New Study on Empathy in Relationships

By Sharon Jackson

“Men like to know when their wife or girlfriend is happy while women really want the man in their life to know when they are upset,”  according to a new study published by the American Psychological Association.  The article titled, “Women Happier in Relationships When Men Feel Their Pain,”    “The study involved a diverse sample of couples and found that men’s and women’s perceptions of their significant other’s empathy, and their abilities to tell when the other is happy or upset, are linked to relationship satisfaction in distinctive ways.”

Fatima Aydin, Ph.D, licensed Psychologist, says this study shows as an inherent difference between men and women, not so much around the display of empathy per se, but more about how life experiences actually bring about a sense of satisfaction in each gender.

Aydin continues to say, “Women, in general, feel more fulfilled when they are able to fully experience their emotions, whether positive or negative.  They are not always looking for a solution to a problem or conflict to get rid of a negative emotional state, be it sadness, anger or disappointment. The simple act of feeling them is grounding and gratifying of its own accord and typically helps to dissipate the negativity associated with the experience. ”

“Yet men often attempt to move their partners out of a state of negative emotion by offering solutions, or intentionally forcing them into a positive emotional state which typically ends up infuriating the women in their lives.  If men only realized that instead of offering solutions, all they needed to do was to sit back, relax and simply listen, then many conflicts would be avoided.  Women would then start to feel more fulfilled in their relationships, because they will not only feel they were heard but were allowed to fully experience whatever it is that they are going through.

I definitely agree with the observations made in this study and Dr. Aydin.  It’s less threatening when my husband sees me happy and of course it makes him feel good compared to when I am upset.  However, it shows a level of greater sensitivity towards me, on his part, when he recognizes and validates my more negative feelings.  The sad or angry feelings are the ones many people tend to run away from because it brings up uncomfortable.  When my spouse is willing to stay present and affirm me during those moments, it gives me a greater sense of trust, comfort and safety, which in turn generates satisfaction in our relationship.

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