Why do relationships fail?
Beyond the usual circumstantial reasons, like moving across the country, or an all-too-stressful job, spurned ex-lovers might have something in common: Their partner just wasn’t grateful. Or at least they didn’t think their partner was grateful.
According to a new study from the University of Georgia, saying thank you more often might just save your marriage.
Over the last decade, a growing body of research has suggested that feelings of gratitude play an important role in mental and physical well-being. Psychologists found that people who focus on what they’re grateful for reported being more satisfied, optimistic, and even exercising more than their negative peers, Business Insider’s Erin Brodwin has noted.
The new study, co-written by Ted Futris and Allen Barton, found that feelings of gratitude were the most consistent predictor of marital quality among couples of all ages and socioeconomic backgrounds. Couples who are more grateful for one another report being closer, more committed, and having greater mutual relationship satisfaction.
To conduct the study, the researchers selected 468 married individuals through a phone screening process. Respondents were asked to complete surveys about their level of financial well-being, communication habits, spousal expressions of gratitude, and overall marital quality.
The study focused on instances of demand/withdraw communication between partners — that is, when one partner tends to nag or criticise while the other responds by avoiding any sort of confrontation and pulling away. The researchers found that demand/withdraw communication increases with greater financial distress, and is often correlated with lower marital satisfaction.
But gratitude, specifically measured as the degree to which individuals feel appreciated by their partner, can reverse this cycle and help overcome these communication issues. The researchers went as far as to suggest that gratitude can even counteract the negative effects of conflict between partners, particularly when it’s due to financial distress.
“It goes to show the power of thank you,” said the study’s lead author Allen Barton in a UGA press release. “Even if a couple is experiencing distress and difficulty in other areas, gratitude in the relationship can help promote positive marital outcomes.”
The study also notes that these positive relationship outcomes are not only associated with feeling gratitude for one’s partner, but also feeling appreciated and perceiving gratitude from one’s partner.
So it’s a two-way street. The next time you and your partner are arguing over money, or whose turn it is to clean the kitchen, just remember — a simple thank you can go a long way.
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