Say thank you in the right way to your partner to buffer stress: study

Say thank you in the right way to your partner to buffer stress: study

Perceived gratitude goes a long way in couples facing stress.

Saying ‘thank you’ may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s always good to have a reminder to do so. While many people may say ‘thank you’ to strangers who hold the door for them at the grocery store or friends who give them a holiday gift, it’s easy to leave your spouse in the dust of assumptions. In other words, it’s easy to assume your partner already know you’re thankful for they’re help, love, and care. Research shows, however, that voicing these feelings-and in the right way- can go a long way. 

The power of perceived gratitude in couples

Researchers from the University of Illinois have found that greater levels of perceived gratitude in couples is a good thing. 

It’s well-known that many couples break up due to financial stress. According to some reports, almost three quarters of relationships face tension from financial problems or decisions. Couples with kids are even more likely to face this type of conflict. 

It’s also common for couples to face significant stress due to ineffective arguing. While just about every couple faces this, some recover from it better than others. 

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New research shows that couples who feel appreciated by their partner  withstand these stressors better than others. The idea that your partner feels thankful for you provides a protective buffer against the negative effects of conflict. 

Protection for now and the long term

According to researcher Allen W. Barton, a professor of human development and family studies at the University of Illinois, when individuals feel appreciated by their partners, their relationship functions better and is more resilient to internal and external sources of stress. This is true Barton says, in the moment, and over the long term.

Barton and his team examined the effects of expressed and perceived gratitude in African American couples living in the US over a 15-month period. Most of the participants were middle-aged and living in rural Georgia, and could be classified as working poor. (They were familiar with facing financial stress, in other words). 

Researchers looked at the effects of expressed gratitude, telling your partner you’re thankful for them, and perceived gratitude: how grateful participants felt their partners were for them. 

It was found that simply showing your gratitude in greater amounts didn’t necessarily make a difference or add any protective element to a relationship. When couples perceived their partner to be more grateful, however, that’s when the stress buffer kicked in. Feeling valued by your partner makes a difference.  

Finding the right way to express it

So, what’s the trick? Barton points out there is no single, surefire way to make your partner feel appreciated. But you can give some thought to what might count between you. 

“Be sure to make compliments that are sincere and genuine,” Barton suggested. “And ask your partner if there are any areas in which they feel their efforts aren’t being appreciated or acknowledged and start expressing appreciation for those.”

A little connection goes a long way. As the holiday season kicks in and schedules become even more busy, remember to take a moment to show you care. 

To read more about this study and how it was conducted, click here. 

photo credits: Monkey Business Images/

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