5 min read
Expressing gratitude to your partner is a simple and powerful way to focus the narrative on what you appreciate and love about each other.
Research has shown that gratitude is a relationship-strengthening emotion because it requires us to dig deep and see how we’ve been supported by our partner. Expressing our gratitude for each other on a daily basis leads to another benefit: we are more willing to forgive each other. Regularly sharing what we are grateful for has also been linked with increasing optimism by 15%; the more we think about what we are grateful for the more we find to be grateful for.
There is no doubt that expressing gratitude towards your partner has compounding positive effects for you individually and for your relationship. Yet why is it that when we need gratitude the most (in the middle of a heated debate, or perhaps right after) we can’t seem to muster the courage to look for what we appreciate about our partner? What can we do to leverage the positive side effects of gratitude?
At the very beginning of our relationship, Ansh and I would spend hours conversing about everything, talking about our likes and dislikes, sharing old memories and new dreams; everything was novel. When we disagreed, it was easy to give the benefit of the doubt. Time hadn’t played its part in repeated experiences yet, it was our first disagreement about how to load the dishwasher not the 10th, it was our first time not being able to agree on where to grab dinner, not the 50th.
With time came familiarity, and with familiarity came assumptions. Now when we disagreed, we found ourselves slipping into a negative bias toward the choices the other had made. Instead of giving the benefit of the doubt and remembering all the positive things that we loved about each other, we found ourselves playing the blame game. We used sweeping statements like “you never…” “It’s always this way…” “why couldn’t you have just…” – there was no trace of gratitude.
Our silver lining was that after each argument ended, we would debrief what happened, and talk about what can we do better next time. It was during one of our debriefs that we decided to consciously share with each other what we love, admire, and are grateful for about the other, to build this as a daily practice. Our intention was to build resilience or fortify our relationship’s immune system so that when we did fight, there would be more love-bodies (antibodies) floating around to help fend off the negativity.
We would start every day by sharing something specific that we are grateful about regarding the other. Sometimes this would be a text, other days we would leave little post-it notes – and then we would go about our everyday life. Essentially what we were doing was filling our relationship with a little dose of – I appreciate you – love. We still fought, but slowly the disagreements did not feel like an all-or-nothing match
What can you do?
- Think about a specific thing you are grateful for with respect to your partner.
- Find a way to share this with your partner.
- Repeat often.
- Relish in the good moments and remember it in the bad moments.
Being grateful towards each other strengthened our sense of – I know you’ve got my back, and even though I’m upset at this moment – I’m not upset with you as a person. An important realization we had was that – It’s the moments that are good and bad, not the person – and by encouraging ourselves to remember all the good that they have done for us, we were shifting the scales to think about our relationships from a global perspective instead of the narrowing local perspective of pain.