It’s a mystery. Why do some marriages seem to last forever, while others with just as much hope and promise end in divorce? There can be lots of reasons but one of them often is taking one another for granted. Turns out lots of research shows that gratitude is kryptonite to divorce or at least the taking-each-other-for-granted part. Gratitude has lots of benefits such as mental and even physical well-being, helping to build closer, more satisfied relationships. Gratitude isn’t just about saying thank you when someone does something nice. Sure that’s great and all. But the kind of gratitude we’re talking about here stems from accepting and appreciating who your partner is as a person. It also helps to recall why you married them to begin with. The thing that gratitude does is, it creates what is known as a generous cycle. Showing gratitude helps us to recognize the value of our partner. This recognized value then makes the partner more worth holding onto. There have been a number of studies that show that the more gratitude a couple experienced the more committed they were to their relationships. Want to know how this virtuous cycle works? Acts and words of gratitude make your partner feel good, which thereby makes them feel more gratitude for you, making you feel good.
This can also be called a cycle of generosity. In one study relationships that were more grateful in the beginning were more committed at the end, nine months later. The best way to do this is to step forward and be the one that gets the ball rolling. Step up and show a tremendous amount of gratitude for the other person, your spouse. Perhaps make them a special dinner with a cake at the end with their name on it, and maybe something naughty later on. Take them on a special getaway, a dinner and a show they’ve been dying to see, two front row tickets to the game or their favorite band, a picnic set out in a secret woodland hideaway, or stargazing on the perfect mountain meadow with some wine, cheese, fruit and your spouse’s favorite music. Whatever you do to say, “I totally get who you are and I love it!” A move like this prompts those feel-good feelings to invade their psyche. They’ve recognized that you value them and you’ve recognized their value for who they are, deep inside. What’s more, they will have to up the ante, get creative and, if they are worth your time, get you back in return as good as you gave.
But it doesn’t always have to be something so big, it can be a little gift, a note slipped into a jacket pocket or a purse, a naughty photo left on someone’s laptop or that new release they’ve been itching to buy but haven’t had the time to pick up on the coffee table when they get home from work. One study showed that experiencing gratitude helped promote behaviors that helped people stay together and hold onto one another. One study found that partners were responsive to each other’s needs, and thoughtful when interacting with one another due to the introduction of gratitude into their relationship. Other research shows that the key to intimacy, the highest goal in human needs, is through an attentive and thoughtful partner. The use of gratitude therefore may help couples achieve and preserve intimacy. One study found that those partners who felt appreciated were better listeners. They also showed physical signs of feeling more gratitude. Accepting and appreciating one another deep down can be hard to do. But what is better than someone who really gets you, loves you and accepts you for who you are? That is invaluable and that’s what gratitude does, it shows you how treasured that person, your spouse truly is to you. There are times when gratitude can hurt you. This is when you are in an emotionally or physically abusive relationship. Then it can counteract your best strategy which is to high tail it out of there. Besides that, gratitude is a great way to increase the love, closeness and well-being in your marriage. Why not make some special plans to surprise your spouse and show them some gratitude? For more, pick up a copy of 75 Habits for a Happy Marriage: Marriage Advice to Recharge and Reconnect Every Day by Ashley David Bush and Daniel Arthur Bush.