Think your man doesn’t feel your pain? It might not be in your head after all. Scientists in Australia say men simply aren’t very empathetic when their partners are blue—and they have a national survey to prove it, reports the Herald Sun.
Researchers interviewed 20,000 Australians and asked them about “negative shocks in their lives, such as the death of a friend, losing a job, or becoming ill,” says researcher Paul Frijters.
Their conclusion? Women are a lot better at this whole empathy thing than men are—they react to their partners’ trauma about 24% as intensely as they would if it happened to them, compared to 7% for men.
“It’s not that men are cold, emotionless fish, but we found they were much less affected by what happened to their partner,” Frijters says. Researchers can’t explain this imbalance in empathy and don’t know if nature versus nurture is at play.
Frijters theorizes men may be more concerned about their “own roles and image as partners,” while co-researcher Cindy Mervin puts it thusly: “It is not that men are unemotional or uncaring, since they are quite strongly affected by what happens to themselves, but they simply are not very emotional when it comes to the feelings of their partner.” Both men and women were found to be equally emotional when confronting their own woes.
Winning the empathy game are parents, who are much more tuned into their partners’ emotions “owing to the entwined interests of the partner and the family,” Frijters adds.