Found! The magic ingredient for a satisfying relationship

The more men and women try to be empathetic to their partner's feelings, the happier they are

Happy, laughing middle-aged couple
Empathy strengthens the bond | Photo courtesy: Benjamin Earwicker

There is a lot of free-wheeling, unsolicited advice about what makes a happy marriage. However, many couples still haven’t found the perfect ingredient in such a marriage. Research published by the American Psychological Association might have found a clue to this enigma. The researchers from Harvard medical school have found that empathy is a key factor in relationship satisfaction.

The study involved a diverse sample of heterosexual couples. The researchers found that both men and women rated their relationship satisfactory if they viewed their partners as empathetic to their feelings of happiness or anger. Through the a properly structured experiment the researchers sought to understand if men and women are able to know when their partners are happy or upset and how it affected their perception about the relationship.

And they found that relationship satisfaction was directly related to men’s ability to read their female partner’s positive emotions correctly. However, women were happier with the relationship if they thought they could make out that their partners are upset than if they could understand that the partners were happy.

Further, women were reported being happier when the men understood that they were angry or upset. But men were more satisfied with the relationship when the women could understand that they are happy.

The authors suggest that being empathetic to a partner’s negative emotions may feel threatening to the relationship for men but not for women.

The findings also show that the more men and women try to be empathetic to their partner’s feelings, the happier they are. The authors suggest that this research should encourage couples to better appreciate and communicate one another’s efforts to be empathetic.

American Psychological Association


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