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How Healthy Is Your Relationship? Supposedly, Your IMs Hold the Answer

By Nina Bai
Jan 24, 2009 1:04 AMNov 5, 2019 8:44 AM


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To study the intimate dialogue between romantic partners, psychologists have turned to parsing instant messages. In a new study [pdf], researchers report that the words couples send each other across cyberspace are good indications of relationship health. The researchers asked 68 dating couples (not surprisingly, the average age was only 19) to submit transcripts of their IMs to each other over a ten day period. The couples were also asked to rate their relationship satisfaction and report six months later whether they were still dating or not. After analyzing pages upon pages of IM conversations, the team concluded that women who often use the word "I" in IMs are more likely to be in happy, stable relationships. Guys also seem to dig gals who say "I," reporting greater satisfaction when dating women who referred to themselves in the first person. The researchers explain this correlation with the usual "women tend to be more emotionally expressive." The study also found that positive negations, such as "not happy," and positive sarcasm from men, such as "oh, great" were correlated with relationships headed for the gutter—further support for the theories of psychologist John Gottman, the "relationship predictor" featured in Blink who notes that signs of scorn or sarcasm are a slippery slope to breakup-ville. All of which prompted one astute commenter to ask, "What about 'I am not happy?'" Related Content: Discoblog: 'Six Degrees' Just Won't Die DISCOVER: Does E-mail Make You Dumber?

Image: flickr / laihui

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