Are Women Actually More Emotionally Intelligent than Men?

by | Feb 20, 2024 | Connecting | 18 comments

Are women more emotionally intelligent than men?

God Didn’t Make Women To Be Better at Relationships than Men.

We talked in our first podcast of the month about four new studies on marriage & sex. This month we’re taking a deeper dive into the studies in some of our blog posts.

So let’s look at this study: Experienced Love: An Empirical Account was published in December in the Journal of Psychological Science. One of the things they did was prompt participants, every 30 minutes, to record what they were doing and how they were feeling. 

The study found lots of interesting things, but we highlighted two of them in the podcast:

  • Women were more likely to lose love for their partner over time then men were

  • Women were 43% more likely to report feeling love when with their kids than men were. 

Here’s how the author explained things:

A second contribution is to provide insight into gender differences in the prevalence and conceptualization of love. Although men were less likely to report love than women, the gender gap varied by inferred love target, with larger differences in child love and smaller differences in partner love…

What might account for the gender differences in overall prevalence? A statistical mean decomposition attributed 79% of the gap to systematic gender differences in experiences with children (resulting both from gender differences in average child time use and the likelihood of experiencing love in their company)….

Saurabh Bhargava

Psychological Science, Experienced Love: An Empirical Account

So, in general, women associate more love when spending time with kids than men do.

The author then goes on to explain the phenomenon by which women are more likely to see a decrease in love and passion over time in marriage than men do. The reason?

In Study 1, the reduction in (passionate) partner love, and its association with well-being, across earlier and later cohorts was more pronounced for women than men. It is possible these patterns simply reflect gender differences in survivorship (or other forms of) bias across cohorts (e.g., partner love may be differentially predictive of divorce across gender). A more theoretically meaningful possibility is that such patterns reflect gender differences in the progression of partner love. The literature suggests potential mechanisms consistent with such an interpretation such as gender differences in the expression of partner love over time (e.g., perhaps because of varying dynamics involving sex and accommodation in relationships; or gender differences in relational burdens involving household or child care. Evidence for this latter mechanism was found in the time-use data showing coupled women spent more time engaged in chores (p = .032) and cooking (p = .034) in later versus earlier cohorts, whereas coupled men spent increasingly more time relaxing (p = .055) and sleeping/napping (p = .016). (emphasis mine)

Saurabh Bhargava

Psychological Science, Experienced Love: An Empirical Account

So women are more likely to lose love, and it looks like some of this may be due to the outsized burden of emotional labor and mental load, combined with the fact that many husbands don’t seem to be as emotionally connected to their kids.

We’ve talked a lot about mental load before on the blog, and I don’t want to go over that again today. I do want to talk about this idea that men feel less love with their kids, and what this means. 

Does that mean that women love their kids 43% more than men do?

Nope. Not at all.

Does it show that women naturally love their kids more than men love their kids?

Again, nope.

And this is something that I really, really want people to understand: women are not naturally, biologically, absolutely better at this stuff than men are. 

Here’s where it gets tricky.

When we’re talking about gender studies, the assumption is that we’re discussing two groups: men and women.

But what studies like these are actually discussing are three groups: You have women.  You have men.  And then you have a “healthy people group” in the middle. And the question is just how many people of the women group and the men group are overlapping with that healthy people group (which is where healthy men and women overlap with each other).

So here’s what these studies are not saying:

It’s not saying that because those women are healthy, I must be healthy too because I’m a woman. Nor is it saying that men are unhealthy just because they are men. And it also doesn’t mean that men have a harder time feeling love for their kids!  

It’s also not saying that the men in the emotionally healthy category are LESS healthy than the women in the emotionally healthy category. Nope! If you’re healthy, you’re healthy. And if you’re unhealthy,  you’re unhealthy.

And, again, it’s not saying that all women are in the healthy category, and all men are in the unhealthy category. There’s a lot of overlap. And what really matters is not “are you a man” or “are you a woman”, but rather, “are you in the healthy group”?

