19 Nov Guard your Marriage with Gratitude
November 19, 2015
Guard your Marriage with Gratitude
Whether you have been married for fifty minutes or fifty years, you may have discovered that your spouse is not perfect.
You and your spouse may even be noticing a “demand-withdrawal” communication pattern starting to develop. It happens. One spouse tends to criticize, nag, or make demands, while the other spouse withdraws or avoids the confrontation. It’s a negative pattern that can make make even small disagreements feel like a tangled knot that can’t be undone.
If this sounds familiar, you are not alone. Demand-withdrawal is one of the most common marital problems. Is there anything that can help married couples weather these kinds of storms?
Yes. A new study shows that the single most important, consistent, significant factor that can make all the difference is Gratitude.
Dr. Allen W. Barton and his research team from University of Georgia recently found that “even if a couple is experiencing distress and difficulty in other areas, gratitude in the relationship can help promote positive marital outcomes.”
Even in marriages with demand-withdrawal communication patterns, gratitude has a powerfully protective effect. The authors explain, “Importantly, 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.”
“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.”
The study found that as long as spouses felt appreciated and valued by each other, “their levels of marital stability were similar to those couples with more positive communication patterns.”
So even if there are negative communications patterns in your marriage that you don’t know how to overcome, regularly expressing appreciation can provide “a protective effect against challenges that can tear couples apart.” In other words,gratitude can “help couples through hardship” and “protect marriages from the toxic effects of conflict.”
Simply put, gratitude can guard your marriage! That is great news.
How do you Bring More Gratitude into your Marriage?
If you want to be more appreciated by your spouse, the key is to show more appreciation for them. As with most virtues, gratitude begins with me. As our friend Dr. Jaroslaw Szymczak of Poland said to a World Congress of families audience in Sydney, “With 30 years experience as a marriage counselor, I notice. . .your spouse will never be perfect the way you want it, because everyone has a different version of perfect. There is always something you can change: your happiness, yourself.”
The magic of gratitude is that it is contagious and reciprocal. Studies have shown that when partners felt appreciated, they felt closer to their partners. Feeling appreciated gave them a sense of security that enabled them to turn around and focus on their own appreciative feelings. They realized their partner was valuable, and they returned the favor by showing appreciation to them.
Dr. Barton gives some practical examples of how to show gratitude: “finding ways to acknowledge them for the things they do each day, from doing the dishes to watching the kids, goes a long way.” In addition, remember to appreciate the effort and intent, not just the results. Be thankful that they are there, and that they care.
We show our appreciation for our spouse by how we treat them on a daily basis. Perhaps you could try your own gratitude experiment at home by testing out this intriguing maxim: “Be recklessly courteous and wildly polite.”
It’s true that having a grateful disposition gives you many personal benefits, including elevating your own health and happiness. But as we have discussed today, your own level of gratefulness can also impact those closest to you. It can even provide a protective buffer for your marriage, while you are on the life-long journey of untangling other negative relationship patterns.
It is empowering to know that the key to a growing, lasting marriage may begin in your own heart and mind. By guarding your marriage with gratitude every day, you may find greater appreciation both for and from your spouse, and discover deeper reservoirs of meaning and commitment.
As Dr. Barton’s study concluded, spousal appreciation “directly influences how you feel about your marriage, how committed you are to it, and your belief that it will last.”
With Thanksgiving a week away, maybe now is the perfect time to show more gratitude for your spouse.
United Families International, President
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