Marriages have many wonderful aspects. Love. Caring. Family. Common interests and goals. Sharing experiences. One aspect that often gets overlooked is just reminding your soulmate that you appreciate everything he or she does. Especially as marriages grow into years and decades, it’s easy to take everything your spouse does for granted. Expressing your gratitude to your spouse is one way of helping your spouse understand that you are paying attention to all the little (and big) things they do to keep the marriage strong.
A recent article in The Atlantic reported on how expressing gratitude can be easily overlooked. As spouses and partners get involved in their daily lives, it’s easy to forget how to say, “thank you.” The pandemic offered a peek into how small niceties can be overlooked. The stresses and difficulties of the pandemic meant that spouses made even more sacrifices to make marriages work. Showing gratitude can help counter those stresses.
According to The Atlantic, two of the reasons spouses have difficulty showing gratitude involve:
- The length of their relationships. There tends to be a reduced response to your spouse’s contributions over time – a concept called “habituation.”
- Prioritization of “me” over “we”. Sometimes, couples forget that both parties contribute equally to a relationship. According to Allen Barton, assistant professor in the department of human development and family studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, “We tend to overestimate our efforts [in] a relationship and underestimate the amount of work our partner is contributing.”
When spouses and significant others do “acknowledge and appreciate each other, it appears to create a protective effect… that can help buffer couples from negative communication patterns such as being overly critical or conflict-avoidant.” High amounts of appreciation can even help raise the stability of marriages in couples who have difficulty communicating to the level of couples who handle conflict well, according to a study by Barton.
Expressing gratitude can be contagious. Just as saying something negative or harsh can cause a spouse/partner to retaliate just as negatively or harshly, being kind and grateful can inspire positive reactions. After all, the more you feel your efforts are appreciated, the more likely you are to do nice things for your spouse – which, in turn, makes your spouse want to do even more nice things for you.
Different ways to show gratitude for your spouse’s contributions
The level and degrees of the expression of gratitude makes a difference:
- A studypublished Hong Kong-based researchers revealed that “perceiving a partner’s gratitude as less sincere harmed men’s marital satisfaction.”
- Another study, from the University of North Carolina, found that it’s just as important to recognize your partner as a person, not just a cumulation of his or her acts. Further, it is important to recognize additional effort: “Saying thank you for running an errand is nice. Stating the extra things your spouse did while running the errand – like remembering to tell the dry cleaner not to use too much starch” is even better.
- Yoobin Park, a doctoral candidate in psychology at the University of Toronto, adds that identifying how much your loved one’s actions helped you is a stronger expression of gratitude than focusing on what their efforts cost them. Instead of highlighting how much work it must have been for your spouse to clean the mealtime dishes, it’s better to say how the effort to clean the dishes meant that you could meet a deadline or get your exercise for the day.
The Atlantic article emphasizes that gratitude alone cannot cure every problem in a relationship. Researchers “are still trying to determine whether getting less naturally grateful couples to engage in these behaviors will be as helpful,” according to Amie Gordon, assistant social-psychology professor at the University of Michigan. If there are severe communication problems, or there’s any form of abuse, more proactive steps need to be taken including obtaining professional marital counseling help or speaking with an experienced family lawyer.
Expressions of gratitude should be sincere. If they’re fake, the expressions can make the marital relationship worse. The aim is for each spouse to notice what the other spouse/partner does.
Additional suggests for making a marriage stronger
There are numerous publications that have all sorts of insights into the little a big things that make a marriage healthier. Very Well Mind has these marriage stability suggestions:
- Respect your partner – even as you both change over time. Like the Atlantic, Very Well Mind suggests you “vocalize how much you appreciate your partner’s quirks and eccentricities.”’
- Talk with your spouse on a regular basis about your life, dreams, worries, and feelings. Communication also requires listening to your spouse and their hopes, frustrations, and concerns.
- Discuss your financial concerns. It helps to agree to a budget and to understand that there are differences between the bills that “must” be paid and the expenses you “hope” to have money for.
- Give the other spouse some space. Even spouses who are soulmates for life need some time with their friends and co-workers. Be sure to balance your free time by making sure that in the hustle and bustle of life, you and your spouse have time together.
- Remember the romance. Plan a date night. Prepare your spouse a meal, or take her/him out to dinner. Make time for fun.
- Be quick to forgive. Don’t hold grudges. Discuss conflicts and recognize every dispute requires some give and take. “Remember that forgiveness is just as much a gift you give yourself. Holding a grudge takes up mental and emotional space and almost always impacts your health and stress levels.”
Other suggestions from Very Well Mind include:
- Commit to your marriage
- Avoid trying to control your spouse/partner
- Consider marriage counseling or couples therapy if the marriage just isn’t working the way you’d like
What happens when efforts to save your marriage fail?
At the Law Offices of Adrian H. Altshuler & Associates, we understand that even with your best efforts, some marriages just aren’t working. When that happens, it is time to consider legally separating or ending the marriage – for your own health and wellbeing, as well as that of your family. If you and your spouse are largely in agreement about how to move forward, then the mediation process can help you work through the remaining disagreements. If mediation fails, it may be time to move toward litigation. Our Franklin divorce attorneys can help you plan for your new life, and explain your options to you during a consultation.
The attorneys of the Law Offices of Adrian H. Altshuler & Associates are here to protect your financial security and your emotional well-being. We’re skilled at all divorce issues including property division, child custody, child support, and spousal support. To discuss your marriage and how the divorce process works, please call our office at 615-977-9370 or use our contact form to make an appointment. We represent clients in Franklin, Columbia, and Brentwood, and throughout Tennessee.