You may think that you know your partner like the back of your hand — you share your lives with each other. However, new research suggests that communication with your partner may not be that simple and you may not know your partner as well as you think you do.
Psychologists at Washington University in St. Louis determined that even the most dedicated couples in long-term, exclusive relationships cannot identify how their partner handles emotional issues.
What Does the Research Say?
Lameese Eldesouky, the lead author of the study, explains that “Happier couples see their partners in a more positive light than do less happy couples…” and they “…tend to underestimate how often a partner is suppressing emotions and…overestimate a partner’s ability to see the bright side of an issue that might otherwise spark negative emotions.”
In other words, couples can’t identify what their partner may be thinking and often misunderstand their perspective on certain situations.
In Eldesouky’s study, she examines how accurate couples are in judging personality characteristics and emotional coping mechanisms.
Researchers focused on two underlying coping mechanisms that can be difficult to spot: expressive suppression (stoically hiding one’s emotions behind a calm and quiet poker face) and cognitive reappraisal (changing one’s perspective to see the silver lining behind a bad situation).
This revealed that couples are generally able to judge their partners’ emotional patterns with some degree of accuracy, but have trouble differentiating between reappraisal and suppression.
The study also found that women most often see their partners in a more positive light than do men and they overestimate their partners’ ability to look on the bright side. Another finding concludes that if someone is more emotional, their romantic partner thinks they are less likely to hide emotions. Similarly, if someone frequently expresses positive emotions, such as happiness, their romantic partner thinks they use reappraisal more than they actually do.
Eldesouky confirms how difficult it is to identify emotions in another person. The study emphasizes how it’s really impossible to gauge what brews in your partner’s mind. Although you may have an idea, the best way to understand your partner’s thoughts is through verbal communication.
Couples Counseling in Orange County From Jennifer De Francisco
Learning to communicate with your partner can be a long and enduring process and it isn’t always for one or both partners. If communication with your partner is an issue in your relationship, couples counseling may be able to help.
Couples counseling is typically associated with couples in danger of breaking up or divorcing, but counseling is always helpful, even in stable relationships. It helps couples learn how to communicate effectively and how to better work together to solve problems, among many other benefits.
Jennifer De Francisco, MPA, MSW, LCSW, offers couples counseling in Orange County, CA for couples at any stage in their relationship. Her approach provides a safe environment to open and honestly share thoughts and emotions. Through developing a positive, therapeutic relationship, you and your partner can interpret what is going on, both in your life and in the session, creating a better awareness within your relationship. Contact Jennifer De Francisco by calling (949) 251-8787 or make an appointment online.
Source: University of Washington