By Carol Church, Writer, Family Album
Reviewed by Victor Harris, PhD, Department of Family, Youth, and Community Sciences, University of Florida
Popular culture is fond of telling us that men and women come from different planets and speak different love languages. For instance, some say that women are easily able to express their love to their partners, whereas men struggle with putting these feelings into words and rely on actions instead. These generalizations certainly sell a lot of relationship advice books, but what does the research have to say?
Couples Asked: How Does Your Partner Show Love?
One 2012 study looked at how men and women express their love for one another in marriage. About 150 couples were followed for 13 years, starting soon after their weddings. They were interviewed in person and on the phone right after their marriages, annually in the two years following, and then again after 13 years. Couples rated the general love and closeness they felt towards their partners, but also reported on each others’ shows of love during the day prior to the phone interviews. For instance, had their partners expressed affection verbally, done housework for or with them, or initiated sex?
The results were interesting. Women who reported being more deeply in love were less likely to criticize, complain, or engage in other negative behavior (according to their husbands). Meanwhile, men who were more in love were more likely to initiate sex and to participate in leisure activities and household chores alongside their spouses (according to their wives).
Both Sexes Express Love Verbally
So in some ways, these findings did back up the stereotypes that men often show their love through actions, as well as suggesting that women may show negativity through words. But what about expressing love verbally—in other words, talking about feelings? Actually, that’s where the stereotypes seemed to break down. According to these findings, both husbands and wives were generally more verbally affectionate toward their partners when feeling more in love with them.
While this study did find some differences in how married men and women show love, there were also similarities. These findings reinforce past studies showing that, in general, men and women tend to be more alike than different in how they approach relationships.
Schoenfeld, E. A., Bredow, C. A., & Huston, T. L. (2012). Do men and women show love differently in marriage? Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 38(11), 1396-1409. doi: 10.1177/0146167212450739
(Originally published in a slightly different form as: Church, C. (2013). Men and women–different love languages? [Radio broadcast episode]. Family Album Radio. Gainesville, FL: University of Florida.)
Photo Credits: Comstock Images/Stockbyte/Thinkstock