It’s so simple that it can be easy to overlook: In the commotion of daily life, people forget to thank their partner for the myriad things they do. During the pandemic, significant others have made even more sacrifices, picked up the slack, or gone outside their comfort zone, putting plenty of romantic relationships through the wringer. Now could be the ideal moment to step back and reassess how you show gratitude for it all.
This might be harder than it sounds. One fact of long-term relationships, in research terms, is habituation—the diminished response to your significant other’s actions over time. In other words: taking your partner for granted. Another challenge is the common inability to notice the everyday ways that loved ones make our life smoother. “We tend to overestimate our efforts [in] a relationship and underestimate the amount of work our partner is contributing,” Allen Barton, assistant professor in the department of human development and family studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, told me via email.
Gratitude isn’t a cure-all, however. Although plenty is known about couples with a predisposition to thank each other, researchers are still trying to determine whether getting less naturally grateful couples to engage in these behaviors will be as helpful, says Amie Gordon, an assistant social-psychology professor who directs the Well-being, Health, and Interpersonal Relationships Lab at the University of Michigan. It is important to recognize that severe relationship issues—such as serious emotional or physical abuse—can’t be papered over with superficial appreciation.
A gratitude practice shouldn’t imply forced politeness or tossing around half-hearted thanks when you don’t feel like it. It’s really a guardrail against the human proclivity to take one’s partner for granted. The ultimate aim, Gordon says, is to set a posture of noticing and renoticing the value in your better half. Then, when your genuine appreciation allows you to share that positivity with your partner, capitalize on the moment.
Read the full article at The Atlantic.