Hus (aka- my husband) usually gets home from work after I do. Saying that, on most nights, we have a pretty consistent after-work routine. And it goes a little something like this: First, I'm usually working in my office upstairs when the dogs begin to bark uncontrollably, and when I say uncontrollably, I mean it. We have three dogs who are not always on their best behavior. I go downstairs to greet Hus and give him a kiss hello. He goes to the kitchen, takes his shoes off, and then we both walk back upstairs. Since Hus' job requires that he get dirty through out his day, he always takes a shower before dinner. And while he showers, I sit in the bathroom and we each talk about the significant, and sometimes not-so-significant, events of our day. I'm serious, we do this almost every night. We talk about the good, the bad, and the ugly. Then we go back downstairs, I usually make dinner, we continue our conversation, we eat together, discipline our heathen dogs (there's always something going on with them), and we watch a few of our favorite shows before going bed. There are definitely a few variations to our routine from day to day, but no matter what we actually end up doing on a given night, we almost always have our daily discussion in the loo.
I've always really enjoyed these conversations, and recently, I read an interesting journal article that has further solidified my opinion of the importance of this rather simple communication activity. Hicks and Diamond (2008) published an article in Personal Relationships that examines the impact that disclosing day-to-day activities with your partner has on your daily feelings and emotions.
Participants in this study included 48 married or cohabitating heterosexual couples (so, a total of 96 people), all of whom had been together for more than two years. Each individual within each couple was given a diary to write in at the end of every day for 21 days. Each day, the participants were asked to write down and describe their most positive experience and their most stressful or bothersome experience of that day. Then, they were told to rate each experience on a scale of 1 to 7 based on how positive the positive experience was and based on how stressful the stressful experience was. After they described these two events and rated them, they were asked to indicate whether or not they disclosed the event to their partner that day. Lastly, partners also completed a survey (the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule, Watson, Clark, & Tellegen, 1988) that assessed their positive and negative emotions during each day of the study.
The research findings here were quite interesting.
- First, telling and being told about positive events were both significantly associated with positive feelings at the end of the day for both men and women. I know what you're thinking: the participants were likely happier because they experienced positive events during their day, not because they talked about them. This was not so. Individuals who did not disclose their positive experiences with their mates reported less positive emotions at the end of their day than individuals who did discuss their positive experiences with their partners. So, it wasn't about whether people experienced positive events or not (each person had one positive event each day), it was about whether they told their significant other about those events that mattered most when it came down to their emotions. Likewise, individuals' emotions were not necessarily influenced just because their partners experienced positive events; but instead, people were happier at the end of the day when their partners discussed those positive experiences with them.
- Second, contrary to the authors' predictions, neither telling nor being told about stressful events were associated with heightened negative emotions. So, an individual's own emotions were not impacted by whether they talked about or were told about the stressful experiences of the day.
- Third, participants' daily emotions were also influenced by whether their partners were involved in their most positive and most stressful experiences of their day. Specifically, men reported an equal amount of positive emotions when their most positive event of that day involved their partner versus when they disclosed their most positive event (not involving their partner) to their partner. For women, however, disclosure was more influential on their emotions than having their partners involved in the positive experiences. As for stressful events, both men and women reported higher negative emotions when their most stressful event of the day involved their partner than when they disclosed a stressful event (not involving their partner) to their partner.
What does all of this mean?
- Talking to your mate about the positive aspects of his or her day is more than just small talk; it's an important conversation that you should engage in to increase positive emotions in yourself and in your mate.
So, whether you're a college student in your first serious relationship, a twenty-something hoping that he's "the one," happily married with a few energetic children, or an empty-nester enjoying a quite house again, according to Hicks and Diamond (2008), asking your partner about his or her day may lead to increased feelings of happiness, closeness, and intimacy in your relationship.
- Hicks, A. M., & Diamond, L. M. (2008). How was your day? Couples' affect when telling and hearing daily events. Personal Relationships, 15, 205- 228.