It's a simple and common expression, but one that might go underused in marriages — a place where it should be used most often, according to a new study from the University of Georgia
"We found that feeling appreciated and believing that your spouse values you directly influences how you feel about your marriage, how committed you are to it, and your belief that it will last," study co-author Ted Futris said.
The study surveyed 468 married couples about their financial well-being, how they expressed gratitude and "demand/withdraw communication."
Demand/withdraw communication is defined in the study as a situation where one spouse is being critical or nagging the other spouse, and instead of confronting the situation that spouse withdraws him or herself from the situation.
What became clear was that expressions of gratitude were the most consistent indicator of marital quality, trumping even financial status. Not only that, but they also found that higher levels of gratitude "protected men's and women's divorce proneness" and even helped preserve women's marital commitment from the negative effects of poor communication, according to UGA Today.
"It goes to show the power of 'thank you,'" Allen Barton, one of the lead authors and a former doctoral student in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences and current postdoctoral research associate at UGA's Center for Family Research, said. "Even if a couple is experiencing distress and difficulty in other areas, gratitude in the relationship can help promote positive marital outcomes."
Most importantly, though, the study makes one thing clear: all couples argue. Things like financial stress can put pressure on even the best marriages. But it isn't so much about how often you argue — it's more about how you argue and how you treat each other when you aren't fighting. So let this be a good reminder: go tell your spouse how much they mean to you, show them your gratitude, and say thank you whenever you can. It can go a long way.