Gratitude Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

Most individuals are appreciative of their mate’s accommodating, kind and considerate behaviors. They may thank their partner for the helpful deed or words and feel satisfied that they have appropriately affirmed the mate for his/her efforts. Though these socially gracious words are kind and polite they may be short of being fully expressive of one’s gratitude.

The Dictionary definition of gratitude is, “A warm and friendly appreciation of a kindness or a favor received.” This definition describes the practical and polite response by the recipient about the caring conduct. The use of this method, though certainly needed in love relationships, falls short of the deeper intimate impact when it fails to include the receiver’s rewarding emotional benefits earned by the performed kind deed.

A proper gratitude includes not only an appreciation for the acts performed but also describes the emotional impact it had on the receiver. For example, when a spouse helps the mate with chores, the recipient needs to state the practical benefit by saying, “I really appreciate your help with hanging the drapes. I would not have been able to do so by myself.” Then, ADD the emotional significance of this help by stating, “I feel so blessed to have such a capable, willing and helpful partner as you in my life.”

The benefit of expressing gratitude bestows kudos not only upon the “helper” but also enriches the person who expresses the gratitude. In the book “Thanks! How the new science of gratitude can make you happier,” R.A. Emmons and M.E. McCullough describe their research findings with subjects who were taught to cultivate appreciation for others. They found that “The gratitude group participants experienced fewer symptoms of physical illness than those in either of the other two groups and spent significantly more time exercising (nearly 1.5 hours more per week) than those in the hassled condition.

All people require ongoing validations for maintaining a solid sense of self-esteem. The healing effect to both giver and receiver of gratitude is measurable. When a negative verbal exchange is followed by validation or gratitude, both individuals’ self-esteem is re-balanced. Researcher C. Branigan and Associates found that “Positive emotions can undo the cardiovascular after effects of negative emotions.” The healing effect to both giver and receiver of gratitude is measurable.

Though gratitude does not consistently require the receiver to reveal his/her emotions, doing so with a positive affirmation creates deep emotional intimacy and physical wellbeing for both partners. Hearing a mate’s delight about one’s actions warms both partners’ hearts and creates greater satisfaction and emotional intimacy.

Use gratitude for emotional bonding:

  • Accept that all people relish being affirmed and valued throughout their lives.
  • Use words of gratitude to appreciate both the deeds and the essence of the doer.
  • Know that intimacy is heightened when both partners share gratitude for actions and value each other’s nature and attributes.
  • Respond to gratitude with sharing your pleasure about pleasing your mate and your enthusiasm about his/her wonderfulness.


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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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