Ladies, have you ever turned to your partner when he is stressed out, looking for emotional support and validation, but instead receive the sound of crickets in return? If you are lucky you may get cold, calculated logic, instead of understanding. Now you could just call up a friend, your mom, or your sis. But a significant part of any romantic relationship is providing emotional support for one another. If you cannot get that, what are you in this relationship to begin with? Don’t blame it all on the male portion of the population. Men are not socialized to express their emotions in our society. So they already come at a disadvantage. Those men and women in supportive relationships feel closer to their partner, and that ultimately is what everyone wants. They feel more confident too. The sex is better since both parties feel close to one another. Intimacy abounds. And this support spills over to other areas of life too. We have a rock to depend on, a partner to carry us through the hard times, and to help us reach our educational, career, and personal growth goals. Emotional support for both men and women is often sought from their primary, romantic relationship. But a new study published online by the journal Psychological Science, has some bad news. Researchers discovered that when stressed, women do a better job of providing emotional support to their partner than men.
An international team of psychologists conducted the study, led by Thomas Bradbury. He is the co-director of the Relationship Institute at University of California (UCLA). Bradbury said that men manage stress differently. The male of our species, or at least in our culture, when stressed are less comforting, supportive, or nurturing than women, according to Bradbury. This becomes more evident when a partner expresses her feelings in an emotional way. 189 highly satisfied couples, who had been together for a little over four years, participated. The average age for the men was 28, and for the women 26. The couples were then split up into three cohorts. The first had couples where the man was the only one suffering from stress. In the second, only the woman felt stressed. For the third, both parties were stressed. First, Researchers conducted a fake job interview with each active subject individually. Then they were asked to count down from 2,043 by 17 each time, as fast as they could. They also had to start over again from the beginning each time they make an error. These tasks as you might imagine caused participants tremendous stress. Researchers then took saliva samples from each, testing their cortisol level—the stress hormone. Afterward, the couples were put into a room and videotaped for eight minutes.
When each active participant went back to their partner, they all complained, talking about the stress they were feeling, and what they had experienced. Researchers analyzed the videos later on to see how supportive each partner was, and whether men, women, or both were equally supportive even when feeling stressed. Investigators measured the number of positive, supportive responses, to the number of negative or dismissive ones. They also recorded non-verbal cues such as hand holding, eye contact, lack of eye contact, and whether they sat close together or far apart. And even when feeling stressed themselves, women were more responsive to their partner’s emotional needs than men. Bradbury said that each partner can be emotionally available and supportive of the other. But women should also realize that their partner operates a little differently. When he has had a particularly stressful day, and use another method of approach than a full onslaught. On these days, perhaps wait until he has had some time to unwind, or talk and vent but in a calm, matter-of-fact manner. This may elicit better responses. Meanwhile, both partners can recognize the role stress plays in their own separate lives, and in their relationship together. But each person must remember that you cannot tell how stressed your partner is until you ask them.
If love is stressed-filled battle field, learn the rules of engagement by reading Men, Women and Relationships: Making Peace with the Opposite Sex by John Gray.