Saying "thank you" will improve your marriage

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I suspect it may improve other relationships as well, but can’t figure out how to construct a double-blind experiment.

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So will saying “Hotchie Mama!”

Trust me on this.

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The UGA College of Family and Consumer Sciences researchers would like to say thank you to the grant committee for letting them prove that treating other people with gratitude and common courtesy will grease the social gears.

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I find it works particularly well with kids - of course it’s good for their self esteem if you tell them that they’re important to you anyway, but my kids love feeling that they are making a positive difference in our lives through specific actions, and that we are grateful to them for that. It also makes them try to find other ways to be helpful, which is good for us too.

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But “the sun turns around the earth” is also common sense (just observe a sunrise). I think it’s not unimportant (and often thrilling [the common sense was incorrect!]) to use the scientific method on well-known “are you stupid to question this?!?” facts.

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I would hazard a guess that this technique could be helpful in a wide variety of relationships.

To the funding applications!!!

OK, fine. I guess this’ll pave the way for the funding on my “Do bears poop in the woods?” scientific investigation thingie.

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If you find a sponsor, sure, why not?

I like this paper about Chinstrap and Adelie penguin defaecation pressure.

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Couples who show gratitude are happier. So that means that if inject gratitude into a marriage it will become happier, right?

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Speaking from experience, one-sided gratitude gets old. A relationship will become happier if BOTH (all) people in the relationship are courteous to each other.

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What I meant to imply was that it’s almost certainly the case that people who are happier with a situation display more gratitude. There is plenty of reason to think the causation doesn’t run the way they suggest.

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Hear, here. One-sidedness in any mature relationship, not just marriage, is incredibly draining and taxing. I said mature because this doesn’t include the necessity of non-reciprocity when caring for children and I’d go so far as to say also if you are the primary caregiver for other reasons.

As far as two adults relating to each other, if it’s just this lopsided give give give until you are dry, that’s not healthy. There has to be more than gratitude; it needs some form of reciprocity and share-and-share alike working together for the common good going on, or it’s awful.

The spirit of the OP is noted, however. No situation is perfect. Or if it is perfect, it won’t be for long. There will eventually be an upset. How do you roll with it?

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Ah, yes, I see now. Yup.

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I think it’s important to acknowledge that it’s still incredibly draining and taxing even if the imbalance is there due to children or elderly or medically challenged. In some ways worse, because you KNOW you’re supposed to be understanding, but really, would it kill them to say “thank you” every once and a while?

(I might have had a particular child in mind as I typed that!)

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I can imagine it working both ways. You can train yourself to show more gratitude in the same way you might train yourself to notice other things that normally blend into the background. You’re basically using a form of CBT on yourself - focusing on positive everyday things that you don’t normally notice rather than the negatives that normally take up a lot of your mental energy and can disproportionately affect your view of another person. Of course as @chgoliz points out, this does require commitment from both sides. However, it is a powerful way to deal with your own problems with ingratitude and make the other person’s life easier.

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To be honest I think that most of the time behaviours and feelings are linked with causation flowing both ways. Apparently smiling makes you feel happy and all that. Of course one day when I was really angry about something I decided to smile to see if it would, in fact, make me feel happy and instead it made me feel my pulse in my temple. Behaviour can shift emotion and emotion can shift behaviour, but neither can just bulldoze over the other.

I don’t doubt that for most couples who don’t already do it regularly, trying to be mindful of thanking the other is a good idea that will probably improve feelings between the two. I just wanted to complain about an apparently confusion between correlation and causation because I’m mean spirited and inclined to react negatively to anything that says it could improve my life. Also, I hate the entire concept of gratitude. Phooey!

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I don’t imagine these things work as well in the short term; I’ve also been pretty sceptical about the idea that smiling makes you happier. However, changing your perspective when there really is something you’re failing to notice can be important. Doing stuff for others without receiving any gratitude in return can create a negative feedback loop where you do less for them and they resent the loss of things they took for granted, while gratefulness both shows your partner that you notice the things they do and makes you more likely to actually do things for them in return.

I would actually be less convinced that happier people would necessarily show more gratitude - some people are too self-absorbed to notice that they should be happier (i.e. more content, not merely smiling all the time), or that they should acknowledge an important source of the happiness they have. Giving people like that more things to be grateful for would change nothing.

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But are those people typically happier than other people? When I think of it, I think experiencing gratitude is probably happiness in itself. Not saying the words “thank you” but feeling something good that extends outside of yourself into another person. Having small children, I definitely spend time prompting “please” and “thank you”, but I’d rather have a request in a kind tone without a “please” than in a whiny tone with one. Gratitude is appreciation and appreciation is happiness at. If you don’t appreciate them, then “thank you” isn’t going to help. If you do appreciate them and aren’t showing it, then “thank you” is probably a good place to start.

Only if you thought that you could, through your actions, improve anything about your own life or the world, and look for feedback that would show you that they are having such an effect. What nonsense! Perhaps you should subscribe to my newsletter, Nihilistic Morality.

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I think that’s pretty accurate - a lot of us have plenty to be happy about, and part of gratitude is realising that the other person didn’t have to do something for you and recognising the value that that person has to you. I think if anything can change consciously, it has to come from building awareness and gratitude for existing benefits. I guess verbalising gratitude or otherwise showing it is the other side of the coin - gratitude that is left unexpressed seems like a strange sort of gratitude.

Our kids are still quite young, but one of the things we’re working on is trying to be a bit more transparent about how we deal with our own issues. We get them to help with a lot of things and we do chores together with them, to show that we’re not offering to do everything for them and they need to contribute, but that we aren’t just giving them jobs that we don’t want to do (and therefore undervaluing them and their contribution). Thanking them and apologising to them or doing the same with each other in their presence is showing vulnerability and the idea is that they will pick up on that. As a SAHM, my mum always prided herself on being able to provide for everyone. She is very capable, but we weren’t asked to help all that much outside of our set chores, and probably failed to show enough gratitude for the work she did.

I agree with your main point here though - it isn’t about smiling or saying thank you per se and there isn’t some process where you outwardly express something that you don’t feel internally and the appropriate feeling magically comes.

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