Gratitude in Relationships

I can hardly believe that November is upon us. Where does the time go? As the days get shorter and the weather gets colder, many of us find ourselves putting away the Halloween costumes and preparing for the busy holiday season. November is one of my favorite months of the year — I love the gorgeous colors, I love the sense of anticipation of the upcoming holidays, and I LOVE Thanksgiving. It’s such a wonderful holiday, I think, because it is something that all Americans can get excited about. It’s also a great reminder to think about the things that we are grateful for in life and in our relationships. With experience in relationship counseling, I’d like to share with you a few thoughts about the power of gratitude in relationships.

One thing that can really undermine the solidity of a relationship is feeling taken for granted. Let’s face it — relationships, and especially managing a family, is a lot of hard work. We give so much of our time and energy to keeping our families and relationships operating — grocery shopping, doing laundry, communicating with schools, coaches, etc. — that it can be easy to get out of the habit of stopping to enjoy and acknowledge the reason we’re working so hard in the first place. A little bit of acknowledgement goes a long way! Recent research has actually demonstrated that couples who regularly express their gratitude toward each other report higher relationship satisfaction and are more likely to stay together over time. When we take the time to express our gratitude and appreciation for each other for all the little things that each of us do, we facilitate a sense of love and goodwill that keeps a relationship operating smoothly.

So what does effective gratitude look like? Gratitude means expressing appreciation not just for the things your partner does, but for who they are as a person. Even in the home of a relationship counselor, gratitude is actively shared. For example, in my house, I’m responsible for doing all of the laundry and my husband is responsible for keeping the floors clean. We divided things up this way because my husband really hates doing laundry, and I really hate doing the floors — so we made a commitment when we started living together that we would each relieve the other of a chore they found particularly unpleasant. I know that we both sometimes feel overwhelmed and unappreciated for all the work that we do to take care of those unpleasant chores. If we stop and say, “Thanks for mopping the floor tonight. I know it’s a lot of work and there are a lot of things you’d rather be doing, and it really means a lot to me that you make that a priority,” or “Thank you for the clean clothes. I know how time consuming it is to keep up with the laundry, and it feels like a little gift every time I find a pile of clean clothes on my side of the bed,” – that’s powerful stuff! Much more powerful than a simple “thanks for the laundry” or “thanks for cleaning the floors.” Words of gratitude make our partners feel  noticed,  appreciated, and loved. They are the antidote to distance, and to the craziness that comes with just trying to keep up with life — often at the expense of stopping to acknowledge what gives life meaning. If you have more questions about gratitude, please feel free to reach out for relationship counseling in MD.

So, in this first week of the month in which we give thanks, stop and think how you can take a little bit of time each day to express your gratitude to the people who mean the most to you. I guarantee that doing so will bring about lots of positive effects!