‘She doesn’t need to thank me’, ‘She knows I’m grateful for what she does’, ‘It feels embarrassing to say thank you to him’ and ‘Why should I have to say thanks?’ – these are all reflections that I have heard from clients when introducing gratitude as a powerfully effective tool to boost their relationships.
How an attitude of gratitude benefits relationships
According to relationship research gurus Julie and John Gottman, giving and showing gratitude is consistently shown to improve the quality of relationships.
While it’s easy for couples to slip into negative cycles, one of the simplest and quickest ways to break this is to look for ways in which to express gratitude to each other, more. Most people, when asked, will remember that in the earlier days of their relationship, they thanked each other more often.
Often, if someone comes from a family where appreciation was not often present, the practice of gratitude can initially feel a bit artificial or forced – but like anything, with practice, it will start to feel more natural.
It’s the little things
Grand gestures such as gifts aren’t necessary, it is more about introducing gratitude daily – a simple thanks for the morning cup of coffee that is made without being asked. Thanking the other for emptying the dishwasher when they were the first to get home.
Think about how receptive you feel towards your partner when they express thanks towards you. Generally, this means your defences are lower, so that when a tricky conversation does occur, you are both starting off from a good place, making it less easy for the discussion to deteriorate into criticism and contempt.
Gratitude positively impacts the body too
Building a culture of appreciation can bolster a relationship during stressful times or periods of disconnect. Expressing gratitude comes more easily to some than others, so a conscious practice is a good idea, so that it becomes a habit.
Another positive effect is that practising gratitude causes our brains to release chemicals that make us feel less stressed.
Other health benefits include higher levels of joy and optimism, increased compassion, improved connectedness with others, stronger immune systems and lower blood pressure.
I hope I’ve sold you enough on the practice of gratitude as a quick way to boost your relationship, go on – give gratitude a go!