• The Importance of Gratitude in Relationships

    This time of year, it’s tradition to give thanks. For many, however, recent events make feeling thankful a bit tougher. But just because the world is facing unprecedented challenges, don’t write off the impact that gratitude can still have in your life — and in your relationship.

    We’re all promised the right to pursue our own brand of happiness, and one important determinant of happiness is having appreciation for all the good things in your life — most especially the people in it. Feeling thankful occasionally is beneficial to personal and relational happiness; but an intentional and active practice of gratitude can create even greater rewards.

    People describe the practice of gratitude in many ways. For this discussion, we’ll define it as actively noticing and savoring the gifts we receive — large and small — as we go about our daily life: Sharing a great tasting cup of coffee with a friend, the feeling of holding a new grandchild and the comfort of an embrace from a loved one.

    Aside from the temporary lift in mood, what do you get from these moments? Actively practicing gratitude on a regular basis has numerous benefits. In addition to improving emotional and physical health, it can also enhance intimate relationships and other social connections.

    Those who feel gratitude toward others have stronger and more fulfilling relationships. Awareness of the value of partners, family and friends creates more positive actions and reactions. We treat the people we love better when we’re mindful and grateful, and they often treat us better in return.

    How can you practice gratitude with your partner?

    In one groundbreaking study, a group of participants wrote down five things they were grateful for once a week for 10 weeks. At the end of the experiment, the group that journaled about gratitude reported increased optimism, increased life satisfaction and a boost in physical health and exercise frequency.

    What does a gratitude practice look like in the context of a romantic relationship? Take 15 to 20 minutes each week and reflect on your partner. Note at least three moments when you felt safe, secure or loved. Examples might be exchanging a warm smile, enjoying a meal together or receiving a hug when you’re hurting. Mentally revisit each of those three moments; be mindful of how they impact you and allow yourself to fully appreciate the experience. In your journal, write a sentence or two to express your gratitude, each positive event and the feelings that go with each one. If desired, find a quiet time to share these observations with your partner.

    With the COVID-19 crisis causing so much relationship stress — and limiting the quality time of so many couples — those 15 to 20 minutes can be a great investment.

    Learn more about the practice of gratitude and how it can improve your life in the book “The Hows of Happiness” by Sonja Lyubomirsky. And if you and your partner are having difficulty identifying, savoring and integrating moments of gratitude in your relationship, Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy can make a difference. Visit CouplesTherapyOrlando.com or call 407-579-2070 to learn more about treatment options. We’re here to help.



    Emmons, R.A. and McCullough, M.E.  (2003) Counting blessings versus burdens: an experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life.  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84:  377-89.

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