For the most part, we know when our S.O. is happy, sad, or upset. But when it comes to whether he really means what he says, it turns out, all partners are pretty terrible at calling a bluff. And — much to our surprise — women may actually be worse at reading their man's emotions than vice versa (what?!), according to a February 2017 study in the Journal of Personality.
Researchers from Washington University in St. Louis studied how couples gauge their partner's use of two coping mechanisms: expressive suppression (think: when you hide your real feelings behind a stoic, calm face) and cognitive reappraisal (think: finding the silver lining to perk up a bad situation).
Turns out both men and women are better at identifying when their partner is falsely putting on a brave face than when they're viewing the glass as half full — probably because the former has more visual cues for your partner to go off of, the researchers say.
They also found that men are more likely to suppress their emotions (you don't say!). But what is surprising: Women are more likely to fall for it! That's because women tend to see their partners in a more positive light, which can lead to overestimating their man's ability or desire to find the silver lining.
How good you are at gauging your partner's ability to cope also depends a lot on his or her personality, though. The more emotional your partner is, the less likely you are to think they're hiding emotions. Also, the more frequently they express positive emotions in life, the more you trust (and overestimate) that they use cognitive reappraisal.
To top off the relationship-rattling news: The happier you are together, the more blind you may become to these subtle coping mechanisms. Happier couples tend to underestimate how often their partners suppress emotions compared to less happy couples, according to the study.
But don't start panicking and questioning every aspect of your relationship just yet: It's important to note that this study did come with limitations, including the fact that the participants were 240 heterosexual college students. That said, it never hurts to pay closer attention to and improve communication with your partner.