New research into the positive effect of people saying thank you to their partners has found that it can strengthen couples’ relationships and mitigate the impact of arguing and financial stress.

Over a 15-month period, researchers looked at the effect that expressing gratitude and perceived gratitude had on 316 African American couples in rural Georgia, America.

People who experienced higher rates of gratitude – both expressed and perceived – reported greater satisfaction in their relationships and felt more confident in their future as a couple.

Researcher Allen Barton, a professor in human development and family studies at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign who led the study, said: “Even if the couple’s negative communication increased – provided they still felt appreciated by their partner – their relationship quality did not decline as much over time.

“That becomes really important because not every couple is going to be great at communication, particularly when things get heated or intense, or hit a home run with resolving conflicts.”

During the course of the study, couples were asked three times how much they argued and how they resolved any conflict. They were also quizzed on the gratitude they expressed towards their partner and their perceived gratitude from their partner.

They were also asked to rate their satisfaction with their relationship, how stable they felt the relationship was, and how confident they felt in their future as a couple.

Professor Barton’s latest research follows an earlier study of his, which looked at the effects of financial strain on marriages. That study, however, only looked at perceived gratitude and its participants were mainly white, highly educated couples.

In this latest study, Professor Barton wanted to examine a different demographic.

Another key finding was that the ‘protective’ effect of gratitude not only benefitted couples in the short term, but in the longer term too.

Read the full study in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.

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