Can Gratitude Improve Your Love Life? YES!
William James wrote,"The deepest craving of human nature is the need to be appreciated." This quote offers us a valuable insight into how to improve our relationships. Most of us intuitively know that having a romantic partner that is appreciative, happy, and even grateful is a good thing. Indeed, my male and female straight and gay friends all seem to agree that enthusiasm and appreciation of what we are doing and who we are with is sexy, both in and out of the bedroom. On the flip side, I have talked to couples counselors as well as divorce lawyers, and both have told me that lack of appreciation from one’s partner is a major relationship killer. It appears that while we all seem to know that we like being appreciated, we sometimes forget how important it is to express appreciation to our partners. The good news is that gratitude is something you can develop. That’s right, we can all learn to be more appreciative and grateful. Not only does research suggest that gratitude can help our relationships, it also suggests that gratitude makes us happier and healthier overall. So, lets talk about the research, as well how we can improve our love lives throughout the year by becoming more grateful!
Does Research Back Up the Notion that Gratitude Can Improve Your Love Life? YES!
It turns out that quite a bit of research suggests that expressing gratitude strengthens personal relationships of all kinds, including work relationships, personal friendships and romantic relationships (Gordon et al., 2011). Gratitude helps both at the start of a new relationship and later when one is working to keep a relationship strong (Algoe et al., 2008). So, if you want to woo someone new, show that person that they are appreciated. If you want to maintain and strengthen an existing relationship, express your gratitude for what your partner does for you (be it listening to you talk about your day, being a passionate lover, helping around the house, or anything else that they are doing to make your life better). You also want to express your appreciation of all the traits you love about them (be it their brains, beauty, heart or something more specific like that they are such great dancers or have an infectious smile).
Research has found that gratitude increases relationship satisfaction and (not surprisingly) intensifies the feeling of being connected (Algoe et al., 2010; Algoe et al. 2012), and that this works for both genders, regardless of your sexual orientation. In other words, gratitude increases relationship satisfaction for both men and women regardless of whether they are involved with a man or a woman. Even more encouraging, gratitude improves satisfaction for both the recipient of appreciation and the person expressing the appreciation!! WOW, what a deal! After all, expressing genuine appreciation doesn’t cost a thing, but it actually can make both you and your partner feel better about your relationship!
Wait, What if Neither You Nor Your Romantic Partner are In the Habit of Expressing Appreciation? Are You Doomed? NO!
There is plenty you can do to make appreciation and gratitude a bigger part of your life. Appreciating the gifts around you can become a habit. Several experts have written on the topic of how to foster gratitude, and they all seem to agree on a few things that can help us all be more grateful. One common suggestion is to keep a gratitude journal. This can cover everything that you are grateful for in your life, but if you want to focus on your relationship, then add a few things each day that you appreciate about your partner. It can be her smile, or that he did the dishes almost every day this week. It can be that she was there for you when you got bad news, or that he is always proud of you when you succeed. It doesn’t all have to be deep. It could even be about your favorite body part. You don’t have to share the list right away, just make that list, and read it over each day, even that will begin to strengthen your relationship. Of course, sharing what you appreciate about your partner spontaneously will make your appreciation of them even more powerful. In long term relationships in particular, it is important to remember take time to let the person you love know how grateful you are to have them in your life. So keep your eyes open for opportunities to express sincere appreciation every day.
What is particularly magical about all this is that I have personally found that gratitude is contagious. Expressing appreciation increases the chance you will receive it. Beyond what it does for relationships, research has shown that gratitude also improves personal happiness and overall health (Wood et al, 2010). So, even if you are currently single, you can still benefit from practicing gratitude.
In short, gratitude is learnable, good for you and even sexy! It can improve your love life, your friendships, your work life, your happiness and your health. It doesn’t cost a cent, and, as far as I know, there are no harmful side effects. So what are you waiting for? Today is the perfect day to start being more grateful!
Algoe, Sara B., Haidt, Jonathan and Gable, Shelly L. (2008). Beyond Reciprocity: Gratitude and Relationships in Everyday Life. Emotion, Vol. 8, No. 3, pp. 425-429.
Algoe, Sara B. (2012). Find, Remind, and Bind: The Functions of Gratitude in Everyday Relationships. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, in press.
Algoe, Sara, Shelly Gabel, and Natalya Maisel (2010). It’s the little things: Everyday gratitude as a booster shot for romantic relationships. Personal Relationships, (17), 217-233.
Gordon. Cameron L; Arnette, Robyn A.M; Smith, Rachel, E (2011). Have you thanked your spouse today?: Felt and expressed gratitude among married couples. Personality and Individual Differences, 50(3), 339-343.
Wood, Alex M., Froh, Jeffrey J. and Geraghty, Adam W.A. (2010). Gratitude and well-being: A review and theoretical integration. Clinical Psychology Review, pp. 1-16.
Gratitude Research Videos from U.C. Berkeley's Greater Good Science Center:
What Good is Gratitude?
How Gratitude Improves Health (video + article)
Gratitude and Happiness: The Benefits of Keeping a Gratitude Journal
More articles about how understanding your emotions can improve your financial success and personal happiness:
Sound Advice on Emotionally Intelligent Investing: Maximize Your Returns and Your Happiness
Advice from Google’s Enlightment Director on Becoming Happier and More Productive
How Voting Improves Self Esteem and Happiness
An Interesting Article featuring Jon Stewart Video and The Most Emotionally Impactful Vira Commercial of the Year (according to an Ad Age Poll):
When Brands take a Stand on Gay Marriage