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This week I’m super excited to have a guest post from Daniel and Jay from The Bro Journal, they’re here to tell you why it’s so important to get your (male) partner onboard with gratitude journaling and how it can have such a awesome impact on your relationship!
Without further ado, take it away guys…
Full disclosure: As a man, I never used to be a fan of writing.
It’s probably due to my English teachers forcing 500-word essays about two-hundred-year-old novels down my throat.
But, in my mid-20s, I began to see a lull in my life. The busyness of childhood diminished, and I was stagnating with no direction, purpose, or development.
Even though I had just gotten married, I wasn’t the husband I wanted to be. Intruding thoughts and peculiar emotions flooded my brain, leaving it difficult to work on myself, let alone my relationship.
Luckily, I was able to recognize these issues and take action. I asked a good friend for advice, and he suggested a gratitude journal. I finally picked up a pen and began to write.
For lack of a better phrase, it was life-changing.
By organizing my emotions and observing my racing thoughts as a passenger – rather than a driver – I was able to gain a bit of clarity. My relationship with my wife improved and continues to grow to this day.
I honestly wish someone would have told me about the power of keeping a gratitude journal years ago.
So, if your partner is stubborn (like I used to be), here’s a challenge: persuade them to start a gratitude journal. I’ll walk you through ten reasons why keeping a gratitude journal will help improve your relationship with your partner, and you can do the rest. Also, I’ll provide some resources for you to get started!
1 – They Will Be More Appreciative
Gratitude is about being thankful for the things we have and understanding their importance in our lives. The act of expressing thanks cements the idea that the world isn’t as crappy as it appears. It allows us to appreciate the righteousness of others.
It doesn’t have to be all big things either.
In my journal, I’ve expressed gratitude towards some of the most bizarre things: the lo-fi hip-hop Youtube channel, the whiteboard on my fridge, and even the Extra-Strength Tylenol awaiting patiently on my nightstand after a night of bar-hopping.
By learning to give thanks for the little things in life, we begin to give thanks for the little things that others do for us.
When your partner starts a gratitude journal, you’ll begin to notice how often they say thank you, and how their eyes light up when you send them a meme despite being in the same room. They’ll begin to compliment you more and appreciate you for who you are and who you aspire to be.
2 – Their Growth Will Be Your Growth
If you’re familiar with the psychologist Dr. Maslow, you’ll know that the tip of our hierarchy of needs is self-actualization. This concept is about striving to become the best version of yourself. For your partner to accomplish this, they need a clear vision toward their goals.
Unfortunately, their vision may often get lost. Your partner may lack inspiration, motivation, and so many other elements needed to reach their full potential. That’s why developing, planning, and recording their personal development is essential with gratitude journaling.
The more they begin to understand their journey, the more they will start to accept your journey. While you both grow individually, you’ll also grow together.
You’ve probably heard it time and time again as happy couples explain their secret to success: “We just bring out the best in each other.” As much as that cliche stabs my ears, I’ve got to admit, it’s kind of true.
3 – Their Memory Will Improve
Scientists believe that information remains in our short-term memory for about 20-30 seconds and has a limited capacity. That’s why your partner is continually asking you if you’ve seen their phone.
Keeping a journal, however, will allow your loved one to improve their memory through the process of repetition. As they reflect on their day and record noteworthy events, their brain begins to transfer that information into the working and long-term memory, which has a much broader capacity.
Researchers have found that couples with a higher working memory capacity tend to have more effective communication. This is due to the ability to remember each other’s specific statements during an argument and retaining that information. These high-memory couples even showed a substantial decline in the severity of their disputes over time.
Also, it doesn’t hurt that your partner won’t forget your mom’s birthday for the third year in a row.
4 – They Will Gain Empathy
The act of writing down our thoughts shifts our perspective. Our thoughts become physical words that can’t be twisted like a mental pretzel; they’re in front of us like a book.
Taking the perspective of an observer tends to breed empathy. We learn to face our feelings head-on, empathizing with ourselves, which provides the blueprint to do the same with others.
Still, this concept can be tough to grasp, especially for those who are not fully in-tune with their emotions.
