An Attitude of Gratitude in Relationships

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In a world that sometimes paints the idea of romantic relationships as an accessory for our lives, it can become all too easy to take for granted your significant other. If you watch enough reality t.v. you might start to think that boyfriends, girlfriends, or even spouses are as expendable as this season’s trendy clothes; what you’re into now might not be what you want a month or two from now. Relationships come and go, and there are plenty of fish in the sea, so why spend the time to build a real connection with someone? You have to look out for yourself first and foremost, right? If your relationship or your marriage doesn’t work out, you might even be able to go on a reality t.v. show yourself to find someone new! (Think you could be the next Bachelor or Bachelorette?)

This is dangerous and faulty thinking. Even if you aren’t ready for a serious commitment at the present, it takes time and experience to build the skills necessary to have a healthy relationship when that time does come for you. Part of that experience includes respecting the people you date, and appreciating the fact that they are choosing to be with you. There are few things in life more precious than time, and when people make the choice to share their time and their lives with their significant other, it should never be taken for granted. Girlfriends, boyfriends, husbands, and wives are not an accessory; they are people.

Dr. John Gottman, a top marriage researcher and therapist, has found that successful marriages (versus those that end in divorce) are characterized by having at least 5 positive interactions for each 1 negative interaction. A powerful tool for positive interaction, Dr. Gottman says, is the daily expression of appreciation. You might say to your significant other, “I love it when you call during the day just to say hello”, or, “Your love notes are the best, they make me so happy!” It doesn’t take much time. Not only does it make your special someone feel good, but research proves that it makes the relationship stronger and more likely to last! You don’t have to be married to practice these techniques, either; in fact, great marriages begin with healthy dating relationships.

As a new year begins, many of us will set goals to work towards. One of my goals is to regularly express my appreciation for all of the relationships in my life. It is a privilege not only to have a significant other, but also to have good friends. Woodrow Wilson said, “Friendship is the only cement that will ever hold the world together.” When life throws us trials and unexpected challenges, we truly realize the value of having friends to lean on to help you get back on your feet. Let us remember to express our gratitude for our friends and significant others as often as we can, and to be ever mindful of the privilege it is to have them in our lives. Reality t.v. may come and go… but the people who know how much you appreciate them will likely stay around for a very long time!

Kristy Malone, Master’s student in Marriage and Family Therapy and Graduate Research Assistant for the Alabama Community Healthy Marriage Initiative

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