Gratitude Can Improve Your Love Life!
Gratitude Can Improve Your Love Life!
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, couples counselors and divorce lawyers will tell you that a lack of appreciation from one’s partner can be a major relationship killer. It appears that while we all seem to know that we like being appreciated, we tend to forget how important it is to express appreciation to our partners. The good news is that both feeling and expressing gratitude are skills you can strengthen. 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!
Research Backs Up the Notion that Gratitude Can Improve Your Love Life!
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 wonderful 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, their looks, their kindness 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! That is right, if you tell your lover what you sincerely love about them, it makes you both happier! 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!
Even if Neither You Nor Your Romantic Partner are In the Habit of Expressing Appreciation, You are NOT Doomed!
There is plenty you can do to make appreciation and gratitude a bigger part of your life. Appreciating the many great things 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 can also be flirtatious. This means it could even be about your favorite body part. You don’t have to share the list with them 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 this 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.
William James wrote,"The deepest craving of human nature is the need to be appreciated." We all know we want to be appreciated. We all know we would rather be with someone positive than someone negative. Seriously, which of yellow faces below represents the person you would rather be going home to tonight?
What is particularly magical about being grateful is 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.
The Bottom Line
Gratitude is learnable, good for you and yes, even sexy! It can improve your love life, your happiness and your health. While not the focus of this article, it can improve your professional success and personal friendships as well.
Beyond that, being grateful doesn’t cost a cent, and 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.
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