What is your viewpoint on gratitude? Do you practice it by keeping a gratitude journal? Do you often give thanks to other people and to yourself? Do you have a gratitude couple practice in your relationship?
People often think that they should be grateful only when life is treating them exceptionally well. But what is well and what isn’t? Who decides what it’s like?
We believe that you have reasons to be thankful even when things seem to be going backward. In other words, being grateful is what fulfills us, so the longer you wait to start, the less time you have to live a fulfilled life.
There’s a body of research that indicates that gratitude brings immense benefits to our individual lives. It makes us happier and more psychologically resilient; it improves our relationships, but also our physical health.
It can even be extremely beneficial for children, even at a very early age, as setting these habits can have multiplied benefits into adulthood.
But what about couples? How can gratitude improve the relationship between romantic partners?
The Benefits of a Gratitude Couple Practice
If practicing gratitude makes an individual happier, healthier, and more satisfied with their life, what does it do for a couple? Well, common sense tells us: it makes us happy, healthy, and satisfied people! And science has something to say as well.
In a study conducted at the University of North Carolina Willmington, researchers asked 50 married couples to do some gratitude journaling for each other for 14 days. At the end of each day, couples completed questionnaires about their relationship. The results revealed an increase in perceived support levels, feelings of intimacy, and overall marital satisfaction.
Expressing gratitude as a reciprocal positive practice in a relationship allows for a stronger bond, because partners are more empathetic, understanding and more appreciative. One researcher studied three couples over a couple of years by collecting their stories and experiences of expressing gratitude.
What she found out is that gratitude is like a cornerstone of the participants’ unity in a relationship. The experience of gratitude seems to transcend the individual and holds an experience of universal belonging between two people.
By examining the existing literature and studies done on couples practicing gratitude, social scientists have agreed on the following benefits:
Practicing gratitude strengthens the relationship between romantic partners;
Practicing gratitude enhances the levels of perceived intimacy and mutual care;
Practicing gratitude strengthens the sense of belonging in a romantic partnership;
Gratitude makes married couples feel more satisfied with their marriage.
How does this sound to you? Are you excited yet to try practicing gratitude with your partner?
If the answer is “yes”, here are some tips on how to make that work for you.
Gratitude Couple Practice: Tips
Keep a Gratitude Journal Together
Who says that journaling needs to be a private act? Yes, keeping a gratitude journal (or reflection journal) all by yourself can have tremendous benefits, but imagine how rewarding, therapeutic and fun it can be to do it together?
Alex and Mimi Ikonn, the creators of the Intelligent Change brand and leading influencers in the field of gratitude journaling, do this as part of their evening and morning routine.
After waking up and snuggling in bed for a couple of minutes, open your Five Minute Journals, fill them out, and then read what you’ve written out loud to each other. While getting ready for your day, discuss what would make this day great and plan to do something together as a couple, something that connects you. It can be anything–from taking a walk together and cooking dinner, to having relaxing tea, watching a movie or setting some time aside to read.
On the evenings, when filling out your gratitude journals, have a conversation with your partner, reflect on the day and cherish the beautiful moments together.
You can make a deal to write your gratitude prompts only about each other or your relationship and focus your grateful energy into that hotspot. Here’s an amazing gift idea for your loved one: before going to bed each day, write one thing you were grateful for that day that also involved your partner. Do this in privacy for a couple of months, or even a whole year. Then, choose a special day, such as their birthday, your anniversary, or some other date of personal importance to you, and give them the journal as a gift.
If by any chance your loved one doesn’t want to keep a gratitude journal together with you, this will surely motivate them to give it a try! If you’re already keeping one together, this gift would be an amazing addition to your gratitude practice.
Say “Thank You” More
It’s easy to (remember to) say “thank you” when you’ve received an occasional gift that made you happy, or when your partner does something sweet, unexpected and beautiful. We somehow do it instinctively, right?
But what about the little things?
If you’re in a long relationship, you can be honest with each other and say that you get annoyed when your partner doesn’t do the little things: making the bed, washing the dishes, buying all the groceries from the store… but what about the times when they do all these things? Or when you do them? Do you say “thank you” to each other for working in tandem to keep your home clean or when both of you are doing something extra just to bring a smile on your face? Or do you just take it for granted?
Yes, of course, it’s normal when people keep their households clean, cook their meals, and take care of each other, but that requires hard work, patience, mindful attention and commitment. That’s why it shouldn’t be taken for granted—it should be acknowledged, valued and appreciated.
Be Grateful for Who Your Partner Is, Not Just for What He or She Does
When it comes to criticism, experts usually say not to criticize the person, but to criticize the behavior. Well, with gratitude and praise, it can be a bit different. You can be thankful for your partner’s hard work, attention, or time, and you can love them and be grateful for who they are.
Is your partner honest? A kind person? Smart and skillful? Loving and caring? An altruist? Committed to your relationship? Extremely funny?
Do you praise each other enough for who you are and how you make each other feel?
Whether you do it or not, here’s a chance to become more aware and implement this into your gratitude couple practice.
Give Praise Publicly
There are no strict rules on how to give public praise–every couple has their own way.
This can be thanking or congratulating your partner for doing something great in front of your friends, sharing a Facebook or an Instagram post about their success, or telling your parents what an amazing lunch they prepared the other day–it’s your call. However, showing how proud and thankful you are for your partner publicly will make them feel warm, loved, and important.
Text and Call Out of the Blue
Texting, leaving a voice message or calling your partner at random, and not just to remind them to run some errands, but rather for no reason at all, can be a great sign of gratitude. As marriage and family therapist Lauren Consul says, “when someone thinks of us out of the blue, it tells us that we matter to them and that our actions have lasting positive effects.”
Exchanging “taking for granted” for “taking with gratefulness” attitude in a relationship can seriously do miracles.
Couples who are grateful to each other for the things they do and for who they are, tend to last longer, feel closer, and be more meaningful—and this is where science and common sense completely agree.
If you feel like your relationship is going through a rough patch, or you’d simply like to further strengthen your bond, improve communication, and implement a new and healthy habit, consider surprising your loved one with two Five Minutes Journals on your nightstands.
Dedicate five minutes a day solely to positive thoughts and gratitude for what you have. Be present with each other. The results? We guarantee they’ll be visible before you can say at the end of your day: “Honey, it’s time for our Five Minute Journals!”
At Intelligent Change, gratitude is always top of the charts. So we want to help you make it the smash hit on your own playlist to turn this summer into one you’ll remember – literally. Because gratitude is mindfulness, and mindfulness means stronger memories and prolonged happiness.