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The influence of a couple gratitude intervention on emotions, intimacy, and satisfaction in the relationship

Kenneth J Parnell, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Researchers have suggested that gratitude is essential in successful romantic relationships (e.g. Algoe, Gable, & Maisel, 2010; Gordon, Arnette, & Smith, 2011; Kubacka, Finkenauer, Rusbult, & Keijers, 2011). Algoe (2012) proposed that the broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions explain how gratitude contributes to a relationship that is resilient and growing. This study tests if participating in a gratitude exercise with a romantic partner decreases negative emotion, increases positive emotion, relationship satisfaction, and intimacy. Individuals who experience gratitude receive many benefits, including increased meaning in life, optimism, happiness, as well as greater connection to others (Emmons & Crumpler, 2000; Emmons & McCllough, 2003; McCullough, Tang & Emmons, 2004; Watkins, Cruz, Holben, & Koltz, 2008). Additionally, individuals who experience more gratitude have been found to better cope with stressful circumstances (Lyubomirsky, Sheldon, & Schkade, 2005) and were more likely to make progress on important goals (Emmons & McCllough, 2003). Gratitude interventions have even been shown to decrease depression (Seligman, Steen, and Peterson, 2005). However, research on gratitude in the complex dynamics of committed relationships is still relatively thin or completely absent. Multiple theorists and researchers citing the benefits of gratitude have proposed gratitude interventions for couples (Conoley & Conoley, 2009; Magyar-Moe, 2009); however, gratitude interventions for couples have not been empirically tested. The proposed study aims to contribute to the small body of existing literature by confirming that gratitude improves the quality of intimate relationships by using an experimental design. Participants included 44 heterosexual couples. Results indicated that participation in a gratitude exercise did decrease negative emotion, and increased positive emotion, and relationship satisfaction.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Parnell, Kenneth J, "The influence of a couple gratitude intervention on emotions, intimacy, and satisfaction in the relationship" (2015). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3712798.