New Research Shows The Best Way to Express Gratitude to Your Partner

Researchers have found the best way to express your gratitude to your partner.

  • Study finds that praising your partner for their help is better than acknowledging their sacrifices.
  • If done the right way, expressing gratitude can strengthen your relationship.
  • It is important to note that how you express gratitude can depend on the type of relationship you have.

A new study investigated the best way to say “Thank you” in a romantic relationship.

Through an analysis of diary entries and conversation studies, researchers found that the best way to express your gratitude is to emphasize how responsive your loved one was to your needsThis means that when trying to thank your partner for something they have done, try elaborating on how their actions helped you instead of highlighting the sacrifices they made. For example, saying “If it wasn’t for you, I would not have been able to get to my doctor’s appointment on time” is perceived better than “I know you were busy and it must have been a hassle for you to take me to the doctor”In other words, if a thank you conveys that the benefactor was valued and that they contributed to your overall wellbeing, they will perceive the gratitude more positively.

The study authors commented on this as they wrote:

These findings are consistent with the notion that romantic relationships are communal in nature and that giving and receiving of benefits between partners are based on responsiveness to each other’s needs […] That is, benefactors are satisfied to learn that what they did met their partner’s needs precisely because their behaviour was motivated by a concern for their partner’s welfare.

The research included 111 participants who had been in a relationship for an average of 4 and a half years.

Researchers wanted to compare two different expressions of gratitude: one which conveyed how responsive a partner was to their needs and another which conveyed how much the act of kindness cost the partner. Participants first completed an online questionnaire and then had 3 filmed conversations in a lab. In the final conversation, the participants were asked to talk about something their partner had done for them. The recorded conversations were assessed by a team of five assistants who had to rank them based on ‘how much their gratitude highlighted the cost to their partner and how much it highlighted their partner’s responsiveness.’ Following this, the participants had to complete another questionnaire about how their partner’s gratitude makes them feel. After that, they were told to complete a short survey every night for two weeks so that they could reflect on the sacrifices they made during the day. These ‘diary entries’ showed similar results to those from the recorded conversations.

The authors further commented on the study:

Of course, our results do not suggest that acknowledgment of the costs has no value to the benefactor in a communal relationship; it may still be a better alternative to not expressing gratitude at all. Yet, once feelings of gratitude have been conveyed, it may be the message of how much they have made an impact in the partner’s wellbeing that is more satisfying to the benefactor.

Acknowledging the costs and sacrifices can be necessary in a new relationship.

It is important to note that the length of the relationship can also play a role; that is, the authors note that if the relationship is relatively new or just starting out, then an acknowledgment of costs can be better. The reason for this is that in the beginning of a relationship, one may question if they are being used. The researchers discussed this, writing: “Perhaps when relationship norms and expectations have not been established yet and concerns about being taken advantage of are more salient, there may be some benefits of receiving explicit acknowledgment of one’s efforts”. Either way, finding out the right way to express gratitude is key to strengthening your relationship.

The study can be found in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.

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