If you feel like your partner doesn't understand your feelings, you're not alone. As a new study published in the journal, Family Process, found, people actually have a hard time knowing when their partner is feeling low. If not dealt with properly, it could be really harmful for your relationship.
The study looked at 51 couples who completed daily diaries on their mood and their partner's mood for seven straight days. While anger and happiness are pretty easy to pick up, researchers from Southern Methodist University in Dallas found that couples have a more difficult time reading "soft negative" emotions like sadness or loneliness. In other words, it's those occasional moments throughout the week when you're just in a funk.
The thinking is, your partner is typically your primary source of social support. So even if a negative mood isn't related to the relationship at all, it can still have negative effects. For instance, if your partner can't pick up on the little things, it can leave you feeling like they don't care or you don't matter without them realizing it.
Researchers pinpoint the problem to people just assuming they know what their partner is feeling. But as relationship coach and counselor, Kim Leatherdale, LPC, tells Bustle, there are actually four common reasons as to why it's hard for someone to pick up on their partner's negative emotions:
- They may mistake the negative feeling for something it isn't (i.e. they think you're angry when you're just really sad).
- They become afraid or get overwhelmed by any type of negative emotion.
- They don't know what to do about negative emotions.
- They can't pick up on subtle cues of emotions and can only react when expressions are extreme.
It may all boil down to emotional intelligence, which is learned in childhood. "If someone does not see emotions modeled in a healthy way by parents and caregivers, they don't learn to deal with the whole range of feelings," Leatherdale says. "If a child is not allowed the whole range of emotions then they can't identify them in themselves or others as they grow older."
If you want to help your partner better understand your feelings, here's what experts say you can do: