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The guaranteed stresses of life cause high emotional intensity between marriage partners that often lead to hurtful exchanges. These hurtful exchanges can, unfortunately, lead to a gridlock of anger and disconnection. So, how do marriages last and thrive when life is not always easy? In countless research studies, it has been found that the difference between marriages that last and those that do not is not the absence of these difficulties or conflict but differences in how these couples treat one another each day.
In a study by the College of Family and Consumer Sciences at UGA of five hundred married couples, it was found that couples who frequently express gratitude to one another are more resilient and have happier longer-lasting marriages. This study assessed communication style, financial well-being, and expressions of gratitude. Of these, expressing gratitude was found to be the one factor that correlates to high satisfaction and commitment in marriage. Feeling appreciated and valued by your spouse creates positive feelings toward the marriage and increases the level of commitment. Because stress and conflict are inevitable, the practice of appreciation works as an antidote to conflict because it helps couples feel safe, loved, and valued.
Gratitude is often not practiced in marriages. Seeing the things we are grateful for in our partner is overlooked because we are not looking for it. Harsh words from past disagreements may have left anger, which leads to a heightened awareness of all the negatives and an overlooking of the positives. Sometimes life is too busy, and we do not stop long enough to appreciate. Fortunately, gratitude is a practice; an act we can intentionally add to our marriages and our lives as a way to show that you are full heartedly and openly committed.
Ready to give it a try?! Here is a straightforward gratitude exercise to try either as a couple or as one of the partners invested in a change for the better.