Gratitude Builds Strong Relationships

In the enriching of a relationship, the big things are the little things. There must be consistent appreciation for each other and thoughtful demonstrations of gratitude.” ~James E. Faust

During the Thanksgiving season, it seems appropriate to talk about being grateful, specifically how showing gratitude for, and toward, our significant other deepens the bond we share. 

When we first embark on a relationship, we are incredibly responsive, often expressing how much we value, adore, and are grateful for our new love. But often, when couples “settle into” their relationship, that high level of attentiveness appreciation wanes and a new, frequently unconscious, habit of taking our partner for granted replaces the appreciation. 

One of the primary complaints of many partners in romantic relationships is, “I don’t feel appreciated!”  

Dr. John Gottman, a renowned researcher on relationships, has discovered that strong, stable partnerships have a 5-to-1 ratio of positivity to negativity. This means that for every negative action, each partner in a good relationship expresses FIVE positive emotions, behaviors, or actions toward their significant other. Gottman also states that to elicit admiration and affection, couples need to express appreciation and respect for each other often. (Awhile back, I wrote a blog on the Four Horsemen, the primary destructive behaviors that Dr. Gottman observed in his relationship research.)

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When we feel appreciated, we are usually more receptive to the needs of our partner, and more inclined to reciprocate that appreciation -- as well as being inspired to display more affection to him or her.  This positive situation makes us feel closer and more connected to each other. As a natural result, the more connected we feel, the more we appreciate our loved one. And round and round it goes! 

Mutual appreciation is a catalyst for intimacy. Couples who express their thankfulness to one another then tend to be more caring in general. They are more inclined to discuss important topics with their partner and listen attentively, without becoming defensive or upset. Emotional intimacy – trust, respect, admiration, feeling safe, understanding -- is a vital forerunner to physical intimacy.

This overarching connectedness creates a cycle of generosity, prompting the couple to think and behave in an appreciative manner that continually strengthens all aspects of their relationship. This cycle also promotes a realization of just how valuable your loved one is to you, which in turn makes you that much more considerate of, and responsive to, their needs.  

So this Thanksgiving, be thankful for your partner. Here are five ways to express your appreciation of the one you love:

1.    Always say thank you to your partner when he or she does something thoughtful.

2.   Say, “I love you” with genuine emotion.

3. Compliment your significant other as often as possible. You could say, “Wow, I was really impressed with how well you communicated with the kids.” “I’m so proud of you for (fill in the blank).” “You look so handsome/beautiful today.” “I’m so lucky to have you in my life.” “Thank you for really listening to me.” And the list goes on.          

4.  Take an action that you know your loved one will appreciate. For example: schedule a special date night, cook a romantic meal, do the laundry, walk the dog, buy an unexpected small gift. All are gestures that show how much you love and appreciate them.

5.  Make a concerted effort to work on habits that annoy your partner. This shows him or her that you are truly mindful of their feelings.

“Saying ‘thank you’ creates love.” ~Daphne Rose Kingma