Men and women in long-term relationships deal with difficulties in different ways.
Men do not like to express negative emotions and tend to feel frustrated when trying to give or receive emotional support.
However, studies show that giving more emotional support can improve relationships, as can listening from the heart.
Women, though, feel more sadness and worry and prefer to express those negative emotions.
Unlike men, women prefer to talk through issues and offer support.
Women also feel better if they can give and receive support, unlike men who only seem to feel frustration.
Professor Deborah Carr, the study’s first author, said:
“The men don’t really want to talk about it or spend too much time thinking about it.
Men often don’t want to express vulnerable emotions, while women are much more comfortable expressing sadness or worry.”
The conclusions come from a study of 722 couples who had been married for an average of 39 years.
They were asked about their marital experience and how their spouse reacted to and affected them.
The results showed that giving and receiving support tended to make women feel better, but not men.
Naturally, men also reported receiving more emotional support from their wives.
However, women tended to feel more strain in their relationship.
Professor Carr said:
“For women, getting a lot of support from their spouse is a positive experience.
Older men, however, may feel frustrated receiving lots of support from their wife, especially if it makes them feel helpless or less competent.”
Sadness, worry and frustration are the negative emotions most frequently reported by long-term couples.
Professor Carr said:
“Men who provide high levels of support to their wives may feel this frustration if they believe that they would rather be focusing their energies on another activity.”
The results in this study may be partly down to the older generation involved.
Younger couples may have different patterns.
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2013) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the The Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences (Carr et al., 2016).