Study shows hiding your emotions can damage your marriage

Hiding emotions from one’s spouse is related to worsening marital satisfaction over time, especially when husbands hide their emotions from their wives, according to a study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.

It is no secret that some people are very open with their emotions, while others tend to suppress their true feelings. People often engage in emotional suppression for reasons meant to improve their relationships, such as to avoid hurting others by expressing their negative feelings.

However, research generally indicates that people who routinely suppress their emotions tend to have trouble forming strong social relationships. Close relationships, such as those with close friends, family, and romantic partners, may suffer the most from emotional suppression, because sharing emotions is an important part of building trust and rapport between relationship partners.

A team of researchers led by Patrizia Velotti, of the University of Genoa, conducted a study to examine the impact of emotional suppression in one of the most intimate interpersonal relationships, marriage. A sample of 229 recently married heterosexual Italian couples were recruited for the study. Both husbands’ and wives’ levels of emotional suppression and marital satisfaction were assessed at two time points, first at five months after marriage and then at two years after marriage.

The researchers used statistical modeling techniques to examine mutual influences of each individual’s levels of emotional suppression on their partner’s satisfaction, as well as on their own satisfaction.

Results indicated that emotional suppression was detrimental for one’s own marital satisfaction among both husbands and wives. Interestingly, husbands’ levels of emotional suppression were also directly related to lower levels of marital satisfaction for their wives, but wives’ emotional suppression was not significantly related to their husbands’ marital satisfaction.

Deeper analysis showed that emotional suppression displayed by either spouse tended to make both spouses more likely to be avoidant of attachment, with an additional negative impact on marital satisfaction. In contrast to emotional suppression, husbands’ levels of satisfaction were particularly strongly impacted by their wives’ avoidance.

The study authors conclude that emotional suppression within married couples likely creates a feedback loop, wherein hiding one’s emotions brings out an avoidant response from one’s spouse, leading to even greater emotional suppression. The major effect of this set of relationships is lower marital satisfaction for both partners. Based on these results, couples seeking to lay the foundations for a happy marriage may want to strive to be more open with their emotions.