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Is It Really Important to Say “Thank You” to Your Partner?

Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD - Blogs
By Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhDPsychologistMay 18, 2011
From the WebMD Archives

Saying “thank you” is a simple thing to do. But partners too often forget, or think it’s not really that important — they reason, she knows I appreciate what she does. But that thinking is flawed. Expressing gratitude can be an extremely helpful way for couples to keep their relationship happy.

Just to clarify, I’m not saying that you have to say “thank you” every time your spouse picks up their mess or grocery shops. Rather, I am saying that frequently expressing gratitude in some way — maybe a hug, smile, or statement of appreciation — can make all the difference in the world to your partner and your relationship. Even if he or she already knows that they are appreciated, it still feels good to them to have that gratitude expressed.

A recent study by Cameron, Amette, & Smith (2011) supported this idea and added an interesting insight. It found that a spouse’s feeling and expressing gratitude in their relationship is related to their marital satisfaction. Interestingly, while a person’s feeling of gratitude predicted their spouse’s marital satisfaction, their expressed gratitude did not. This means that it is not enough to just express gratitude — you must really feel it.

Over the course of treating couples, it’s been amazing to see what infusing their relationship with gratitude can do. This often does not come easily. By the time many couples come to see me, they are already adversaries to some degree. As such, they often don’t want to give their partner a chance to be one up on them. Of course, this is a big barrier to earnestly felt gratitude. To have such gratitude, people must be open to viewing their partner in a positive light. Those who harbor grudges must be willing to put them aside — at least for the moment. They must risk that their partner won’t use this offering of gratitude as a weapon to beat them with. And if their partner takes in the appreciation as a welcomed and graciously accepted gift, their relationship shifts — again, at least for the moment — to be more positive. With many such positive moments strung together, their relationship can become generally happier.

There are innumerable ways to express your gratitude. And, if you really connect with why you have chosen your partner (or why you choose to stay together), the expression of that gratitude will hopefully come easily. By incorporating it into your relationship on a daily basis, it will simply be a part of how you are with each other. And, what can be more nurturing of a happy relationship than expressing how much you appreciate and care about each other?

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About the Author
Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD

Dr. Becker-Phelps is a licensed psychologist in NJ and NY, and is on staff at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, Somerset. She is dedicated to helping people understand themselves and what they need to do to become emotionally and psychologically healthy. She accomplishes this through her work as a psychotherapist, speaker and writer. She is the author of Bouncing Back from Rejection and Insecure in Love.

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