One of the challenges of a long-term relationship or marriage is recognizing whether you’re taking your partner for granted. A recent article in The Atlantic discusses the issue of “habituation,” which is the technical term for the diminished response to a person’s actions over time, and how it can contribute to problems within a marriage.
Here’s a simple example of habituation within a relationship. You might be delighted the first few times your partner empties the dishwasher without you asking, and you make sure to thank them every time. After a while, though, you may become used to it (or even expect it) and stop expressing gratitude for their small acts of kindness. This is merely human nature, as we tend to forget things in the frenzy and chaos of daily life, especially during this past year.
Allen Barton, assistant professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at the University of Illinois, told The Atlantic, “We tend to overestimate our efforts [in] a relationship and underestimate the amount of work our partner is contributing.” Barton is an expert on the subject, having done research on the link between improved marital quality and showing gratitude for your spouse.
Barton’s isn’t the only such research. A 2019 Hong Kong study netted similar results, revealing that in the 100 couples studied, “grateful disposition not only predicted one’s own grateful mood but also the perceived grateful mood of one’s spouse, both of which predicted marital satisfaction.” The authors did note, however, that spouses were able to perceive expressions of insincere gratitude, which resulted in a decline of marital satisfaction.
What does this mean for your marriage?
Quite a bit. When partners regularly show gratitude for each other, showing thanks for both the little and the big things, it can actually create a “protective effect,” according to The Atlantic. The article notes that Barton’s research uncovered that even if “couples struggle to communicate, their marital stability can be just as high as partners who navigate conflict well—as long as they maintain high levels of appreciation.”
One thing all of these studies show is that expressions of gratitude work in the reverse of harsh words and actions. Couples tend to spiral downward when feeling mutually unappreciated, which the Atlantic describes as a “race to the bottom.” When spouses build each other up, they can help each other build a “virtuous cycle” to keep the marriage strong.
It can be difficult for many spouses and couples, especially when having trouble communicating, to figure out how to do this on their own. That’s okay – showing appreciation and gratitude can be different for every marriage.
And, as the Atlantic further points out, gratitude isn’t a panacea for every marriage, saying, “It is important to recognize that severe relationship issues—such as serious emotional or physical abuse—can’t be papered over with superficial appreciation.”
What if gratitude isn’t enough?
That’s okay, too. If you and your spouse have grown apart, or have found you are having trouble communicating and expressing yourselves to each other, marriage counseling may be an option. Marriage counselors do not assign guilt or blame to either spouse, but simply facilitate communication between spouses and help improve conflict resolution skills.
You and your spouse may discover issues of which you were both unaware, and develop a plan to address those problems. In some cases, these issues may be minor and you may be able to overcome your conflicts together with the help of a counselor. Many couples benefit from this type of help and are able to move on and continue their marriage with a new outlook.
On the other hand, you and your spouse may decide it’s time to end your marriage. With the right family law attorney, however, this doesn’t have to be a stressful or intimidating experience. Here in Tennessee, you and your spouse can go through mediation to handle your divorce, which will keep you out of the courtroom and help you come to a mutually agreeable settlement.
How does divorce mediation work in Knoxville?
If you and your spouse have children, it’s likely the court will require you and your spouse to go through mediation anyway, so here’s a little more information. Your Knoxville divorce mediator can help you and your spouse settle important issues like:
In our experience, we find that couples who go through divorce mediation tend to find the process less stressful, less expensive, and allows more room for creative solutions. Although you aren’t required to have an attorney during this process, having a lawyer on your side ensures that any settlement you and your spouse negotiate is fair for you and your children, both now and in the future.
Typically, in order to reach that mutually agreeable settlement, you and your spouse will go through a process like the following:
- First, your attorney will draft a proposed Marital Dissolution Agreement.
- If you have kids, you’ll also need a proposed Parenting Plan.
- Then, your spouse can review with their attorney and make any counter-proposals.
- This can go back and forth until you reach your final divorce agreement.
Finally, if you and your spouse simply cannot come to a settlement that’s right for both of you, you may have to prepare for trial. An experienced Knoxville divorce attorney can protect your rights and ensure you go into the process feeling confident, safe, and knowledgeable.
Here at LaFevor & Slaughter, our family law attorneys understand that every marriage and every divorce is unique. We tailor our approach to every client in order to ensure the best possible outcome for your case. Let us help you represent your best interests today. Contact our Knoxville divorce lawyers by calling us at (865) 637-6258 to discuss your needs. You can also complete our online contact form.
Patrick Slaughter is an experienced Knoxville attorney passionate about helping families resolve legal issues including divorce, family law matters and immigration. Patrick graduated from Lincoln Memorial University – Duncan School of Law, summa cum laude and is a published author. Patrick is a member of the Knoxville Bar Association as well as the Tennessee Bar Association. Contact Patrick Slaughter at (865) 637-6258 or by filling out a case evaluation below.
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