Relationships aren't always butterflies and rainbows as many of us can attest to. And when we argue with our significant others we seek advice from our friends as to what to do. They often inform us that arguing is normal, and that we're probably more sensitive due to being stressed out.
When things go wrong, it's easy to get aggravated and take it out on our partners, whether it be directly related to them or not. Did you have a bad day at work, only to come home and find that your other half has forgotten to tidy up for your guests like you asked? Perhaps they even added to the mess. But for all those times we find it easy to nag them, do we ever take the time to thank them for doing something? It's easy to forget the importance of appreciation in a relationship, but according to a new study from the University of Georgia, it might make all the difference.
When your partner makes you feel valued and acknowledged, it's a sign things are on the right path. And in the new research published in the journal Family and Relationships
, feeling appreciated by a spouse was the biggest indicator of how content people were in their union.
Allen W. Barton, PhD, a postdoctoral research associate at the Center for Family Research at the University of Georgia in Athens and the lead author of the current study, discovered that 10 or 15 years ago, researchers began discovering that grateful people were happier in their relationships. However, the feeling that your partner was grateful hadn't been examined well. "It's one thing to be
grateful, but it's another to feel appreciated," he says.
For the study, 468 married people ages 21 to 86 were interviewed over the phone by Barton and colleagues. Topics of discussion included stress over finances, their styles of communication, and how often they expressed their appreciation for one another. Then they had to rank how happy they thought they were in their marriages, as well as how much or how little they thought about getting a divorce. The outcome proved that couples were less likely to have thoughts of splitting up if they felt like they were appreciated.
"A person who is truly aware of what they appreciate in their partner will have a tendency to express more kindness, more peaceful interactions, and more positivity, both verbally and non-verbally," Stacy Kaiser, a licensed psychotherapist in Southern California and Live Happy
editor at large says.
The way we can all do this is not simply expressing more gratitude, but communicating with your partner about how you might better be able to show them that you do appreciate them. "It's a pretty simple question that seems to have a pretty big effect on couples," Barton says. "I don't think couples typically ask, 'What makes you feel appreciated?'" he continues. And while it may not lead to a "giant revelation," it might be able to understand nagging feelings.
It's important to note, however, that expressing gratitude comes much easier when things are already going well. "The challenge is when things aren't
going well to deliberately remind yourself of things you are grateful for and appreciate in your partner," Kaiser explains, "so you can shift everything toward the positive." She recommends being mindful of the small things that connected the two of you to begin with. Did they smile when you walked in the room? Perhaps he cleared your plate for you while you caught up with friends at a dinner party. "We can get acclimated to these moments," Kaiser notes, like how he makes breakfast in the morning with no questions asked. "We forget how lucky we are that we don't have to make it ourselves."
Do you feel like you acknowledge your partner every day and show them how much you appreciate them?
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