The pandemic had life-altering effects on married couples across the country: it made spouses realize that they could no longer continue to be married, or it made spouses realize just how much they appreciate each other. Whichever side of the aisle your marriage falls on, it’s important to note that the more gratitude is shown in a marriage, the higher the quality will be no matter how long you’ve been together.
Long-term relationships are difficult to keep fresh in more ways than one. It’s hard to keep the romance alive. It’s difficult to appreciate each other. And, it’s difficult to break old habits. A long-term relationship often winds up in “habituation,” where there is a diminished response to the things your spouse does for you, your home, your children, and your relationship.
Allen Barton, assistant professor in the department of human development and family studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said that many people tend to underestimate what their spouse does in a relationship while overestimating what they do in the relationship.
Barton released a report in 2015 that evaluated the impact of appreciating each other in a marriage, finding that marital quality is linked to showing gratitude towards the spouse. Barton’s research also found that couples struggling to communicate with each other can still be very happy in their relationship as those who communicate well with each other if they continue to show each other gratitude and appreciation. “It goes to show the power of ‘thank you.’ Even if a couple is experiencing distress and difficulty in other areas, gratitude in the relationship can help promote positive marital outcomes,” Barton said.
The study found that couples showing higher levels of appreciation and spousal gratitude were less likely to file for divorce. Having a belief that your partner values you helps couples commit to making their marriages last.
“All couples have disagreements and argue,” the study’s co-author Ted Futris said. “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.”
Regular thanks can lead to a virtuous cycle
Separate research from that of Barton’s has found that a virtuous cycle can be created within a relationship when regular thanks are given by one or both spouses. It’s very common for people involved in a romantic relationship to enter into a downward spiral. When one spouse does or says something harsh, the other often responds with something harsher.
Showing gratitude works in a reverse manner. For example, when one spouse shows gratitude for what their spouse has done for them, the recipient of the gratitude will likely shower more kind words or actions on the spouse and it becomes a virtuous cycle of positivity.
How appreciation is shown can impact a marriage
Research has shown that the way a spouse or partner shows appreciation has an impact on the marriage as well. Researchers in Hong Kong reported last year that when gratitude is received as less sincere than its intentions, the impacts are more often negative on the man’s perception of the relationship and satisfaction with it than the woman’s.
Additional research from the University of North Carolina found that recognizing who your partner is can be a great way to acknowledge them on top of recognizing what your partner does in the relationship. Researchers said that partners should recognize the traits that make them who they are, not what they have done for you.
Research from a doctoral candidate at the University of Toronto found that partners should focus on how much you gained from the actions of your loved one and not how much it cost them to do something for you. For example, don’t express how much you appreciate the lengths they went for you, but instead, let them know what you gained from their actions.
How to show your spouse gratitude daily
Showing your spouse gratitude every day can be challenging, especially when you aren’t having the best of days or have been in a fight recently with your spouse. However, there are a few things you can do to show your spouse gratitude daily.
- Reach out to your spouse. Make time each and every day to reach out to your spouse about their day. Really listen to them and what they have to say. Try to help them solve problems. Express your sympathy with their situation at work, school, or with a neighbor.
- Take the initiative. Do something for your partner that they typically have to ask you to do. For example, take their car for an oil change or clean all of the bathrooms in the house.
- Surprise your spouse. You can surprise your spouse every so often with little gifts that don’t have to be expensive or even cost you a dime. You can make dinner out of the blue, make plans for a weekend getaway, or put a tiny gift in the lunch they take to work.
- Offer compliments. Married people should compliment each other often. Just because you are finally married doesn’t mean that the niceties should stop. In fact, they should occur even more now that you are married. A simple compliment about your spouse’s smile, haircut, or outfit can go a long way towards improving your marriage.
- Ask questions – and listen to the answers. Be sure to ask questions of your spouse the following day after a conversation happens. This shows that you were listening yesterday when your spouse told you of a problem they were having and that you are truly concerned about the situation by asking a question the next day.
All of these tips can help improve your marital relations, but we understand that sometimes, simply saying “thanks” is not going to fix everything. In those cases, the best thing you can do is to work with an experienced Maryville divorce attorney. We can help you through the process of your divorce, so that you can find new things to be grateful for.
If you are considering a divorce, call the office of Shepherd & Long at 865-982-8060, or complete a contact form on our website to schedule a consultation. We serve clients throughout East Tennessee and Blount County.