The key for both of you is to feel *with* each other, not *for* each other.
Also, many of us relate empathy to negative situations as we help others work through their struggles. But, there is a whole flip side to this emotion that often goes overlooked and is vital within relationships: positive empathy.
Honestly, there’s nothing worse than getting excited and having your partner respond with unapologetic apathy. Instead, with positive empathy, your partner feels happy with you. They match your excitement, whether it’s the joy of getting that big promotion or the satisfaction of finally finding that perfect dress, which also has pockets!
Positive empathy allows you to share each other’s victories.
5 – They Will Become More Emotionally Available
If romantic comedies have taught me anything, other than making out in the rain heals all wounds, it’s that men are stereotyped as emotionally unavailable.
In general, those who are emotionally unavailable tend to have a hard time dealing with troubling emotions. Rather than deal with the painful feelings at hand, they cower away, hoping these feelings will recede on their own.
Unfortunately, emotional unavailability is a reason that many relationships fail, and not only for the reasons you think. It’s both the cause and the effect.
Many times the root cause of emotional unavailability is anxiety about issues within the relationship. People just hope these feelings diminish without acknowledging them, and eventually, the relationship drags on for months while minor issues transform into major ones.
With journaling, both you and your partner will be able to confront these anxieties and learn to deal with them proactively. In our heads, these anxieties are foreign, new and we couldn’t be bothered with them at the time. On paper, we can organize these emotions, work on them, and clear out some space in your head to achieve a deeper emotional connection.
6 – Their Communication Will Improve
The mother of all relationship killers: poor communication.
It’s always a misunderstanding that snowballs into a harsh truth about something unrelated. One misinterpreted text may snowball into a two-hour exchange about affection.
Why can’t we communicate effectively with each other? There’s tons of research out there about listening, tone, and non-verbal cues, but the root of effective communication runs deeper: mental clarity.
Imagine the human mind like a dresser drawer: the more items you stuff in there, the harder it is to open up. If it’s jam-packed, your bra wiring gets snagged on the runner, and your drawer will barely open up at all.
We all have a specific mental capacity: for thoughts, emotions, feelings, etc. The more that’s stuffed in there, the less we have to devote to others.
Effective communication is about opening up your mind to another person; fully understand what they are thinking, saying, and doing.
Keeping a journal will allow your partner to dump out some of the junk that’s piled up in their drawer, leaving more room to share intimacy and build companionship.
If you (or your partner) need a concrete example of how to communicate effectively outside of journaling, I suggest the acronym LUVER: listen, understand, validate, empathize, repeat.
- Listen – Make eye contact with your partner and focus all your attention on them.
- Understand – Verbalize your understanding of your partner’s statement so that you two are on the same page.
- Validate – Reassure your partner that their emotions and experiences are their own, and it’s a judgment-free zone.
- Empathize – Feel their emotions with them. Put yourself in their shoes.
- Repeat – Go back to the top. As the great Brian McKnight once said: “If ever I believe my work is done, then I’ll start back at one.”
7 – Their Gratitude Will Breed Positivity
The more we give thanks to others, the happier we become. I mean, that’s the point of keeping a gratitude journal in the first place. But, that’s not only an abstract assessment; it’s backed by science.
Researchers have conducted a study where three groups of participants were instructed to write a few sentences per week in a journal: one group wrote about grateful events, another wrote about stressful events, and the third wrote about neutral events. After ten weeks, the grateful group was far more optimistic, satisfied, and they even began to exercise more. Their gratitude transformed to positivity.
Even further, psychologist James K. McNulty has noted that both partners need to show gratitude to have a positive relationship. Marriages, where the gratitude was one-sided, tended to fail faster than those marriages in which both partners expressed equal gratitude.
So, no matter how grateful you are toward your partner, your relationship will only thrive if you match each other’s level of gratitude. Sounds weird, right? But, it’s science, so we’ve got to trust it.
8 – Their Intentions Will Be Clear
At some point in your relationship, you’ve silently thought about your partner, “why do you do the thing that you do?”
