When was the last time you said "thank you" to your other half? According to a study from University of Georgia (UGA), it may be the key to a long-lasting and happy marriage.
After conducting a telephone survey of 468 married adults, researchers found that the most "significant predictor of marital quality" revolved around whether or not spouses spoke words of love and appreciation to each other.
"It goes to show the power of 'thank you,'" said the study's lead author Allen Barton, a current postdoctoral research associate at UGA's Center for Family Research, in a press release. "Even if a couple is experiencing distress and difficulty in other areas, gratitude in the relationship can help promote positive marital outcomes."
Most definitely, says Beatty Cohan, MSW, psychotherapist, sex therapist and couples counselor in New York City and Sarasota, Florida. "In the beginning of a new relationship, we typically prioritize our relationships and our partner," she says. "But as time goes on, we often forget that the little things really do matter."
And when those little gestures go by the wayside, it can leave you and/or your sweetheart feeling unappreciated. "Taking each other for granted leads to marital and relationship unhappiness, resentment and disconnect, and ultimately puts our relationships in jeopardy," explains Cohan. "The truth is we all want to feel cherished and loved — and saying 'thank you,' as well as 'I appreciate you,' 'I love you,' 'I admire you,' 'I'm glad I'm with you,' really helps people to connect and stay connected."
Cohan emphasizes that it's important to keep an attitude of gratitude especially when you and your significant other hit a few rough patches. "We need to express appreciation for our partner, despite our differences," she states. "And when differences occur — as they do in every relationship — the key is to develop the skills to… communicate and problem solve in an effective, caring and sensitive fashion."
Gratitude Changes Everything
Regardless of your relationship status, remembering to say thanks can have an enormous effect on your life. In fact, previous research has shown that expressing gratitude can boost heart health, win you new friends, and even make you more patient so you can reap larger rewards further down the line.
It all has to do with the way we choose to react to our circumstances. "We can view a crisis as the end of the world or we can look at it as an opportunity to explore other options," Cohan says. "It's very easy to focus on the negative and live your life with anger, resentment and regret. This mindset will surely contribute to emotional, psychological, psychiatric and physical problems. But in the end, the choice is yours — and there is much to be grateful for!"