The detailed study found that wives or girlfriends were pleased when their partner showed emotion because they believed it demonstrated a healthy relationship.
The survey, carried out by Harvard Medical School, also found that when men realised their wife was angry, the women reported being happier, although the men were not.
It revealed women most likely enjoyed spotting when their partner was dissatisfied because it showed his strong “engagement” or “investment” in their time together.
Dr Shiri Cohen, the study’s lead author, said: “It could be that for women, seeing that their male partner is upset reflects some degree of the man’s investment and emotional engagement in the relationship, even during difficult times.
“This is consistent with what is known about the dissatisfaction women often experience when their male partner becomes emotionally withdrawn and disengaged in response to conflict.”
The study, published by the American Psychological Association, recruited a diverse range of 156 heterosexual couples.
More than 100 of the younger, urban, couples were in a committed but not necessarily a married relationship. Other couples who varied in the way they resolved conflict and controlled emotions were also chosen, while the remaining participants were older, middle-class and married.
In total, 71 per cent of those questioned were white, 56 per cent were married, and the average length of their relationships was three-and-a-half years.
During the study, each participant was asked to describe an incident with their partner over the previous two months that had been frustrating, disappointing or upsetting.
The researchers recorded the participant making a brief statement summarising the incident and then brought the couple together to play each other’s admission.
They were told to come to a better understanding of what had happened, with approximately 10 minutes to discuss the incident while they were filmed.
The video recording was then shown back to them while they rated their negative and positive reactions using an electronic device.
Later, six, 30-second clips of the most emotive discussions were then shown to the participants, who completed questionnaires about their feelings on watching the recordings. Overall satisfaction with the relationship was also measured, and whether those surveyed considered their partner’s efforts to be empathetic.
The study concluded: “Overall, the findings from this study suggest that men may be more satisfied in their relationships when they can accurately read their partners’ positive emotions, while women’s relationship satisfaction may uniquely benefit when they can accurately read their partners’ negative emotions
“Women’s satisfaction was more strongly related to the perception that their partners were trying to understand their negative emotions than to men’s actual accuracy in reading those emotions.”