Can prayer improve your marriage?

by Rebecca Israel, MS

July 21, 2020

  • Spouses who practice prayer, specifically prayers of gratitude, report greater marriage satisfaction.

  • There is evidence to suggest that prayer can increase feelings of gratitude.

  • Practicing gratitude can improve both relationship and personal well-being.

marriage and prayer title

Prayer and Marriage Satisfaction: Prayers of gratitude for relationship and personal well-being

Marriage is hard work. There is an entire industry dedicated to helping couples navigate through the ups and downs of marriage. An endless supply of books on marriage is for sale at Barnes and Noble. Some psychologists spend their entire carrier studying marriage and family therapy.

Marriage counseling is also available at religious centers. For individuals who are religious, prayer can play a large role in many aspects of their lives. Prayer itself may not mend a marriage, but there is an evidence-based association between prayer and marriage satisfaction.

Prayer and marriage satisfaction

Source: Generalized gratitude and prayers of gratitude in marriage

A recent study explored the association between prayer and marriage satisfaction. Researchers recruited 95 healthy couples who had been married for at least a year. Each couple visited the laboratory to fill out surveys and participate in a discussion where physiological responses were recorded. Specifically, researchers measured their level of gratitude, the extent to which they expressed gratitude, and their religiousness.

Spouses who practiced prayer, especially prayers of gratitude, had higher marriage satisfaction.

Spouses who practiced prayers of gratitude were more likely to report greater marital satisfaction. Significant actor effects were obtained for prayers of gratitude in both husbands and wives (p < .01).

Results showed that spouses who practiced prayer, especially prayers of gratitude, had higher marriage satisfaction. Interestingly, in heterosexual couples, the husband’s marriage satisfaction increased when the wife practiced prayers of gratitude for her husband. This indicates that prayers of gratitude can potentially improve an individual's perception of the marriage as well as the spouses perception.

Prayers, gratitude, and specific aspects of marriage satisfaction

participants assigned to express gratitude reported higher comfort voicing concerns and more positive perception of partner than did control participants

Spouses who express gratitude report higher comfort in voicing concerns and a more positive perception of their partner. Positive perception of partner (F[3, 68]: 5.00, p<0.00), and comfort in voicing relationship concerns (F[3, 68]: 4.29, p<0.01) were significantly associated with frequency of expressed gratitude.

Source: Expressing gratitude to a partner leads to more relationship maintenance behavior

Prayers of gratitude are associated with marital satisfaction, but how? Researchers measured specific aspects of marriage satisfaction that might be impacted by gratitude practices. They found significant relationships between gratitude, positive perception of partner, and comfort in voicing relationship concerns. Similar studies have also associated gratitude practices with relationship commitment, responsiveness, and maintenance. In other words, gratitude can strengthen principal values and behaviors in a relationship.

Gratitude and well-being

If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you going to love somebody else?

RuPaul

Personal well-being is an important predictor of relationship satisfaction. Individuals who struggle with physical, mental, or emotional distress may not have the time or headspace to devote to a marriage. Health-related distress is often a roadblock for couples trying to get on the same page. Luckily, gratitude practices can support personal well-being as well as marriage satisfaction.

Gratitude is a predictor of personal and relationship well being

Practicing gratitude can improve anxiety and depression, optimism, and blood pressure. Participants who practiced gratitude recorded changes in anxiety and depression scores (−1.8, CI −3.3 to −0.4), optimism scores (1.8. CI 1.0 to 2.6), and diastolic blood pressure (−1.2, CI −3.1 to −0.4).

Source: The impact of a brief gratitude intervention on subjective well-being, biology, and sleep

Extensive research has been conducted on the healing powers of gratitude. Improvements in these areas of personal well-being can allow for greater marriage satisfaction. Based on the diversity of the research, gratitude can positively affect couples of all ages, races, and sexual orientations. Gratitude is not exclusive to religious persons. Prayer is one of the many tools for expressing gratitude to a partner. Regardless of the method, any form of gratitude can contribute to better life and marriage satisfaction.

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