What Is The “Healthy People Group”?

Healthy, in this instance, is someone who feels a great deal of love and connection with their children, who makes sure that they do their fair share around the house, who is comfortable resolving conflict and discussing emotions— those kinds of things. 

We talk about this concept a lot at Bare Marriage, and not just about how much love we feel for our kids. It’s just whether or not you carry emotional labor for the family; whether you’re comfortable connecting on an emotional level; whether you manage to have good emotional regulation practices. 

Now, due to societal expectations, perhaps it’s not surprising that women tend to have more overlap with the “healthy people group” than men do. 

This does not mean that women are inherently healthier than men. But when society pushes women in one direction (being the primary caregiver and nurturer of the children) and husbands in another (being the avoidant provider of the home and family), we should probably expect to see these results coming out of these kinds of studies.

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Why Do Men Seem To Struggle To Overlap With The Healthy Group?

John Gottman, in his book 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work, talked about how socialization plays a huge role in this. Girls play games where they practice talking through conflicts; where they practice caregiving. Boys tend to play more physical games. Girls are praised for showing emotions; boys are not. So we are socializing girls to just be better at this; it’s not that God made girls better at this.

And then societal forces enable men to just not get emotionally healthy, more than it does women. If you’ve been following Bare Marriage for any length of time, you’re at least somewhat familiar with the cultural norms, both inside and outside of evangelicalism, that not just encourage men to remain in a state of prolonged adolescence, often turning their own wives into mother figures of sorts to them, but that also actively teach men that this is something to aspire to.

But these societal expectations are toxic to everyone, including men. When you look at the rates of loneliness and unhappiness, men are much more lonely than women are, and much more unhappy in general. That’s not okay! 

But too often evangelical resources say “God made women to be emotional and to be caregivers but didn’t make men that way”–and this gives men an out and an excuse to not becoming healthy. 

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Men can be so much more than our culture likes to believe.

They are just as capable as women in showing up in their relationships with their families in being present and engaged. And both men and women can hopefully grow towards health!

In his book Seven Principles For Making Marriage Work,  John Gottman wrote this:

““My data on newlywed couples indicate that more husbands are being transformed in this way [and becoming emotionally intelligent].”  


“About 35% of the men we’ve studied are emotionally intelligent.  Research from previous decades suggests that the number used to be much lower.””

John Gottman

Seven Principles For Making Marriage Work

Although the number is low, it used to be lower. We’re going in the right direction!

And I hope, if we keep talking about this, and keep saying, “Emotions are not female. Caregiving is not female. Being emotionally healthy is not a feminine trait,” then maybe we can create new expectations for young men, too!

Written by

Sheila Wray Gregoire


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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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  1. Ann

    Recently my husband asked me what I thought out kids’ strengths are (it was a question that had come up at church). I easily rattled off about ten things for each of our teens. He looked surprised and said that he would not have been able to come up with nearly that many things. It makes me really sad that we only have a couple years left with them at home (in theory!) and it seems like he doesn’t really know them. He’s even said he’s not going to miss them. I guess that makes sense given that he doesn’t have a strong emotional connection with them. It feels like he doesn’t even know what he’s missing. Our kids are pretty great! It’s going to be really hard for me when they are not here any more. Especially if I’m the only one missing them.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, that’s heartbreaking! I’m so sorry, Ann. It is true–they miss out on so much when they don’t foster that connection. And kids feel it and see it too.

      I like to tell moms–it isn’t your responsibility to run interference so that the kids have a good relationship with the dad. It’s okay for kids to realize the truth about the relationship. In many ways it’s healthier in the long run. Not that you have to tell your kids how bad their dad is. But they need to be allowed to see it.

      Often when a kid says, “I just feel like Dad doesn’t know me or doesn’t care about me,” our response is to try to convince them that dad actually does know or does care. But maybe we should be saying something more like, “that’s really hard. I can see why that would make you sad,” and just sit in it with them. Allow them to voice it without telling them they’re wrong.

