A Secret to a Happy Marriage

happy marriagePopular culture in the form of romantic comedies and pop music would lead you to believe that happiness in any relationship comes from finding that special someone whose personality is the perfect counterpart to your own.  However, well-being in relationships is not simply a magical mix of personality characteristics between two people.  Improving and maintaining relationships involves skills that can be learned.

If you want an intimate relationship in which both partners can trust one another and admit vulnerabilities, you might want to try expressing a little gratitude.  The expression of gratitude, it seems, more than other positive acts such as expressing thoughts of positive shared activities, improves your partner’s view of you and creates an open environment within the relationship in which concerns can be expressed.

You may not be surprised to hear that gratitude is important element in successful relationships.   In fact, appreciation was listed as one of the most important factors contributing to a satisfying long-term marriage.  A 2005 study found that expressing gratitude for one’s partner was related to higher marital satisfaction and better adjustment to marriage among newlyweds, as well (Schramm, Marshal and Harris).   Newlyweds also viewed appreciative partners more positively.  Those partners who expressed gratitude in a relationship regularly for 3 weeks saw their relationship as having greater communal strength.

Clearly gratitude and the expression of appreciation for a partner has a significant impact on the strength of and satisfaction in a marriage.

Exactly how gratitude effects relationships is somewhat complicated.  A recent study in the journal Emotion, found that expressing gratitude improves your relationships by improving your partners positive view of you (Lambert and Fincham 2011).  The study suggests that this, in turn increases your partner’s investment in the long-term well-being of the relationship as well as your partners comfort in voicing relationship concerns, which is important to relationship well-being.

Ways to express gratitude:

  • Go the extra mile in your thoughts and think about what you appreciate about your partner
  • Express your gratitude.  Do something you wouldn’t normally do to express gratitude either verbally or in writing.
  • Do small and simple appreciative actions (say unexpectedly cooking a meal or folding the laundry).

Photo by Anthony van Dyck, available under a Creative Commons attribution license.

3 Replies to “A Secret to a Happy Marriage”

  1. AMEN! Have been married 20 yrs & live in LA, the land of short-lived commitment. Am always asked our “secret” & rarely do people believe me when I tell them its thanking each other for every little thing – from emptying the dishwasher, to putting away laundry etc.

    A couple who’d been married over 50+ years told us early on that their secret was to treat each other with the same respect and dignity you would accord a stranger. So our other “secret” is that during arguments we refrain from screaming & calling each other names. Amazing how much easier it is to reconcile when you know your spouse, at core, appreciates you and doesn’t think you’re an “a**ho!e”

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