Gratitude is an attitude of thankfulness. This state of mind can apply to gratitude for tangible or intangible things, such as a home, a job, a new car, physical health, and even happiness. People who have high levels of gratitude and practice gratitude in their lives tend to have more peaceful and harmonious existences than those who do not. Many studies have been conducted on the effects of gratitude; however, until now no study has looked at how an attitude of gratitude helps maintain an intimate relationship. To explore this dynamic, Amie M. Gordon of the Department of Psychology at the University of California recently led a series of studies that looked at how appreciation and gratitude influenced the relationship satisfaction and stability of committed couples.
Gordon and her colleagues developed a tool to assess appreciation in order to capture how much partners felt appreciated and how much they exhibited appreciative behaviors. The Appreciation in Relationships (AIR) scale is the first of its kind and was tested over the course of several weeks in the current study. Partners were instructed to report how appreciated and valued they felt by their significant others during the study period and again 9 months later. Additionally, all of the participants were observed in a laboratory setting so that objective ratings of appreciation could be gathered.
The results of the studies indicated that having an attitude of gratitude and appreciation significantly improved relationship satisfaction and stability. Not only were the appreciative participants more committed to their partners than those who were less willing to demonstrate gratitude, but they also received more appreciation. In sum, the participants who felt more appreciated were more likely to communicate their appreciation than those who felt less valued. Gordon also discovered that the couples who reported being thankful and appreciative had high observer ratings of appreciation as well. Finally, these same couples were more likely to still be together at the 9-month follow-up when compared to those with less appreciative attitudes. Gordon added, “These findings provide evidence that gratitude is important for the successful maintenance of intimate bonds.”
Gordon, A. M., Impett, E. A., Kogan, A., Oveis, C., Keltner, D. (2012). To have and to hold: Gratitude promotes relationship maintenance in intimate bonds. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 103.2: 257-74.
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