    • Jen

      I’m approaching empty nesting as well. I think my husband is more emotionally connected to our sons than the average guy of our generation, but I still feel alone in the loss of them moving out. That feeling makes sense after reading this post.

  2. Anonymous

    Was recently in conversation with a friend about how her husband complains she is “moody.” Having seen their (mid-60s) dynamic, I know lots of her “moodiness” is rooted in his often-disrespectful behaviors (and later told her as much.) He came in as we were discussing moods and I said I knew just as many moody men. He said they weren’t “real men.”

    Would be interesting to find out how much is a result of actively being taught emotions are bad and a “feminine” trait.

    Going about pouting (for not as much sex as they want) and having foul tempers is moody, but they call that being a “man.” whatever that means.

  3. Jen

    “. . . and husbands in another (being the avoidant provider of the home and family).”

    Thank you for using the word “avoidant” in this description. That is a spot on way of defining how so many of us experienced our fathers and our husbands. And society told them they were doing a good job when they “brought home the bacon”. Nothing else was required of them (okay, maybe lawn care and general house repairs – which are important, but can also be used to avoid and have nothing to do with emotional health).

    Attachment comes through and to the moms (if she’s a “good enough” mother). In avoidant situations, kids don’t have that kid of attachment bond with their dads. I certainly didn’t. And then mothers are poo-pooed when they grieve the kids growing up. If you got a husband’s who has been socialized to avoid, then you’ve probably spent a lifetime with stronger attachment bonds to your kids than to your husband, even if there is no triangulation or other unhealth happening. Kids learn to love in the way you teach them to love, and if your husband can’t/won’t participate in that, then it makes sense that your love for him starts to die, even if he does help around the house.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      And not just that, but if he hasn’t attached to them, you’ve carried ALL the emotional labor. All of it. You’ve carried more than you should have. So no wonder the kids have become such a huge part of your emotional life!

  4. Jo R

    How long will we have these problems?

    As long as boys are told to go outside to play while their sisters have to care for younger siblings and learn how to do all the house maintenance chores like cooking, cleaning, and laundry.

    As long as boys are told that being a good husband and father simply means bringing home a paycheck.

    As long as girls are told that their highest calling is marriage and motherhood, so they don’t get encouraged to pursue well-paying careers, assuming they’re encouraged to pursue any career at all. (And at this point, speaking as a woman who earned an engineering degree thirty-six years ago, I’d strongly suggest a trade rather than college, because plumbers and electricians, for example, can’t have their jobs exported or taken over by AI.)

    As long as guys go from home to college dorm to marriage, so that they’ve never lived without ever having had to be an adult who has to cook, clean, grocery shop, meal plan, pay bills, and all those other adult activities that interfere with playing video games and watching TV, women are not likely to find partners, just extra-tall toddlers who need mommy to do all the mundane tasks that are invisible and unimportant until they’re not being done.

    Zawn has some interesting articles on the book Fair Play, but let me issue a language (and TONE 🤣) warning on the posts and reader comments:

    • Bernadette

      We treat boys and girls like different species (you laid it out perfectly) and that has an affect.

    • Lisa Johns

      Zawn is not wrong. She’s describing weaponized incompetence at its finest.

  5. Tiff

    My husband and I co-parented from the beginning. When I went back to work at eight weeks post birth our daughter was with my husband, me, or my mom. He had her by himself for over 10 hours a day for three days out of the week. When we had our son, he had two children, a two-year-old and a new born, to himself for several days a week. He is super invested in our children. We both home-school our children, depending on who is home that day. He knows their friends, their favorites songs, their current food choices. He knows what each child likes and plays with them in ways that make them feel seen. He praises them, take them on adventures, and, since he is the nurse, “heals” their owies. Seeing him take such shameless joy in being their dad encourages me in my mothering.
    I have only fallen more in love with him as we parent together.
    We endured a lot before having living children so I can’t say whether that plays a part or not in his fathering.
    However, his eagerness to be a present and invested dad was one of the things I fell in love with about him 17 years ago.

