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Gratitude in a relationship

There may be many forms of love, but the one that solidifies the healthy relationship is gratitude. Gratitude is a deep sense of appreciation. It motivates us to help when we are needed. It gives us a sense of fulfillment. It is a rewarding feeling when we can truly appreciate what is in our world. It also makes it more likely that we can see something for what it is. We can only be grateful for what is right here and now not for what might happen some day or what is possible.

I really appreciate my husband’s character. He expresses himself well. He has a creative side but also a practical mind. We have the same sense of humor and enjoy many fun, spontaneous moments from our chemistry. He cares about other people and brings out that side in me more than it already exists. I could go on, but these are some examples of where my sense of gratitude exists in our relationship.

The more complete the gratitude, the more healthy the relationship. I enjoy my husband’s ability to express himself in both fun times and when it’s time to address a problem. For the most part, we’ve gotten through the big stuff and been able to blend our lives well. However, every now and again, there’s something we have to talk about. I’m grateful that he’s willing to talk when I need him to, and that he is willing to speak up when something bothers him. You might think these moments would lessen my sense of gratitude, but I know well how important it is to be able to talk to a partner about problems in an honest and respectful manner.

The Gottman Institute researched what really signals the end of a relationship. In a soundbite, the thing that ends it is when there is contempt. More specifically, they noticed when people showed signs that they either became dismissive of their partner or withdrew into a kind of helpless silence that it was likely a relationship would end. In fact they could predict whether a relationship would end with a 90% accuracy. This goes to show that having problems isn’t a sign something is going to end. It’s when you can’t work them out and your sense of gratitude withers that the relationship is likely to end.

This brings me back to the prior two ingredients, connection and authenticity. If you don’t feel a connection to your partner and they don’t appreciate your authentic self, then it may be there is no gratitude. It may be time to see a relationship counselor.

One of the ways I show my gratitude as a habit is to thank my husband every time he prepares a meal. It may seem ridiculous, but this is how I stop taking my husband for granted. Just because we are married doesn’t mean I stop feeling grateful for who he is. It feels like when I thank him that it comes naturally and honestly. I truly mean it when I say it. That’s how I know I still love him that deeply when I see him.

This simple example shows how intimate relationships need to be give-give relationships rather than give-take relationships. Of course, we should feel comfortable receiving what the other person offers. However, it should inspire us to give back. In this way, we build on constant gratitude that strengthens and maintains the connection we have.

Learn about the Gottman Institute research on marriage and couples

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