The research, which appears in the Journal of Family Psychology, shows that men’s and women’s ability to tell when the other is happy or upset is closely linked to relationship satisfaction, but in markedly different ways. The study analysed 156 heterosexual couples from a diverse range of backgrounds, and involved each participant describing a frustrating, disappointing or upsetting incident which they’d encountered with their partner. They then talked the issue out with their partner, and later rated emotions on a positive-to-negative scale and filled in a questionnaire about their relationship satisfaction.
The researchers used the mass of data to ascertain what bearing empathy and mood had on the success of relationships. It turns outs that women are far, far happier in relationships when men can work out when they were unhappy. Not just that, though: women are actually happier in relationships at points in time when their partner knows they are currently miserable.
Sadly, the findings for men were nowhere near as complex. Men are happier in their relationship when their partner is happier. Surprise, surprise. Shiri Cohen, one of the researchers, explained to Science Daily:
“It could be that for women, seeing that their male partner is upset reflects some degree of the man’s investment and emotional engagement in the relationship, even during difficult times. This is consistent with what is known about the dissatisfaction women often experience when their male partner becomes emotionally withdrawn and disengaged in response to conflict.”
Image: Alyssa L. Miller