    • Bernadette

      This is encouraging!

  6. John

    I don’t think it is surprising that dads are less connected to their kids than mums are. Most mums gain a very close visceral connection with their baby during pregnancy, the dad’s connection, care, support … is to his wife. After birth, many mums stay at home (maybe less these days due to finances – I am old school), whilst the dad, after a brief paternity leave, goes out to work. Those mums have MUCH more time with the kids, during those key formative years. I remember buying a 50cc scooter because it cut 10mins off of my commute time and so gave 20 more mins per weekday with our kids. Given the office hours and commute time, those 20mins were a significant increase. Yes, at the weekends I spent virtually all my time with the kids – e.g. taking them swimming early Saturday morning, so mum could have a lie in and a lazy morning. I have since made lots of effort to connect with our kids, especially in their teenage years and since working from home more, but I still can’t say I have as close a connection with them as my wife does – mostly due to those early very formative years. Whilst I miss our kids as they are starting to leave home (it’s never a simple one-way journey!), it is not as heartfelt as my wife. I am not sure that is necessarily a bad thing. It is good and right that our kids grow up and make their own way in the world. I find it easier to encourage them in that. I don’t feel I have missed out on a closer connection. I probably know my kids likes and dislikes as well as my wife does.

    That said, I agree that, in general, women are more emotionally mature than us men and that it is mostly societal conditioning. However I feel that quite a lot of this is innate: “Girls play games where they practice talking through conflicts; where they practice caregiving. Boys tend to play more physical games.” – in general – overlapping Bell curves …

    I think girls do mature earlier than boys (my son and daughter agree with this), both physically and emotionally. Therefore we boys and men need to work harder at growing in emotional maturity, than women do. This often not encouraged enough. I am coming to this late in life, but better late than never. We are both as “emotional” as each other, but we men (in general) either supress or explode way too often.

    • Angharad

      Going out to work doesn’t have to stop a father having a healthy, strong connection with his kids. It’s more about intention than time. I had a very strong connection with my father throughout his life (much stronger than that with my mother) even though he was working full time (and often away for long periods) while she was at home all the time. Fortunately, my father’s parents were well ahead of the trend when it came to ditching narrow gender-based roles and all their kids were raised to have equal responsibility in the home, hence I was blessed with a father who was determined to be involved in my life even when it was difficult.

  7. Lisa Johns

    I was very aware that I invested much more into our children than the wasband did, and became aware during their later teen years that I had (not consciously) used this connection to fulfill the emotional needs that were being neglected in the context of our marriage. So when the children started moving out, while I very much supported and encouraged them, I had to redefine my emotional existence. That to say, not only does the husband’s emotional non-availability deprive himself and the children of a close connection, it can also create a situation where the wife winds up with no one in her house to connect with, thus starving her of much-needed human connection. (And then he wonders why she doesn’t want to stay around him!)

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes, this so often happens. And then the husband blames the wife! This is a theme that we noticed in Gary Thomas’ books–in several that we read he warned about how hard it would be when the kids left if the wife’s main identity was in the kids, and how she had to be a wife first instead. But it was like–if the husband has disconnected from the kids, and isn’t taking his share of the mental load, then she has to bear all of it. So of course the kids will be her life! It’s like–dude, you contributed to this situation.

      • Lisa Johns

        Gary Thomas just added more to the wife’s burden by commanding her to “be a wife first!” What woman WOULDN’T want to be a wife first if her husband were shouldering his share of the childcare and householding work? So if she is having to be a mother to the point of not having any bandwidth for being with her husband at the end of the day, we need to look at HIM, not her!

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Exactly! And it comes up in so many of his books. It’s so weird.

  8. Angela

    I really appreciate this article and the comments. It gives me much to think about and explains some of what I’ve been trying to work through inside myself.


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