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McNulty, J. K., & Dugas, A. (2019). A dyadic perspective on gratitude sheds light on both its benefits and its costs: Evidence that low gratitude acts as a “weak link”. Journal of Family Psychology, 33(7), 876–881. https://doi.org/10.1037/fam0000533
Research suggests gratitude benefits close relationships.
However, relationships involve 2 people, and the interpersonal implications of mismatches in gratitude remain unclear. Is it sufficient for 1 partner to be high in gratitude, or does low gratitude in at least 1 partner act as a “weak link” that disrupts both partners’ relational well-being?
We asked both members of 120 newlywed couples to report their tendencies to feel and express gratitude for their partner every year for 2 years and their marital satisfaction every 4 months for 3 years.
Initial levels of own and partner gratitude interacted to predict initial levels of marital satisfaction and changes in marital satisfaction over time.
Although own and partner gratitude were associated with higher levels of initial marital satisfaction when both spouses were high in gratitude, own and partner gratitude were unassociated with initial satisfaction if either spouse was low in gratitude.
Further, gratitude was associated with more stable marital satisfaction when both partners were high in gratitude, partner gratitude was unassociated with changes in satisfaction when own gratitude was low and own gratitude was associated with steeper declines in satisfaction when partner gratitude was low. In fact, although initial gratitude was positively associated with marital satisfaction 3 years later if both spouses were high in gratitude, own initial gratitude was negatively associated with later satisfaction when partner gratitude was relatively low.
These findings suggest low gratitude in one partner acts as a weak link that is sufficient to disrupt both partners’ relationship satisfaction. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)