Are Couples Who Communicate Well Actually Happier?

We always hear that good communication is the secret to a successful relationship. But is it really? Are couples who communicate better in their relationships much more satisfied than those who don’t? What does science say? Well, going by a new study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family, great communication within a couple may not necessarily determine relationship satisfaction.

"Although communication and satisfaction were correlated, communication wasn't a good guide for determining partners' satisfaction with their relationships over time," the study's lead author Justin Lavner, an assistant professor in UGA's clinical psychology program in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences said in a release.

The study took over 400 low-income newlywed couples from the Los Angeles area and assessed them four times over a three-year period. The assessments were conducted in the couples’ homes and participants were first asked to complete a series of different tasks (to asses communication skills) and then fill out a report on their level of satisfaction in their relationship. The “communication tasks” were used by researchers to see whether the couple used positive, negative or effective communication in a problem solving scenario.

Here’s what the study found:

1. Relationship Satisfaction Led To Good Communication, Not The Other Way Around

Yes, there’s a relationship between communication and marriage satisfaction. However, it’s not in the way you might originally think. "In general, the correlational findings were pretty strong, showing—as we kind of expect—the more satisfied you are, basically, the better you communicate with your spouse," Lavner said. "What those results showed was that couples who were more satisfied also demonstrated higher levels of positivity, lower levels of negativity and more effectiveness."

In short, when couples were already satisfied in their relationships, they were able to communicate more effectively with their spouse.

2. There’s No Strong Causal Link Showing That Good Communication Causes Satisfaction

Despite what we’re constantly told to believe — that good communication leads to happy relationships—the authors of this particular study were surprised to find that wasn’t the case. There was slight evidence, however as Lavner said it wasn’t “as strong as it should have been given how central that assumption is in theory as well as practice. Overall, the pattern was one that it wasn’t as robot as theory would lead us to believe.”

Overall, communication is still very important in relationships. There’s no doubting that. However, this does make sense. If you’re happy with your partner, it’s definitely a lot easier to problem solve and talk out your problems together. If you’re not, talking out problems, if you do, could snowball into bigger issues. But I’m just saying that from experience.

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