Prevention
By Emily Gertz, Prevention

3 Ways To Love Him Even More

Simple steps to reconnect


3 Ways To Love Him Even More

Does sleeping badly affect our romantic relationships? That the answer is "yes" may not surprise you, but the reason why isn't quite as obvious.

In a series of new studies from the University of California, psychologists found that sleep deprivation reduces feelings of gratitude--making people less thankful for their partners, no matter how wonderful they are. And the link extends beyond relationship well-being: People who experience gratitude tend to have happier, healthier lives overall, and are more likely to help others.

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Where relationships are concerned, "it can become easy to forget everything the other person does for us," says the lead author of these studies, Amie Gordon, a PhD candidate in social-personality psychology at UC Berkeley. Unfortunately, our society isn't structured in a way that lets people meet their sleep needs, says Gordon, despite the fact that basic biological needs like sleep and hunger play roles that we don't realize in the quality of our relationships.

So just how big of a role does sleep--or a lack thereof--play in making people appreciate their significant others? In Gordon's most recent study, involving around 70 couples, participants supplied info on their own sleep habits, and answered questions measuring their feelings of gratitude in their relationship, such as whether they noticed nice things their partner did for them, and whether they felt a sense of "awe" towards that person. The results: "People are most grateful when both are good sleepers," Gordon says. "Both get a boost." But if one partner slept less well, the other partner felt less gratitude toward him or her, Gordon says. The people who themselves slept poorly, in turn, picked up on that lack of gratitude and felt less appreciated by their partners.

Sure, it isn't always possible to get more or better sleep, but Gordon believes her findings can help time-starved people improve their relationships--namely by helping them cultivate an awareness of how sleep can subtly impact their partnerships. If you've been low on rest lately, acknowledge that you might also feel less satisfied in your relationship, Gordon advises. "Be prepared to ride that out and don't take it to heart if you're feeling down," she says. And if there was ever a reason to bump sleep up on your list of priorities, this is it.

Also consider incorporating these three quick and easy fixes into your daily routine to bring you even closer--no extra rest required:

Ask this single question. "How was your day?" It sounds cliché, but if this nightly ritual has fallen off your radar, consider bringing it back. Sharing this little chat, even for five minutes before bed, can improve your relationship, says psychologist Angela Hicks, PhD, of Westminster University. She's found that couples who discuss recent positive events with each other feel happier the next day, with increased feelings of intimacy and connection to their partners.

Pay one compliment a day. In the long run, small gestures mean the most, according to one recent study. The research, which followed 373 married couples, found that those who offered regular affective affirmations were happiest. "Give compliments...and use subtle gestures like handholding," study author Terri Orbuch, PhD, author of 5 Simple Steps to Take Your Marriage from Good to Great , told our colleagues at Men's Health. "It shows your partner that you notice them and you don't take them for granted."

Have a laugh. Exhausted as you are, that time he spilled chocolate sauce all over the dog still makes you giggle. Indeed, recent research shows that couples who recall shared laughs are most satisfied with their relationships. "When people laugh at the same thing, they validate each other's opinions," says lead author Doris Bazzini, PhD. "And inside jokes or pet names--things others just don't 'get'--strengthen ties between couples."
 

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