Forget hours of therapy and expensive gifts.
Researchers say there’s one simple way to fix your marriage; say ‘thank you’ to your partner.
A new study has found gratitude and believing that your partner values you, directly influences how you behave in your marriage, as well as your levels of commitment.
Scientists at Georgia University asked 468 married people questions about their finances, communication style and how grateful they felt towards their partner.
They found that gratitude consistently predicts how happy someone will be in their marriage.
‘It goes to show the power of “thank you,”‘ said the study’s lead author Allen Barton, a postdoctoral research associate at UGA’s Center for Family Research.
‘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 found that higher levels of saying ‘thank you’ protected men and women from the damage caused when arguing.
‘Importantly, we found that when couples are engaging in a negative conflict pattern like demand/withdrawal, expressions of gratitude and appreciation can counteract or buffer the negative effects of this type of interaction on marital stability,’ said Ted Futris, an associate professor at Georgia University.
‘This is the first study to document the protective effect that feeling appreciated by your spouse can have for marriages,’ Barton said.
‘We think it is quite important as it highlights a practical way couples can help strengthen their marriage, particularly if they are not the most adept communicators in conflict.’
Results from this study also back up earlier research on something known as demand/withdraw communication, as well as how money problems can damage marriage.
‘Demand/withdraw communication occurs when one partner tends to demand, nag or criticise, while the other responds by withdrawing or avoiding the confrontation,’ Barton said.
‘Although wife demand/husband withdraw interactions appear more commonly in couples, in the current study we found financial distress was associated with lower marital outcomes through its effects on increasing the total amount of both partners’ demand/withdraw interactions.’
He explained that when couples are stressed about making ends meet, they are more likely to be critical of each other, as well as defensive.
Gratitude, however, can interrupt this cycle, he claims.
This was measured in terms of the degree to which individuals felt appreciated by their spouse, valued by their spouse and acknowledged when they did something nice for their spouse.
‘All couples have disagreements and argue,’ Futris said. ‘And, when couples are stressed, they are likely to have more arguments.
‘What distinguishes the marriages that last from those that don’t is not how often they argue, but how they argue and how they treat each other on a daily basis.’