Gratitude is for Lovers
By Amie M. Gordon
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What is the Science?

Research shows that the virtue of gratitude can become a sustaining force between romantic partners. Why? Because gratitude is a reciprocating practice. Researchers find that gratitude between partners should involve remembering the best traits of the other, recalling why the relationship was formed in the first place, and reflecting deeply on the identity of one’s partner. Gratitude, therefore, should be expressed not only for the actions of another, but for who they are as a person.

What is the Theology?

Scripture often confronts us with the importance of gratitude in sustaining relationships. Christian communities, including husbands and wives, are often admonished to give thanks to one another (Eph. 5). Jesus also encourages his disciples to practice loving gratitude amongst themselves (Jn. 13:12-20, 34-35). In the Epistles, Paul often greets and encourages communities by first remembering his gratitude for them (Col. 1:1-12; Phil. 1:4). In the Old Testament, Israel’s expression of gratitude to Yahweh is foundational to their covenantal relationship  (Lev. 7:12-15). Finally, the Psalms demonstrate well the practice of gratitude for the actions and character of God (Ps. 30). Sermons might consider these scriptural themes while carefully reflecting on the importance of gratitude in sustaining relationships, in general, and marriages, in particular.

“Take some time to reflect on your relationship and promote your own feelings of gratitude. These feelings can help you focus on boosting your own positive feelings about your relationship—and down the line, you may find yourself feeling more appreciated in turn.” –  Amie M. Gordon

What to Consider

  • How have you witnessed gratitude as a sustaining force in your relationship with God, with your family, with your community, or with your spouse?
  • Consider what different ways you can express gratitude to a specific person in your life, not necessarily for what they do, but for who they are.
  • How do you understand the importance of memory or remembering in the practice of sustaining relationships through gratitude?
  • How do you express gratitude to your romantic partner? How does your romantic partner express gratitude to you? Where does your relationship have room to grow in its practice of gratitude?

How to go Deeper

  • Carefully consider how gratitude might serve as a sustaining force in your own ministry. Seek your own sustainment by making a list of events and persons for which you are thankful, updating your Rule or Life to include practices of gratitude, or commit to praying The Examen.
  • Have parishioners consider a person or group for whom they are especially thankful. Ask parishioners to write gratitude letters and encourage them to personally deliver their letter in the coming week.
  • Host a Gratitude Potluck event at your church. Center the event on the theme of gratitude and provide space for testimonials and storytelling about sustaining gratitude.
  • Hold a relationship enrichment event to continue the conversation on gratitude and the sustainment of their relationships. Share this research on gratitude and conflict and encourage participants to express gratitude to each other regularly.

Relevant Scripture

All references in parenthesis refer to Lectionary readings. For more information on what the Lectionary is, please click here. For additional Lectionary resources click here.

By | 2017-02-17T19:45:01+00:00 October 21st, 2016|Gratitude, Research|6 Comments

About the Author:

Michael Wiltshire serves as an assistant pastor at Rose City Church in Pasadena, CA. He holds an M.Div from Fuller Theological Seminary (2016) and a B.S. from Cornerstone University, double majoring in Biblical Studies and Youth Ministry. While studying at Fuller Theological Seminary, he co-led the Fuller Faith and Science student group and worked in residential community. Michael is passionate about pastoral care, and is dedicated to exploring how preaching, practical theology, and organizational systems can empower churches to care well. A Michigander at heart, Michael enjoys cloudy weather and the NBA.

6 Comments

  1. Weabz May 18, 2017 at 5:18 pm

    Interesting. But I have found the most sustaining part in my marriage, apart from Christ at the center which is the ONLY truly sustaining aspect of a healthy marriage, is humility and selflessness towards my wife. Humility is the root of it all, you can’t even be truly grateful without it. .

  2. JarrodCraw May 26, 2017 at 11:43 am

    I know some couples that have kept a little box of memories of the things that they’ve done over the past year. Towards the end of each year, they take time to read and remember. Perhaps this idea could be adapted with this sense of gratitude: have a weekly/monthly box with notes about why you appreciate one another.

  3. aidenkang June 6, 2017 at 3:43 pm

    Seems kind of obvious – If you’re grateful for your spouse, you won’t practice what Dr. John Gottman terms the four horsemen of divorce/separation predictors: criticism, defensiveness, contempt, & stonewalling.

  4. marymact@gmail.com August 11, 2017 at 12:40 pm

    I’ve definitely heard that in a relationship it’s important to always show someone when you’re grateful for something they’ve done, but I really like this idea that you want to show the other person you are grateful for who they are– not just the kind things they do.

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