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Does “Relationship Talk” Boost Happiness? For Women, Yes; For Men, No.

Does “Relationship Talk” Boost Happiness? For Women, Yes; For Men, No.

I've noticed that many people are fascinated by the happiness differences between men and women. For the most part, in my research and reflection, I don’t focus overmuch on this, because I think it obscures the differences among individuals. In particular, when I focus on the way “men” generally behave, I start to lump my husband along with half of humanity. I find myself feeling angry or annoyed with him for things he hasn’t even done!

However, I did read some very interesting observations along these lines in 5 Simple Steps to Take Your Marriage from Good to Great, by research professor Terri Orbuch, who is the project director of the Early Years of Marriage research project (although the project has been going on for more than twenty years, so it's not just early years any more).

The book was interesting on many fronts, but one discussion particularly caught my eye. Orbuch concludes that after the first years of marriage, a difference arises in how men and women perceive “relationship talk.” Wives feel reassured by relationship talk, because it makes them feel closer to their husbands; men find relationship talk upsetting, because they associate it with marital problems and blame, and they often interpret such talk as nagging.

It’s certainly easy to see how this dynamic could be extremely unhelpful.

When I mentioned this finding to my husband, he said, "You can see why men would feel that way." "Yes," I said, "and I can also see why women would feel the way they do. And why this could be an unfortunate pairing of attitudes!"

How do you feel about “relationship talk”? Do you find it reassuring or upsetting?

* Because I love to read so much, I'm always looking for new great sources of suggestions, so I was thrilled to discover Flashlight Worthy. -- "handpicked book recommendations on hundreds of topics."

* If you'd like a personalized, signed bookplate to put in your copy of The Happiness Project, email me your name, or someone else's name, and I'll send it right off. Feel free to ask for as many bookplates as you like. My email is grubin [at] gretchenrubin [.com]. Don't forget to include your mailing address.

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