Being thankful in marriage is packed with research-backed benefits! 

I know… this sounds like the beginning of a cheesy infomercial. But unlike many infomercials, this little factoid really is backed by science. 

  • Studies show that expressing gratitude for your spouse strengthens your marriage.
  • Being thankful is associated with increased long-term happiness in marriage.2
  • Being thankful can have a healing effect when there are rifts in the relationship.3
  • Thankfulness can help a person reframe negative experiences in a more positive light, giving a more hopeful outlook on their marriage.4
  • And get this: Showing and receiving gratitude is associated with more satisfying sex in marriage.5,6 

Thank goodness for being thankful! 

But it’s important to understand that gratitude in marriage is a lot like a muscle: You need to exercise it. You need to strengthen and flex your thankfulness to enjoy the full benefit. 

So how can you practice and strengthen thankfulness for a muscled-up marriage? Check out these keys to being thankful in marriage:

1. Journal your gratitude.

There is strong evidence that journaling what you are thankful for in your marriage improves overall well-being and marriage health.6 Try writing down three things you appreciate about your spouse daily. Look back on past journal entries for a dose of perspective and encouragement, especially on the tougher days.

2. Don’t just tell your spouse thank you. Let them know how they have helped you.


When you rub my shoulders, it helps me feel less anxious. Thank you! 


I sure appreciate you cooking dinner; it made this day a lot less hectic for me!


Telling your spouse specifically how they meet your needs has been shown to build a stronger relationship. It can also reinforce your spouse’s positive feelings about your marriage.

3. Keep a picture in your pocket.

Or on the visor. Or on your phone. (Wherever you’ll be reminded of your spouse regularly.) Gratitude is often prompted through our senses. Having a visual reminder of your spouse provides a constant nudge to count your marital blessings. 

4. Practice mindfulness.

Doing mindful exercises to practice being “in the moment” can promote thankfulness.9 Mindful breathing, walks, and meditation10 are just a few practices that can strengthen gratitude and contribute to a healthy marriage. 

5. Go through the motions (even when you aren’t feeling particularly thankful).

Robert A. Emmons, gratitude researcher at the University of California, Davis, explains that the motion of gratitude can trigger the emotion of gratitude. Prodding yourself to smile, say thank you, or write thank you notes to your spouse can help flex those thankfulness muscles. These actions help jumpstart more sincere feelings of gratitude. 

Just like any muscle, being thankful in your marriage is something you can stretch and strengthen. Otherwise, gratitude can atrophy and weaken. If you want to get your marital thankfulness in shape, try one of the keys above. You can thank me later! 

Sources

1Algoe, S. B. (2012). Find, remind, and bind: The functions of gratitude in everyday relationships. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 6(6), 455–469. 

2Gordon, C. L., Arnette, R. A. ., & Smith, R. E. (2011). Have you thanked your spouse today?: Felt and expressed gratitude among married couples. Personality and Individual Differences, 50(3), 339–343.

3Emmons, R. A., & Stern, R. (2013). Gratitude as a Psychotherapeutic Intervention. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 69(8), 846–855. 

4Lambert, N. M., Graham, S. M., Fincham, F. D., & Stillman, T. F. (2009). A changed perspective: How gratitude can affect sense of coherence through positive reframing. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 4(6), 461–470. 

5Brady, A. L. (2019). Examining the Association Between Gratitude and Sexual Communal Strength. ProQuest Dissertations Publishing.

6Brady, A., Baker, L. R., Muise, A., & Impett, E. A. (2021). Gratitude Increases the Motivation to Fulfill a Partner’s Sexual Needs. Social Psychological & Personality Science, 12(2), 273–281.

7Emmons, R. A., & McCullough, M. E. (2003). Counting Blessings Versus Burdens: An Experimental Investigation of Gratitude and Subjective Well-Being in Daily Life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(2), 377–389. 

8Park, Y., Visserman, M. L., Sisson, N. M., Le, B. M., Stellar, J. E., & Impett, E. A. (2020). How can I thank you? Highlighting the benefactor’s responsiveness or costs when expressing gratitude. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. 

9Eyring, J. B., Leavitt, C. E., Allsop, D. B., & Clancy, T. J. (2021). Forgiveness and Gratitude: Links Between Couples’ Mindfulness and Sexual and Relational Satisfaction in New Cisgender Heterosexual Marriages. Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 47(2), 147–161. 

10Shapiro, S. L., Schwartz, G. E. R., & Santerre, C. (2002). Meditation and positive psychology. In C. R. Snyder & S. Lopez (Eds.), Handbook of positive psychology (pp. 632– 645). London, UK: Oxford University Press.

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