Everyone wants to be appreciated. You want your boss to notice how hard you work. You want your children to appreciate all you do for them. You want your partner to pay attention, not just to the big things, but the little ways you care for him or her. You want to be appreciated but do you take time out of your day, every day, to even think about how much you are grateful to have your partner in your life? Do you tell your partner "thank you" just because you can’t imagine your life without him in it?
Gratitude has been shown to increase happiness and satisfaction with your life. It can improve your health and make your relationships stronger. It can improve your overall feelings of well-being and make you more in love with your partner. But gratitude isn’t always something that comes easy. When you are feeling down, as we all do sometimes, life just isn’t going your way or your are irritated at your partner over something, it is hard to feel appreciative and grateful. Gratitude needs to be practiced on a daily basis. You need to make a conscious decision and a commitment to remember to look for the good all around you instead of focusing on everything that goes wrong.
A study completed in 2013 and published in Emotion measured the effect of gratitude within a relationship. A total of 77 romantically-involved couples participated in the study. All the partners rated their satisfaction with their relationship and were asked to show gratitude to the other partner. They were then asked to rate how much their partner seemed to understand, validate and care for them. The partners receiving words of gratitude scored their partners higher being responsive to their needs and indicated a higher satisfaction with the relationship.
The participants were asked to again fill out rating for their relationships six to nine months later and had the same result, showing gratitude increased a couple’s scores on relationship satisfaction. Researchers concluded that expressing gratitude for your partner increases both people’s satisfaction within the relationship.
Previous research has shown that the giver of gratitude receives the benefits of greater happiness, improved health and greater satisfaction with their relationship, but this study showed that both partners reaped the benefits of showing appreciation.
What should you do?
- Make a commitment to spend a few minutes each day thinking about why you are grateful for your partner.
- Let your partner know when he or she does something, such as doing the dishes, making dinner, listening to your problems or being attentive in bed.
- Tell your partner what personality traits you appreciate. Do you like his ability to make you laugh? Is she kind and caring? Does she have a beautiful smile? Is he great with the kids? Whatever it might be, take the time to let your partner know how you feel.
- Be genuine. You don’t want to simply say things because you need something nice to say. But, if you are in a serious relationship or marriage, there is a reason you are together. Use this as a building block and remind yourself of why you are together. Finding one or two nice things to say each day should not be that difficult.
- If you feel uncomfortable sharing these things with your partner, write them down in a journal each day. Just thinking about how much you appreciate your spouse will increase your satisfaction with the marriage and once you feel better, you might be willing to share what you have written down.
- If you are at a crossroads in your relationship, try being grateful, even if your partner doesn’t return the words of appreciation. Keep it up. You might be pleasantly surprised when he or she starts returning the gratitude and sharing with you all the ways you are special. Gratitude is contagious.
Gratitude takes practice but the benefits are worth the time and effort.
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.