In longterm relationships, it can sometimes seem like the gratitude between the people involved runs thin. Amid the rigors of daily life, it’s easy to take someone else’s favours or generosity for granted. Making dinner most nights, making the bed every morning, cleaning the floors, or scheduling doctors’ appointments for kids are: all are necessary acts that can feel routine, even if they merit real displays of gratitude.
If simply saying “thank you” seems like an obligation that will ring hallow to your partner, consider a thank-you note instead. Finding an unexpected note of praise — whether slipped under your pillow or in another sly, strategic place — can do wonders for your interpersonal rapport, especially if one partner has been feeling especially unsung of late.
Gratitude is good for your mental health
Feeling like your hard work has gone unnoticed can breed resentment. But when gratitude is expressed — even for seemingly minor deeds — the opposite occurs, creating a mutual state of happiness for both people involved. Sara B. Algoe, a social psychologist at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, has studied the effect of displaying gratitude in romantic and platonic relationships.
Speaking to Live Happy in 2017, Algoe outlined a relatable scenario for anyone in a committed relationship. She explained, hypothetically, that if someone’s wife (or any partner) “did something nice for [her husband], just because she wanted to,” and then the husband reciprocated by recognising her act of kindness, “two people win for one person’s gratitude.” The husband feels recognised for his contributions, while the wife, who went out of her way to express graciousness for the fun of it, has imbued her relationship with a touch of positivity — which can go a long way.
Years of research has shown that regular expressions of gratitude improve mental well-being overall, particularly helping people get better sleep and lead more energetic lives. And while more research is necessary to determine whether gratitude can pose benefits for physical health, there are indications that it can. As Jeff Human, associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, explained to UC Berkeley in 2018:
Gratitude…can be an incredibly powerful and invigorating experience. There is growing evidence that being grateful may not only bring good feelings. It could lead to better health.
Thank-you notes are a fantastic surprise
Gratitude is even better when it comes by way of a surprise. I personally like the idea of leaving a thank-you note underneath your partner’s pillow, in their dresser drawer, or in some other unlikely place. Especially if your partner has had a bad day, happening upon a few effusive words can only brighten their mood.
It doesn’t necessarily matter how you phrase your thank you — though this hang-up is what holds most people back from more often expressing thanks when it’s deserved. Don’t worry so much about that; the very act of expressing thanks is what matters most. Writing for Fast Company in 2019, Lydia Dishman paraphrased the findings of a 2018 study published in the journal Psychological Science, clarifying that it isn’t so much the content of a thank-you note, but the gesture itself that matters:
Finding the right words shouldn’t be a problem, researchers say, as long as the expression is authentic. They also found that those who wrote the gratitude letters consistently reported being in more positive spirits, which underscores the existing research on the mood-enhancing effects of expressing thanks.
The power of this gesture applies to corporate settings, romantic relationships, and friendships, too. Given the minimal effort it takes to write a thank-you note and the massive benefits they can spark, it’s a good habit to pick up. (No need to thank me for suggesting it.)