Relationship Rx: Gratitude

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gratitude 

noun grat·i·tude \ˈgra-tə-ˌtüd, -ˌtyüd\: a feeling of appreciation or thanks

While Merriam-Webster’s definition of gratitude is pretty clear and encompassing, I think we all might feel gratitude in slightly different ways. To me, gratitude differs from appreciation in that I can appreciate a good book, a dry sense of humor, or a killer pair of shoes. However, I am grateful for the things (and people) that I feel I don’t entirely deserve.

Whatever your personal definition of the word, recent studies have found that gratitude may be a key factor in making your relationship last. What if we could replace annoyance, anger, or resentment with feelings of gratitude instead?

Here are 4 ways that feeling and expressing gratitude for your partner can improve your relationship:

  1. Gratitude prevents you from taking your partner for granted. It is not a given that he/she will be there each and every day in the future. When you focus on whom or what you’re grateful for, you realize how truly lucky you are to have that person in your life and cherish them accordingly.
  2. Expressing gratitude promotes positive interaction. I’m sure you’ve heard of John Gottman’s magical ratio of 1:5, which means that for every negative interaction in a relationship there should be at least five positive interactions. When expressing genuine gratitude to your partner, it is highly unlikely that you are rolling your eyes or being dismissive. Instead, you are much more likely to give them a hug, a smile, or a loving look, or maybe all three. And you might receive some in return!
  3. Gratitude helps you see the big picture. It drives me nuts when my husband leaves dirty clothes laying on the floor—in the bathroom, the bedroom, you name it. But in the grand scheme of things, does it really matter? I realize I am grateful to have a home in which to carelessly toss those dirty socks. I am grateful for my husband and that those dirty socks mean he is there almost every day. I have many friends and relatives whose husbands are deployed for months at a time and would probably not mind picking up dirty clothes if it meant their husbands were home and safe. Thinking about what I’m grateful for helps me see that the little annoyances really are meaningless in the grand scheme of things.
  4. Gratitude can help to counteract conflict. Have you ever noticed how annoyance and resentment can build and build upon itself, until the tiniest, most innocent offense can spark a rage rivaling the heat of a thousand suns? Okay, maybe that’s just me. But in all seriousness, sometimes those little things just add up. Gratitude can help to temper that. I am more willing to let the socks slide if I can recall him telling me, “Hey, thanks for being a great wife,” earlier in the week.

Feeling gratitude in the midst of anger, stress, or annoyance is easier said than done, I know. In fact, it might even take a conscious effort and feel like something you actually need to work at. But gratitude is to your relationship what exercise is to your health: it prevents a whole myriad of other problems, both immediate and long-term. Plus, it just makes you feel good.

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