The University of Georgia recently conducted a study to find the essential ingredients for successful marriage. The study, published in the journal of Personal Relationships, discovered one primary factor in marriages that were healthy and happy. In every case, those marriages included gratitude. According to their findings, gratitude was the “most consistent significant predictor” of a happy marriage.
Allen Barton, lead author of the study, said, “It goes to show the power of ‘thank you.’” Associate professor and study co-author Ted Futris stated, “Feeling appreciated and believing that your spouse values you directly influences how you feel about your marriage, how committed you are to it, and your belief that it will last.”
Each bride and groom stands at the marriage altar beaming with gratitude for the “love of their life.” And, it is easy to remain thankful for each other as long as things go well.
But all married couples will face difficult demands. Hard times will come. Many will experience financial stress, competing demands from in-laws, professional pressure from their jobs, exhausting schedules that leave little time for rest. Most will experience the stress of parenting: sleepless nights with newborns, the constant attention required by preschoolers and the complicated schedules of school, sports and activities as children grow.
It is especially during these stressful periods of life that gratitude matters. Many marriages crumble under the pressure, choosing to play the “blame-game”, creating a downward spiral that ends in disaster. Others choose gratitude, building one another up with appreciation and thankfulness under trying circumstances. These marriages prosper and survive. According to Allen Barton, “Even if a couple is experiencing distress and difficulty in other areas, gratitude in the relationship can help promote positive marital outcomes."
What Barton and Futris found regarding marriage can also apply to the family. Strong families are created when parents express gratitude to their children and children are grateful to their parents. Gratitude in the family starts with the marriage. Children learn to be grateful by watching their parents.
Nothing cultivates a heart of gratitude better than faith in Christ. When we experience God’s love in Christ, we become more thankful for others. In Colossians, the Apostle Paul writes, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” (Colossians 3:15).
And again, “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. (Colossians 2:6-7). “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
We all enjoy being around people who are grateful and thankful. They cheer us up. They give us energy. They encourage us. List the aspects of your spouse for which you are genuinely thankful and express your gratitude. Cultivate a heart of faith that is genuinely grateful in all circumstances.