An Attitude of Gratitude in Your Marriage


Gratitude isn’t just a feel-good, warm-fuzzy sentiment we talk about this time of year. Showing gratitude and appreciation for your partner is one of the most important ways to keep a marriage strong.

Unfortunately, it’s easy to get out of the gratitude habit. We’re all stressed and busy these days, which makes us neglect to compliment and appreciate our spouses.

Another reason we may not show appreciation is that we’re around each other all the time. After you’ve been together a while, you stop noticing all the things your partner contributes to the relationship. This is because the human brain is designed to respond primarily to novelty, so you literally don’t see the whole picture of who you’re married to and start taking each other for granted.

So what’s the big deal about gratitude? Why go to all the extra effort?  Actually, the stakes for your marriage are huge.

The Case for Gratitude

  • Studies have verified that couples who show more gratitude feel closer to each other and are happier with their relationships. Researchers can even predict which couples will stay together based on how much gratitude they show each other.
  • Dr. Sara Algoe’s research shows that when one partner reported feeling more gratitude on a particular day, the other partner experienced more relationship satisfaction.
  • In my book Strong Women, Strong Love, I talk about the eye-opening work of John Gottman. Gottman studied couples he calls the Masters of Marriage (those who have been married a long time and still have a solid marriage) and the Disasters of Marriage (those headed toward divorce). Gottman found that the Masters typically have 20 positive interactions with their spouse for every negative one during a normal day (yes, that’s 20:1!). During conflict, this ratio is reduced to 5:1, but that’s still well above the 1:1 of the Disasters group.
  • We all know that housework is a sore spot for many couples, but relationship satisfaction isn’t just related to who does what chore. Research shows that expressing gratitude for the work each partner does is also important.

The Art of Appreciation

Try this exercise to get the gratitude flowing. Think about or even write down the answers to these questions.

  • What qualities do you appreciate about your husband? (Think about why you married him.)
  • When was the last time you told him you appreciate him?
  • What did you say or do? And how did he respond?
  • What’s the ratio of positive to negative interactions in your relationship?
  • What appreciation, understanding, or compliment can you genuinely express to your spouse?

When you’re frustrated and resentful, it can be tempting to say that because your husband doesn’t appreciate you, that you shouldn’t bother expressing gratitude either. Research shows that if you can get the ball rolling first by focusing on your own feelings of appreciation, you will find that the gratitude will eventually come back to you.

Let Thanksgiving be a reminder to bring more gratitude into your relationship. Keep it up and the relationship will benefit tremendously, which I hope encourages you to maintain an attitude of gratitude year-round.

“My Husband Doesn’t Appreciate Me!”


Have you ever caught yourself saying, “My husband doesn’t appreciate me”? The desire for appreciation and validation is a natural one. We all want a relationship that makes us feel good about ourselves.

Research has shown that an atmosphere of warmth and appreciation is vital to the health of a marriage. Renowned marriage researcher Dr. John Gottman found that couples in long, happy marriages make a habit of noticing the positives. In fact, they typically make about 20 positive statements for every negative one during everyday conversations with their spouse.  And even during times of conflict, that ratio of positive to negative is about five to one!

With appreciation being so important, you’re justified in complaining about your husband’s lack of it, right? Well, it’s natural to want appreciation, but waiting for your husband to get the ball rolling is likely to result in continued frustration. He probably doesn’t realize you’re feeling unappreciated. He may not fully grasp everything you do for the family or even why some of it is necessary.

As a woman, your focus may be on maintaining high standards for your home, parenting, and appearance because women are judged more harshly than men in these realms.  Since the success and worth of a man is measured differently, your husband may be puzzled by why you’re working so hard and tell you, “Just don’t do it!” if you complain about exhaustion.

Rather than waiting for your husband to notice your contributions, a better strategy is to start showing more appreciation yourself, which will lead your husband to reciprocate. Since men are under pressure to be strong, capable, and confident, genuinely acknowledging these particular qualities may be especially meaningful. I get that this might feel unfair, but I urge you to try it out for a few days as an experiment. You may be surprised to find out that your husband has been feeling some of the same hunger for appreciation as you.

It’s common for husbands and wives to start to take each other for granted. But being deliberate about kindness and appreciation can protect your relationship from stagnation and resentment.  Every day this week, make it a goal to notice three positive things about your partner and compliment him on them. Stick with this marriage-boosting habit, and you’ll notice the mood starting to change in your relationship.