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Women Feel Happier With Empathetic Partner


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By Margarita Nahapetyan

Women like it when their husbands or partners show emotions and talk about their troubles, suggests a new research by Harvard Medical School. In other words, according to the new findings, to keep their wives or girlfriends happy and satisfied, men just have to share their anger and frustration.

To come up with this conclusion, the research studied more than 150 heterosexual couples (102 younger and 54 older), all in committed long term relationships. Seventy-one per cent of couples were white, 56 per cent were married, and all of them had been living together for more than three-and-a-half years on average.

For the study purposes, all the participants were provided with tests in which they were asked to talk to each other about negative and traumatic events in their relationship and also to recall an incident with their partner over the past couple of months that had been frustrating, disappointing or upsetting. All that time the volunteers were wired up to electronic rating device that took brainwave readings which were detecting various feelings and emotions during the experiment. The device had a button that moved across an 11-point scale that ranged from "very negative" to "neutral" to "very positive."

After the conversations were over, six 30-second clips that had the highest rated negative or positive emotions by each participant, were selected from the recordings and played back to the couples. This time, they were asked to fill out questionnaires grading their negative and positive feelings during each clip as well as their perceptions of the emotions and feelings of their partner and effort to understand them during the conversation. The investigators also measured the couples' satisfaction with their relationships in general and whether each of them considered his or her partner's efforts to be empathetic.

The results revealed that men's and women's perceptions of their partner's empathy, and their abilities to realize when the other significant half is happy or not, are associated with relationship satisfaction in different ways. After carefully analyzing the data the researchers discovered that sometimes men were not able to tell whether their other half was happy or upset. In those relationships in which men could judge that their female partner was frustrated or angry, the women reported higher relationship satisfaction and content. In fact, even when a man did not get it a correct way, saying that a partner was satisfied when she was in reality upset, women reported high relationship satisfaction as long as they felt that he was trying to understand her feelings.

However, in contrast to the study's expectations, ladies who correctly judged that their partners were not happy during the recorded incident were much more likely to be happy with their partnership than if they correctly understood that their partner was satisfied and content.

The new findings are published online in the Journal of Family Psychology.

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