

Expressing gratitude to your partner might be the single best way to maintain a high-quality relationship.

You don’t have to go around saying thank you to each other 10 times a day, but you should say it often to make each other feel valued and appreciated.


It goes without saying that a good partner should be supportive and considerate but that doesn’t mean you should take the things they do for you for granted — and vice versa.

Every little thing one of you does for the other takes thoughtfulness, time, and energy, and none of you should ever feel your actions go unnoticed and under-appreciated.

Silent gratitude sucks. Be vocal. Say “thank you” more often. A cycle of mutual appreciation and gratitude can work wonders for your relationship.

RELATED: 10 Subtle Signs He's Totally Smitten With You

Margaret Pan is a freelance writer who writes to help others find love for others and themselves.