Happily married couples are often asked about the secret to their marital success. A new study suggests that it may be as simple as remembering to say “thank you.”
For the study, University of Georgia researchers surveyed nearly 500 married people about their finances, communication with their spouse and whether their spouse expressed gratitude.
The most important predictor of marriage quality was gratitude from a spouse, the investigators found.
“We found that feeling appreciated and believing that your spouse values you directly influences how you feel about your marriage, how committed you are to it, and your belief that it will last,” study co-author Ted Futris said in a university news release. He is an associate professor in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences.
Study author Allen Barton added, “It goes to show the power of ‘thank you.’ ”
Even if a couple is experiencing distress and difficulty, gratitude can help bring about positive marital outcomes, suggested Barton, who is a postdoctoral research associate in the university’s Center for Family Research.
“Importantly,” Futris said, “we found that when couples are engaging in a negative conflict pattern — like demand/withdrawal — expressions of gratitude and appreciation can counteract or buffer the negative effects of this type of interaction on marital stability.”
Barton said the study was the first to document the protective effect that feeling appreciated by your spouse can have for marriages.
“We think it is quite important as it highlights a practical way couples can help strengthen their marriage, particularly if they are not the most adept communicators in conflict,” he said.
The study was published recently in the journal Personal Relationships.
The American Psychological Association offers relationship advice.
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