Can gratitude help prevent divorce?
Gratitude may be one of the most overlooked tools people have access to every day, experts agree. Cultivating gratitude doesn’t cost any money and it doesn’t take much time, and the benefits can be enormous.
“Gratitude drives the human spirit because it’s an expression of what we have, instead of what we want,” explains the Rev. Fred Rajan, vice president of mission and spiritual care at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington, Ill.
“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 news release.
Researchers surveyed 468 married individuals with a list of questions about their finances, demand/withdraw communication skills and expressions of spousal gratitude. The results showed that spousal expression of gratitude was a top predictor of marital quality. Gratitude was measured in terms of the degree to which individuals felt valued and appreciated by their spouse, and acknowledged when they did something nice for their spouse.
“When we can see the good as well as the bad of a situation, the spirit of gratitude liberates us and help us move on,” Rajan says. “Gratitude helps us realize all that we have. As we pause to look at our life with a spirit of gratitude, we realize we have a lot more than what we thought.”
“It goes to show the power of ‘thank you,'” lead study author Allen Barton said. “Even if a couple is experiencing distress and difficulty in other areas, gratitude in the relationship can help promote positive marital outcomes.”
Researchers also shared that when couples had higher levels of gratitude, it protected them from looking at divorce as an option. Also, women were more committed to reaching a resolution if there was poor communication during a conflict.
“This is the first study to document the protective effect that feeling appreciated by your spouse can have for marriages,” Barton said. “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.”
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