It's the little things: Everyday gratitude as a booster shot for romantic relationships

Authors

  • SARA B. ALGOE,

    Corresponding author
    1. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
      Sara B. Algoe, Department of Psychology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Davie Hall, CB 3270, Chapel Hill, NC 27599, e-mail: algoe@unc.edu.
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    • Sara B. Algoe, Department of Psychology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Shelly L. Gable, Department of Psychology, University of California, Santa Barbara; Natalya C. Maisel, Department of Psychology, University of California, Los Angeles.

  • SHELLY L. GABLE,

    1. University of California, Santa Barbara
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    • Sara B. Algoe, Department of Psychology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Shelly L. Gable, Department of Psychology, University of California, Santa Barbara; Natalya C. Maisel, Department of Psychology, University of California, Los Angeles.

  • NATALYA C. MAISEL

    1. University of California, Los Angeles
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    • Sara B. Algoe, Department of Psychology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Shelly L. Gable, Department of Psychology, University of California, Santa Barbara; Natalya C. Maisel, Department of Psychology, University of California, Los Angeles.


  • This work was supported by a National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Postdoctoral Fellowship in Biobehavioral Issues in Physical and Mental Health (T32 MH15750) to the first author, CAREER Grant BCS 0444129 from the National Science Foundation to the second author, and the third author was supported by the UCLA/NSF Interdisciplinary Relationships Science Program. We appreciate the help of the team of research assistants who facilitated the data collection on this project, which included Melissa David, Randi Garcia, Grace Huang, Nicole Legate, Melody Madanipour, and Justine Nguyen. In addition, the first author is grateful for the chance to have several thought-provoking conversations with Margaret Clark about gratitude and communal relationships and would like to thank Barbara Fredrickson and members of her Positive Emotions and Psychophysiology Lab (aka PEPLab) at UNC for early feedback on this manuscript.

Sara B. Algoe, Department of Psychology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Davie Hall, CB 3270, Chapel Hill, NC 27599, e-mail: algoe@unc.edu.

Abstract

Gratitude and indebtedness are differently valenced emotional responses to benefits provided, which have implications for interpersonal processes. Drawing on a social functional model of emotions, we tested the roles of gratitude and indebtedness in romantic relationships with a daily-experience sampling of both members of cohabiting couples. As hypothesized, the receipt of thoughtful benefits predicted both gratitude and indebtedness. Men had more mixed emotional responses to benefit receipt than women. However, for both men and women, gratitude from interactions predicted increases in relationship connection and satisfaction the following day, for both recipient and benefactor. Although indebtedness may maintain external signals of relationship engagement, gratitude had uniquely predictive power in relationship promotion, perhaps acting as a booster shot for the relationship.

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