A survey conducted by researchers with the University of Georgia concluded that thankfulness is a key to success in a marriage relationship.
They even suggested that thankfulness will actually protect a marriage from divorce.
The researchers gathered this information through a telephone survey of 468 married people. They quizzed them in several areas including financial, feelings of gratitude and communication.
They discovered that gratitude or thankfulness was the most important indicator of the quality of the marriage, even exceeding good communication.
They found that during times of marital conflicts involving fighting and other forms of negative communication that expressions of thankfulness can counteract these feelings.
Speaking on behalf of the group, Allen Barton, a postdoctoral research associate at the university’s Center for Family Research, said:
“It goes to show the power of ‘thank you.’ Even if a couple is experiencing distress and difficulty in other area, gratitude in a relationship can help promote positive marital outcomes.”
The researchers found that financial stress in particular can lead to criticism or nagging which can cause the other spouse to withdraw.
Associate professor Ted Futris at the College of Family and Consumer services said:
“When couples are stressed about making ends meet, they are more likely to engage in negative ways — they are more critical of each other and defensive, and they can even stop engaging or withdraw from each other, which can then lead to lower marital quality.”
They noted that particularly during times of stress people will argue and expressions of gratitude about their spouses can “interrupt” these cycles.
The Apostle Paul recognized that thankfulness was key to dealing with stress and worry. He wrote to the Philippians:
6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (Philippians 4:6 NASV)
Paul says that thanksgiving is the antidote to worry.
In the Old Testament, God initiated an unusual sacrifice. It was not a sacrifice for forgiveness of sin, but rather one instituted to simply show thanksgiving.
Involving unleavened cakes or bread, it was referred to as both a peace-offering and sacrifice of thanksgiving (Leviticus 7:11-13). At one point, it was called it a “peace offerings for thanksgiving” revealing the intimate connection between peace and thanksgiving.
A person had to purposefully make a cake for this sacrifice. Moses even provided the recipe — flour mixed with oil — perhaps a hint that the Holy Spirit is willing to help as the oil was often a symbol of the Holy Spirit (Isaiah 61:1).
Thankfulness is work. It is not something that just spontaneously happens. Like the cake, you have to create an attitude of thankfulness.
Once you have done this, the Psalmist writes:
“Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving
And pay your vows to the Most High; (Psalms 50:14 NASV)
In the midst of stress or marital difficulty, we need to make a “sacrifice of thanksgiving.” It won’t be easy especially with conflicting negative emotions.
It may simply involve listing three things that you are thankful for about your spouse. Write them down or offer them in prayer and make that your “sacrifice of thanksgiving.”
- The power of thank you: UGA research links gratitude to positive marital outcomes: University of Georgia