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Share the Pain: What Women Want From Men

An early contender for the 'Still No Cure For Cancer' award for scientific research into things we all knew already, the American Psychological Association today release the findings of a study into relationships between married or committed heterosexual couples.

Women, it seems, feel better when their partner knows they are upset.

Actually, let's drop the sniggering sexism here. Without the copious research and evaluation processes needed to make a serious scientific claim, surely we can still speculate on something. Isn't it just frustrating for anyone, regardless of gender, to be hopping mad with someone who doesn't even notice? Still, it's nice to have some heavyweight scientific endorsement to the observation.

No answers to: 'if you can't figure out why I'm mad with you, that's exactly the problem' though. Or its equally infuriating male counterpart: 'look, if it's a problem, why didn't you SAY so?'

WASHINGTON – 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 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.

seeing that their male partner is upset reflects some degree of the man's investment and emotional engagement

"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with what is known about the dissatisfaction women often experience when their male partner becomes emotionally withdrawn and disengaged in response to conflict," said the study's lead author, Shiri Cohen, PhD, of Harvard Medical School.

Researchers recruited 156 heterosexual couples for the experiment.

Each participant was asked to describe an incident with his or her partner over the past couple of months that was particularly frustrating, disappointing or upsetting. The researchers' audio recorded the participant making a one- to two-sentence statement summarizing the incident and reaction and then brought the couples together and played each participant's statements.

The couples were told to try to come to a better understanding together of what had happened and were given approximately 10 minutes to discuss it while the researchers videotaped them. Following the discussions, the participants viewed the videotape and simultaneously rated their negative and positive emotions throughout, using an electronic rating device. The device had a knob that moved across an 11-point scale that ranged from "very negative" to "neutral" to "very positive."

Using these ratings, the researchers selected six 30-second clips from the videotape that had the highest rated negative or positive emotions by each partner. The researchers showed the clips to the participants and had them complete questionnaires about their feelings during each segment as well as their perceptions of their partner's feelings and effort to understand them during the discussion.

They also measured the participants' overall satisfaction with their relationships and whether each partner considered his or her partner's efforts to be empathetic.

satisfaction was directly related to men's ability to read their female partner's positive emotions

Relationship satisfaction was directly related to men's ability to read their female partner's positive emotions correctly.

When men understood that their female partner was angry or upset, the women reported being happier, though the men were not. 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.

Source: American Psychological Association
Text has been edited.

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