Small acts of kindness are one of the simplest ways to improve a relationship, psychological research finds.
Making a cup of coffee, being respectful, showing affection and being forgiving are easy ways to demonstrate generosity.
Partners who are generous to each other are less likely to argue, to divide housework fairly and to be more committed to each other.
Generous people are seen as more desirable partners.
Being generous also benefits the person being generous: it makes them feel more satisfied with the relationship.
The study analysed data from a US survey of almost 3,000 married couples aged 18 to 45.
They were asked about their marital conflict, the potential for divorce and the generosity of their partner.
The study’s authors explain the results:
“…spouses’ reports of generosity toward the participants were associated with participants’ reports of marital quality.
Specifically, spouses’ generosity was positively associated with participants’ reports of marital satisfaction and negatively associated with participants’ reports of conflict and subjective
Being generous benefited both partners, the study showed:
“We also found that participants’ reports of behaving in a generous fashion toward their spouse were linked to their own reports of marital quality.
The extension of generosity toward the spouse was positively related to their own reports of marital satisfaction and negatively associated with their own reports of conflict and subjective divorce likelihood.”
In fact, wives seem to get a particular benefit from being generous to their husbands, the study revealed:
“…wives reported lower levels of marital satisfaction when they also reported low levels of generosity toward their spouse.
These findings were robust to the inclusion of spousal
reports of generosity in the same model, and
they were present in all four types of analyses.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do