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Couples on the same emotional wavelength are likelier to succeed

June 23, 2003|Dianne Partie Lange

Relationships in which the couples start out being more similar in their emotional responses seem to have the best chance for success, new research shows.

Just as people in close relationships become more alike in their attitudes and habits over time, researchers at Northwestern University and UC Berkeley found, people in satisfying partnerships also experience an "emotional convergence."

In a study of 60 couples, with an average age of 20, researchers assessed several positive and negative emotional responses in the partners on two occasions, six months apart. At the beginning of the study, the couples had been dating, on average, for 22 months. By study's end, a third of them had broken up.

The researchers found that the emotional responses of the 39 couples who stayed together had become significantly more similar in the six months. "Close relationships shape our emotional responses in fundamental ways," says lead author Cameron P. Anderson, a business professor at New York University. "When we marry or befriend a positive person, we become more positive over time. Likewise when we marry or befriend a depressed person, we become more negative over time."

The study was published in May in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

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Dianne Partie Lange

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