One of the earliest polite conventions we teach our children is to say thank you. These seem to be the two magic words for lifetime well-being. Gratitude has been shown to have numerous benefits in marriage. (Check out my past article on gratitude). Here’s even more encouraging news: a new study in “The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology” by Dr. Amie Gordon of U.C. Berkeley found that couples who express gratitude and appreciation for one another tend to be more committed, have more sex, and be less likely to break up. More and more, it seems that gratitude is a cornerstone of a healthy, happy marriage.
How does gratitude result in better sex?
Sex is complicated. While, on one hand, sex can be the purely pleasurable fulfillment of desire and arousal, sex is also emotional. Sexual attraction is not only stimulated by physical attraction but by feelings of intimacy (emotional and non-sexually physical) and trust. To desire someone and engage in happy, mutually pleasurable sex is to show approval of that person. Conversely, showing and receiving gratitude increases closeness and desire. In other words, gratitude sets a positive foundation for the emotional aspects of sex. Gratitude also inspires reciprocation, which may very well surface in the bedroom.
One can see the importance of appreciation and sexual attraction in reverse, too. Many affairs arise out of feeling unappreciated by the other partner. One spouse then begins to turn to others outside the marriage to feel desired and appreciated on an emotional level just as much as a physical one. One of the best ways to shore your marriage up against infidelity is to make sure each spouse feels appreciated.
How else might gratitude help your sex life in marriage?
Not only does receiving gratitude boost your bond with your spouse, it boosts your confidence. Feeling better about yourself can lead to greater enthusiasm and less self-consciousness in bed. Expressing gratitude for something you enjoyed in your lovemaking also helps you to build a repertoire positive and satisfying sex for both of you.
The benefits of gratitude seem to extend to both recipient and giver. Researcher Dr. Robert Emmons has found that individuals who express gratitude frequently have higher amounts of positive emotions, feel more alert, feel more joy, and are more optimistic. Happy, healthy spouses tend to enjoy all around better sex in marriage.
What makes an appreciative couple?
According to the study, “highly appreciative” couples exhibited several key characteristics. Firstly, these couples are great listeners. They give their full attention to their spouses, used positive feedback such as light touching, nods, and affirmations. Secondly, the are proactive complimentors. They constantly commend and thank their spouses for small favors and nice behavior.
“The best part of this research demonstrated that showing gratitude is a choice,” writes therapist Susan Hartman Brenizer for syracuse.com. “These are skills we can learn. These learned skills can be put into practice to reap rewards beyond the obvious. The other important finding of these studies is that the “initiation” of gratitude towards your spouse is important. And yes, it does need to be reciprocated.”
How can you express (and feel) more gratitude in marriage?
Gratitude is tricky because it naturally tapers of as you settle into your relationship. Unfortunately, it decreases just as it becomes more important to express and feel. Recognize that if positivity has cooled in your marriage, someone has to take that first step to get it back on track. Here’s a quick plan for increasing gratitude and positivity in your marriage.
- Start by saying “thank you” for the more obvious things, big or small, that your spouse does for you. Look you partner in the eyes and say it from the heart.
- Make a list of all the things you love about your spouse, from general qualities to specific quirks.
- Brainstorm all the things your spouse does for you and your marriage. It’s pretty long list, isn’t it? Now, how many of these things do you both take for granted?
- Take a moment to surprise your spouse with appreciation for these tasks. For example, “Hey honey, I just wanted to say how much I appreciate you doing the dishes when I cook. It means so much to me!” or “It is so wonderful how you always turn your attention to me when I come home from work, even if you’re in the middle of something. It makes me feel so loved and welcomed home.” Be specific about how these actions make you feel good.
- Compliment your spouse. Does your partner have a great idea for how to take care of tricky after-school logistics? Or perhaps he or she just saved a bunch of money through a wise decision. Express that you think your partner is smart, considerate, funny, charming….
Happily, positivity and gratitude build exponentially. Positive reinforcement, too, encourages gratitude-worthy behavior. Taking the initial step to express gratitude is they key. Most likely, you’ll find gratitude reflected back at you as your spouse feels more loved and more attentive to your wonderful qualities as well.