What is the recipe for building long-standing relationships? Is love just enough? Turns out there’s more to it - gratitude. Well, we never forget to thank strangers, but do we stop to thank our close ones?
Google gratitude and you’ll find a hundred definitions for the term. The definition of gratitude varies depending on the context.
“Gratitude in relationships means reaffirming that you appreciate your partner’s qualities, behaviour, and how they make you feel,” Nicola Beer, a relationship counsellor and life coach in Dubai told Gulf News.
Lack of appreciation kills relationships
Beer added that people are generally unhappy in relationships due to the lack of appreciation or attention.
We are glued to our phones or laptops and that can have a drastic effect on our relationship. People find it difficult to be in the present. The lack of gratitude and attention makes people unhappy.
“In today’s generation, we hardly find the need to communicate or express. We are glued to our phones or laptops and that can have a drastic effect on our relationship. People find it difficult to be in the present. The lack of gratitude and attention makes people unhappy,” Beer added.
“Gratitude plays a very important role in all kinds of relationships. However, it gets forgotten when it comes to those closest to us. When you are in a comfortable environment or amidst someone comfortable it slides as ‘goes without saying’ sort of thing that’s why often you don’t say ‘thank you’.
“Appreciating the people closest is as important or maybe more important than thanking strangers. After all, small acts of appreciation can go a long way,” said Indian expat Advaita Vinod, who works as a brand specialist fin the UAE. Her fiancé Vyshak Nair, who works as head of business development in Dubai, agreed.
According to Asma Geitany, a Lebanese expat who works as a clinical psychologist with the Dubai Health Authority, gratitude is a way of expressing love and respect - the foundation of any relationship. Gratitude is a way to express that you care and love your partner.
When you thank your loved ones, it makes them feel needed and valued.
“When you thank your loved ones, it makes them feel needed and valued,” said Geitany.
“We thank strangers to maintain equations or build rapport, but when it comes to thanking our families, we tend to look through it. But, it is most important that we express our gratitude to our close relations as it can have a highly positive impact. It is not happiness that makes us grateful, it is gratefulness that makes us happy,” Priya Vijayarajan, an Indian expat who works as a specialist anesthesiologist in Dubai, told Gulf News.
Is gratitude the secret to commitment in relationships?
Relationship researchers Dr Brian Ogolsky and his colleagues from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA, identified gratitude as one of the 19 fundamental strategies people follow to build healthy relationships.
A similar study was conducted by psychologist Amie Gordon from the University of California, Berkeley. In her research, Gordon observed daily experiences to understand the nuances of a good relationship.
The findings revealed that people who felt appreciated by their partners were more appreciative of their partners. Besides, they were also more committed to the relationship.
Agreeing with the above findings, Beer reinforced that gratitude ups our self-esteem and helps us contribute in a positive way to our relationships.
In return, you also appreciate your partner. Once the habit is created, the relationship automatically steers in a positive direction.
Beer further added that most times, we tend to take our closest relations for granted. While close relationships don’t demand conventionalism, it certainly needs acknowledgment, love, respect, and time.
Taking our partners for granted often leads to disconnection, resentment, and poor communication. After all, no one likes to be taken for granted.
Most couples I work with unfortunately take each other for granted, stop being curious about each other which sometimes reduces admiration.
“Most couples I work with unfortunately take each other for granted, stop being curious about each other which sometimes reduces admiration,” added Resha Erheim, a Canadian expat who works as a licenced clinical counselor at Wise Mind Center in Dubai.
“I don’t explicitly thank my family or loved ones. Instead, I show it in action by caring for them, understanding them, and supporting them when needed. We can practice gratitude even without formally spelling it out. After all, actions speak louder than words,” Vimalkumar Kuppusamy, an Indian expat who works as a specialist anesthesiologist in Dubai, told Gulf News.
Speaking about gratitude in relationships, Andrea Karidis, a Greek expat who works as a private chef in Dubai says explicitly thanking each other is not required in a close relationship.
Between my husband and I, we express more through actions than words. In case one of us does something nice for the other, we appreciate it with a warm hug or just a smile - so spelling it out is never really in the picture.
“When you know someone very well, then you know that they are appreciative of your actions. However, with strangers, you thank them or spell it out explicitly because you don’t know each other and it is important to communicate effectively. Between my husband and I, we express more through actions than words. In case one of us does something nice for the other, we appreciate it with a warm hug or just a smile - so spelling it out is never really in the picture.”
Psychological effects of being grateful
Being thankful has an energy of its own and instantly builds a positive bond between couples. This energy is nothing but happiness. When people feel or express gratitude, they instantly experience happiness.
Erheim asserts that gratitude reduces stress, and improves self-esteem and general well-being. Besides, those who express gratitude also experience an increased sense of empathy and forgiveness, emotional resilience, and optimism.
Psychologists, Dr Robert A. Emmons from the University of California, Davis, and Dr Michael E. McCullough from the University of Miami, studied the psychological impact of gratitude.
Participants were asked to journal particular topics. As per the findings, people who wrote about gratitude were more optimistic and happier in their life. Besides, they also exercised more and had fewer visits to the physician.
People who express gratitude are more optimistic, open, and less neurotic. Gratitude is also a part of therapy and treatment for people with relationship issues.
“Gratitude grounds you, calms the nervous system, and helps you be in the present. People who express gratitude are more optimistic, open, and less neurotic. Gratitude is also a part of therapy and treatment for people with relationship issues,” Beer told Gulf News.
As per Geitany, gratitude strengthens interpersonal relationships. Gratitude makes people feel understood. When you are grateful, your partner automatically feels that his or her effort is not going in vain. Therefore, they feel motivated to invest in the relationship.
“I believe that expressing gratitude is important. I recently lost both of my parents and I do regret not thanking them for all that they did for me. I never looked them in the eyes and thanked them."
“Gratitude makes you and the other person happy. It is the best reward you can give your loved ones. You never know who or what you’ll love when, so just be nice to everyone,” Michael Salivaras, a Greek expat who works as a plastic surgeon in Dubai, told Gulf News.
Help to practise gratitude
We all like to be heard and respected. The first step to a healthy relationship is making the other person feel loved, says Geitany. “It is important to value the other person’s efforts and acknowledge the same. Very often, we forget to spell out the good things. Doing so will make your partner feel you care less or you don’t value the relationship. Always appreciate and acknowledge openly.”
2. Communicate effectively
Geitany affirms that communication is vital to understanding a person and thereby building long-standing relationships. “Have a heart-to-heart at the end of each day and express what you’re grateful for. For instance, you can thank your partner for taking care of the baby so you could take a nap. This might sound very simple, but these are things that matter, and unfortunately, this is what we’re taking for granted.”
Instead of showing or telling the partner when there’s a lack of gratitude, Geitany advises us to start doing it ourselves first. This will raise awareness and will also lead the other person to mimic us. Remember, gratitude is contagious.
4. Maintain a gratitude journal
A gratitude journal will help you reminisce about all the positive things in life. “No matter how tough life gets, there’s always something to be grateful for. Maintaining a gratitude journal is one empirically proven way to reap the benefits of gratitude practice. Journaling will instantly evoke positivity, give you clarity, help you focus on what matters, and will leave you feeling calmer,” said Erheim.
5. Write a ‘thank you’ note
Make it a habit to write a thank-you note to your loved ones. This will make you happier and thereby you will be able to pour more into the other person’s cup, Beer told Gulf News. Write at least one ‘thank you’ note a month and once in a while, write one for yourself as well, she says.