Marriages have a greater chance of success when spouses are able to identify when their partner is feeling sad or down, new research has found. 

According to the study from Southern Methodist University, Dallas, most married couples are good at knowing when their partner is happy, but are less successful at picking up more negative emotions. This is important, say the researchers, because spouses tend to rely on each for emotional support, but this can’t be provided if partners aren’t aware when it is needed.

“We found that when it comes to the normal ebb and flow of daily emotions, couples aren’t picking up on those occasional changes in ‘soft negative’ emotions like sadness or feeling down,” explained family psychologist Chrystyna D. Kouros, lead author on the study. “They might be missing important emotional clues.”

“Failing to pick up on negative feelings one or two days is not a big deal,” she said. “But if this accumulates, then down the road it could become a problem for the relationship. It’s these missed opportunities to be offering support or talking it out that can compound over time to negatively affect a relationship.”

The researchers suggest that couples stop making assumptions about how the other is feeling, and pay more attention to each other instead. However, they also urge couples not to assume that their partner will automatically know what is wrong with them.

“If there’s something you want to talk about, then communicate that. It’s a two-way street,” added Ms Kouros. “It’s not just your partner’s responsibility.”

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