When it comes to relationships, a little gratitude goes a long way

May 26, 2010

New research out of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill suggests small gestures that provoke gratitude may be associated with happier and stronger relationships.

The study consisted of more than 65 couples who were already in committed, satisfying relationships. Over the course of two weeks, the participants kept nightly diaries where they would record actions from their partner that benefited them, as well as any thoughtful gestures, no matter how small, they may have completed toward their partner.

The participants were also told to record their emotional responses to these interactions with their significant other, in addition to overall relationship satisfaction. The results indicated that gratitude was strongly associated with relationship satisfaction for both men and women.

Dr. Sara Algoe, lead author, says in the study’s news release:

“Gratitude triggers a cascade of responses within the person who feels it in that very moment, changing the way the person views the generous benefactor, as well as motivations toward the benefactor. This is especially true when a person shows that they care about the partner’s needs and preferences.”

Here are some additional findings reported by WebMD:

  • 43% of women and 36% of men said their partners did something thoughtful for them.
  • 35% of women and 33% of men said they did something thoughtful for their partners.
  • Participants agreed with their partners 61% of the time and disagreed 39% of the time.
  • Of the days when the partner reported doing something thoughtful, the participant agreed 51.2% of the time. However 48.8% of the partner-reported thoughtful behaviors went undetected by the participant.
  • Men were more likely to associate gratitude with indebtedness than women.

This study is published in the June issue of Personal Relationships.


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