What’s more important in a relationship: believing you are understood or actually being understood?


Understanding is at the heart of intimate relationships. It is unclear, however, whether understanding—partners’ subjective feeling that they understand each other—or knowledge—partners’ accurate knowledge of each other—is more important for relationship well-being. The present article pits these two types of understanding against each other and investigates their effects on relationship well-being. In a prospective study among 199 newlywed couples, partners’ self-reported and perceived understanding and their knowledge in different domains were assessed. Understanding was independent of knowledge. Self-reported and perceived understanding predicted relationship well-being but neither type of knowledge did. Thus, subjectively feeling that one understands and is understood by one’s partner appears to be more important to relationship well-being than actually knowing and being known by one’s partner.

Source: “Investigating the Role of Two Types of Understanding in Relationship Well-Being: Understanding Is More Important Than Knowledge” from Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Vol. 35, No. 11, 1512-1527 (2009)

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