You see a couple idling on the other side of the bar, and they look like they've never been happier. But the question is, are both of them really as happy as they seem?
And even further, do both parties really know how the other is feeling?
Well, findings from a new study from Washington University in St. Louis suggest one or both of those happy-go-lucky love birds may not be so chipper after all — and the other might not even realize it.
According to the study, even couples in long-term relationships can be relatively unaware of the moments their partner is going through an emotional rough patch.
So even if you've been going strong for over a year's time, you may never truly have a handle on how your boyfriend is feeling.
Scary thought, right?
Lead author of the study, Lameese Eldesouky, explained,
Happier couples see their partners in a positive light than do less happy couples.They tend to underestimate how often a partner is suppressing emotions and to overestimate a partner's ability to see the bright side of an issue that might otherwise spark negative emotions.
The study, published in the Journal of Personality, took a deep dive into just how precise couples are when judging their loved ones' display of emotions.
To do this, researchers measured how accurate participants were with assessing their partner on two techniques meant to deal with stress: "expressive suppression" (pretending to be cool, calm and collected) and "cognitive reappraisal" (seeing the hopeful side of a bad situation).
The results showed that couples are usually able to pick up on more obvious, physical signs that their partner is hiding something, like with suppression, but they weren't as accurate when it came to cognitive reappraisal.
Co-author of the study Tammy English said,
How well you are able to judge someone else's personality depends on your personal skills, your relationship with the person you are judging and the particular trait you are trying to judge. This study suggests that suppression might be easier to judge than reappraisal because suppression provides more external cues, such as appearing stoic.
Basically, if someone is peppy all the time, their partner tended to overestimate how often they used cognitive reappraisal and looked on the bright side of things. Meaning, they took their partner's normal, happy personality at face value.
And if someone is usually more on the emotional side, their partner may assume they're less likely to hide something if anything is wrong.
So even if you and your lover are going strong, you may still need to dig a little deeper to really know how they're feeling.
Things on the surface may not always be as they seem, and just because a person is usually happy, doesn't mean they'll always see things that way.