Red carpet power couple Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie just did the unthinkable: They aired their dirty designer laundry for all the world to see. Well, kinda.

Photo Credit: Merrick Morton

In By the Sea (out now), Jolie’s third directorial project and second on-screen reunion for the A-listers, she and Pitt play Vanessa and Roland, a married couple wallowing in ’70s French glamour, trying to drown their marital woes off the coast of a French seaside resort and rekindle their flame by spying on their lustful newlywed neighbors through a peep hole.

Of course, it’s all a bunch of fiction. But the film’s raw emotional yarn may just strike a personal note with millions who are feeling the hiccups of monogamy, be it marriage or otherwise. Thankfully, relationship experts at the University of Georgia have found a way to improve such woes. And it lies in two magical words.

by the sea

In a recent study, researchers surveyed 468 married people, posing questions about their finances, style of communication and expressions of gratitude. The results indicated the latter as being the most consistent predictor of marital equality — maybe even having a ripple effect, promoting positive outcomes in the future.

According to the study’s lead author, Allen Barton, who is the postdoctoral research associate at UGA’s Center for Family Research, the power of “thank you” goes a long way. That’s right, those two little words your parents and their constant “What do you say?” inquiry instilled in your childhood vocabulary just may be the secret to a happy union.

According to Ted Futris, the study’s co-author and associate professor in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences, “All couples have disagreements and argue. And when couples are stressed, they are likely to have more arguments. What distinguishes the marriages that last from those that don’t is not how often they argue, but how they argue and how they treat each other on a daily basis.”

Photo Credit: Universal Pictures

The study further suggests that a little spousal gratitude can act as a buffer to negative conflict when couples, who aren’t the best at talking things out, are at odds. Look at it this way: Feeling appreciated — especially in the heat of an argument — can prove way more beneficial for your relationship in the long-term than, say, the obligatory lovemaking that follows. Or in V and Ro’s case, the watching of someone else’s lovemaking.

Either way, just remember to say thank you when you’re done.

Feeling the love… or not? Let us know what works for you and yours in the comments below!

(Photos via Jolie Pas)