Gratitude to Improve Relationships

Eileen Bailey Health Guide
  • In recent years, studies have suggested that there are clear benefits to gratitude. People who tuned into what they were grateful for on a regular basis were found to feel better overall. Some studies have concluded that gratitude may even strengthen the immune system. 


    But gratitude also can play a big role in strengthening relationships. 


    Gratitude in relationships

    Sara Algoe completed a research study on gratitude in relationships and found that both partners benefit when they feel and show gratitude for the small kindnesses they give each other on a regular basis. 

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    In her study, couples recorded:

    • Whether they did something nice for their partner and, if so, how they felt about it
    • Whether their partner did something nice for them and, if so, how they felt about it
    • How connected they felt to their partner on the day of a nice deed
    • How they rated their relationship that day

    Algoe found that participants said they did something nice for their partner about 35 percent of the time and felt that their partner did something nice for them about 40 percent of the time. On days when they felt “grateful” for the nice things their partner did, participants reported feeling more connected to their partners and more satisfied with the relationship—and these feelings continued into the next day. Those who had partners who were more grateful also felt more connected to their partners, showing that gratitude benefited both partners. 

    This wasn’t limited to big things. Being grateful for even small everyday events had a positive effect on the relationship. “Events such as one partner planning a celebratory meal when the other partner gets a promotion, taking the children to the zoo so the other partner can have some quiet time, or stopping to pick up the other partner’s favorite coffee are each benefits to the recipients,” reported the authors of the study. [1]

    A cycle of gratitude

    Another study, completed by Amie M. Gordon, Ph.D., showed similar results, but also found that “gratitude can help relationships thrive by promoting a cycle of generosity. That is, one person’s gratitude can prompt both partners to think and act in ways that help them signal gratitude to each other and promote a desire to hold onto their relationships.” [2]

    The cycle, she explained, works this way:

    • When you feel gratitude, you feel more committed to the relationship.
    • When you feel more committed, you do things that promote healthy relationships, such as being more thoughtful and responsive to your partner’s needs.
    • When you are thoughtful and responsive, your partner feels more valued.
    • When your partner feels valued, he or she is grateful and the cycle continues.



    [1] “Giving the Gift of Gratitude,” 2012, Dec. 24, Amie M. Gordon, Ph.D., Psychology Today

    [2] “Gratitude for ‘Little Things’ Is Key to Relationships,” 2010, May 24, Staff Writer, The Telegraph


Published On: November 18, 2013