No matter how well we think we know our partner, sometimes we end up missing signals and thinking they’re saying, thinking or feeling one thing, when it’s actually something entirely different. And the way we interpret — or rather, misinterpret — our partner’s emotional cues can have a big impact on our relationship according to a study by researchers at Washington University.
The study, which followed a total of 120 heterosexual couples, found that many of us tend to “underestimate how often a partner is suppressing emotions and to overestimate a partner’s ability to see the bright side of an issue that might otherwise spark negative emotions,” said Lameese Eldesouky, study author and doctoral student in psychological and brain sciences at Washington University, in a statement.
Ultimately, it sounds like we’re just not listening to each other, and by not paying attention and picking up the right emotional cues, we’re not as in sync as we could be. A lot of us tend to suppress emotions in order to “play it cool” or try to look at the bright side in a bad situation, and this can cause crossed signals if one partner is able to “look at the bright side” and the other can’t (and doesn’t admit it).
“This study suggests that suppression might be easier to judge than reappraisal because suppression provides more external cues, such as appearing stoic,” said Tammy English, co-author of the study, in a statement. “Suppression is often considered a negative trait while reappraisal is considered a positive trait because of the differential impact these strategies have on emotional well-being and social relationships.”
On top of all this, it turns out that women tend to see their partners in a more positive light than men generally do and assume people are less able to hide their emotions than they actually are (possibly because we women are naturally a bit more in tune with our emotions). The takeaway: Don’t take your partner’s poker face or insistent “I’m totally fine!” at face value. If you suspect he or she is still secretly fuming about that argument you had a few hours ago, dig a little deeper to make sure you’ve found real resolution or it could be a recipe for misunderstanding.