Just a simple “thank you”—said sincerely and regularly—can keep your partner happy and your relationship healthy. In fact, how often you express gratitude to each other can even determine how long you’ll stay together.

That’s the news from University of Georgia researchers who surveyed 468 married individuals and found that spouses who felt appreciated were more respectful toward each other and better at working through relationship difficulties.

Saying “thank you” was especially helpful during tough times—such as when couples were having money difficulties—the study found, because it helped them avoid the feelings of anger, unhappiness, and withdrawal that
so often lead to breakups.

“Every couple has challenging times and disagrees on issues,” says study author Allen Barton, Ph.D. “The negative effects come from how you handle them. Saying ‘thank you,’ making sure your partner feels appreciated, and keeping a sense of humor can reduce the negatives and help make a partnership thrive.”

Tell her about it.

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