If you're in a relationship that has all the hallmarks of a healthy relationship — mutual honesty, support and communication, that kind of thing — then it's high time to find some real appreciation and gratitude for your partner, and stop picking at them for the little things they don't do. In fact, a new study published in the journal Personal Relationships discovered that the key to improving a marriage is to show a little gratitude.
I listened to a woman complain about her boyfriend for 15 minutes at a coffee shop the other day. Honestly, he sounded like a perfectly nice guy. He had done nothing wrong. It was just general complaints: "You know Mark"; "He's just so annoying"; "I was so tired the other night and Mark was so unhelpful." It got me thinking — why are we so quick to complain about our partners? Most of the time they're trying their best, just like us. What was so annoying about Mark to this girl — his girlfriend (or wife), who, from what I could deduce, had chosen to live with Mark and spend her life (at least for now) with him? How was he unhelpful the other night? Was he just tired too?
So I compiled a list of reasons to be more appreciative in a relationship. Of course, if you're in a relationship that is actually toxic or abusive, you should never stay. Instead of focusing on the negative, what if we all focused more on the positive?
1. It's Good For Your Health
Gratitude makes you healthier, according to WebMD. "Grateful people take better care of themselves and engage in more protective health behaviors like regular exercise, a healthy diet, regular physical examinations," University of California Davis psychology professor Robert Emmons tells WebMD. It's not just that: If you're dedicating your thoughts to positivity and appreciation for your partner, it'll be a whole lot harder to think about the things that irk you about them. Definitely healthier.
2. It'll Make You Happier
We all complain, but it doesn't really feel good. Yet after telling a friend about how appreciative you are of your boo — even for the seemingly small things about them that you don't usually take the time to value — you'll likely find that you feel happier and more excited about your relationship. When you're happy and secure in your romantic relationship, you'll feel happier about life in general.
3. Appreciation Might Make You Realize How Good You've Got It
It's far too easy think other people have it easier. But if you're in a good relationship and you're happy, you might just be missing some gratitude — not missing out on "something better."
4. Appreciation Leads To More Appreciation
If you take a minute to stop and think about how much you love your partner, one minute might turn to two, and two to five. In other words, thinking of a few things about your partner for which you feel appreciative will make you think of other things. This isn't just about thoughts, though: It's about feeling gratitude for your partner, which will become more second-nature if you do it more often — like a muscle.
5. Everyone Likes Kind Words
When was the last time you told your partner how much you appreciate when they make you dinner, or grab you a seltzer at the deli, or listen to you when you're having a hard time? Even if you do appreciate these things, be sure to vocalize it. It matters. Just say "thank you" — it may be what saves your relationship.
6. Little Things Are Actually Big Things
As far as appreciation goes, everything counts: even (or especially) the small things. It's not difficult to feel grateful for the grand gesture, but do you ever stop and think about how grateful you are that your partner gets you a glass of water in the middle of the night or gives you a quick shoulder rub when you're stressed out? These may not seem like a huge deal, but in the bigger picture, they really are.
7. No One Wants To Listen To A Complainer
I actually got up and moved to a different table after the first five minutes of listening to this terribly boring woman complain about Mark, the boyfriend/husband who had done nothing in particular wrong, as far as I could tell. But I could still hear her list of annoyances, filtering into earshot all the way across the room. Her companion was very patient, but I was personally hoping that she'd leave ASAP so I could go back to reading my book in peace.
8. Appreciation Is Contagious
If you're more appreciative of your partner, you count on the fact that they'll notice — and feel more appreciative of you. "If our partner feels grateful for our good behavior as well, then a positive cycle develops. Everybody is grateful...and everybody behaves lovingly," Jeremy Nicholson M.S.W., Ph.D. says on Psychology Today. Obviously that's not a reason to be appreciative, but it is a nice side effect.
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