Seriously, my wife is the cleanest person I know, but for some reason, she leaves chewed gum on random surfaces in our house. After six years, I still have no clue why. I’ve even asked her about it, and she genuinely couldn’t answer.
As odd as it sounds, the moral here is that not everyone understands their “why.” Not their “why” in life (or else they would have reached enlightenment), but their “why” for their everyday actions.
There’s a great journaling exercise called the “five whys” in which problems are broken down five times until the intended cause of the issue is discovered. When we truly understand the root cause of our intentions, we tend to shift our energy towards the things that matter most.
Living intentionally isn’t just about pet peeves like scraping my wife’s gum off the counter (still baffles me to this day), but it goes deeper into negative habits that affect our relationships. For example, if your partner smokes, they may realize that they’re smoking intentionally to relieve stress. If that stress is resolved elsewhere, they may finally be able to kick the habit.
As a couple, the more your relationship is built on intentional choices, the more you will grow closer and learn more about each other.
9 – Their Self-Confidence Will Soar
Let’s look at how we process our emotions. There are tons of theories on the specifics, but the basics hold true: we perceive, feel, think, and act, in that order.
For example, if you hear your stomach growl, you feel hungry, think “I should eat,” then you scroll through GrubHub until you select that Thai place that you were always going to choose from the start.
But all too often, we get stuck in a negative feedback loop between our feelings and our thoughts. We let our thoughts influence our feelings, and vice versa, until finally that awkward encounter with the Marshall’s cashier spirals into a full-blown social anxiety disorder.
This is precisely where self-confidence, or lack thereof, is created.
Reality will puncture small holes in our mental armor, but our negative feedback loop mutates them into fatal ego wounds.
Journaling will give your partner an outlet to escape the negative feedback loop. It will clarify their actions and help them deal with unfavorable thoughts; their self-esteem will soar.
Your partner’s self-esteem will then flow into every aspect of your life together. As they begin to trust themselves and deal with their insecurities, they will start to accept yours.
Also, both men and women rate confidence as one of the sexiest qualities in a mate. Just a minor, yet beautiful, side-effect.
10 – Their Stress Will Dissipate
Individual stressors sneak their way into the well-being of a relationship like that guy at the party that nobody knows. Did you invite him because I didn’t?
Stress makes us preoccupied and closed-off, leaving little room for connection. It drains our focus until the flood gates open, and suddenly, leaving a towel on the floor turns into an expletive-ridden argument about responsibility. Honestly, stress makes everyone uglier.
If your partner seems to have a lot on their shoulders or is making mountains out of molehills, they may need a healthy outlet for their stress. That’s where the gratitude journal comes in.
As your partner expresses their gratitude, they will realign their focus on the positives in their lives, rather than the stress-inducing negatives. They will also become resilient toward stressful situations by creating their personal playbook of effective coping mechanisms. Their brains shift from rumination to action.
Now that you both can productively manage your stress, it’s time to cuddle up, binge-watch Netflix and chill (wink wink)!
How To Get Your Partner Started With a Gratitude Journal
Once I got started with my gratitude journal journey, I wanted to share this secret with everyone.
But unfortunately, as a man, there is still a stigma about expressing our emotions. Just look up gratitude journals online; all you’ll see are flower-clad covers and pastel colors, mainly geared toward women.
These factors alone may deter any manly man away from the world of journaling, but it shouldn’t. All they need is a notebook, pen, and a few minutes a day.
If your partner is serious about getting started on a path towards self-development, I highly suggest looking into The Bro Journal.
I mean, I wrote the thing, but it’s not what you think.
I genuinely believe in the power of this guided mindfulness and gratitude journal as it’s crafted for those that want to better themselves and better their relationships with others. If you’re still unsure, I don’t mind if you give the journal a free seven-day test run so that you can truly understand the benefits that it will provide.
In the spirit of gratitude, I want to thank you all for reading this, because it’s people like you that will bring kindness and positivity to our world.
A massive thank you Daniel and Jay!
And as a quick side note, you can also grab The Bro Journal on Amazon.
It looks fantastic and would make an amazing birthday or Christmas pressie!