Since November is the month to give thanks, it seems appropriate to focus on the role that gratitude can play in a relationship. It is probably safe to say that everyone likes to feel appreciated and receive positive feedback from others, especially from those people that we are close with. However it can be easy to get caught up in the daily grind with routines and tasks that can direct our focus away from the things our partners do for us and to some extent, lead us into the habit of taking things for granted. When the latter occurs, we can develop feelings of resentment and lack of appreciation, which can pull partners apart.
Years of research has shown that the presence of gratitude within a relationship is a significant predictor in relationship satisfaction and has the power to help couples manage conflict more effectively than couples who do not express gratitude towards one another on a consistent basis. In other words, the more we value our partner and feel appreciated, the more we are going to be open to seeing things from our partner’s perspective, which greatly influences the way we manage conflict.
Here are a few tips to incorporating gratitude in your relationship:
1. Acknowledgement: Instead of pointing out the things that you do not like about your partner, shift your attention to the effort your partner engages in that you appreciate, however big or small. This can include casually acknowledging that your partner put the toilet seat down or expressing acknowledgement for planning a surprise getaway.
2. Say ‘thank you’: Simply stating ‘thank you’ to your partner after a gesture was made can go a long way. This helps to reinforce to your partner what you like and appreciate about them, which will influence them to want to continue to do things for you because they know their effort is going into the right place.
3. Give out compliments: Try to remind yourself about the traits that initially drew you to your partner and make it a point to verbalize these things to your partner. These traits may be related to your partner’s personality, physical appearance, career, or a specific talent or ability.
4. Focus on your partner’s love language: One of the most effective strategies we can use to express and show our partner gratitude and appreciation is through their (not your) love language. This can include gift giving, spending quality time together, engaging in acts of service for them, providing words of affirmation, or providing physical touch to them.
5. Public praise: Expressing gratitude and appreciation for your partner when it is just the two of you is essential however voicing your praise and compliments about your partner in front of other people will reinforce how proud you are to be with him/her.
In addition, I always encourage my clients to challenge their criticisms of their partners by identifying at least 5 positive traits they appreciate about their partners for every 1 complaint before they air it. This helps to promote positivity and softens couples when differences arise. Just remember…when you are thinking about what you want, don’t forget about what you already have.