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This Is Who Your Partner Likes Talking to More Than You, Study Finds

Research has shown these types of conversations are just more enjoyable.

You may be the apple of your partner's eye, but new research shows that when it comes to shooting the breeze, there's a good chance you rank second best. That's because there's one type of person that often makes the conversation more scintillating than normal, according to a recent paper published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The findings not only show who your partner might prefer chatting with over you, but how this might affect us all this year as our social lives return, post-pandemic. So, who is it that your partner enjoys talking with most—and should you be worried? Read on to find out.

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Your partner probably likes talking to strangers more than you.

Women in a grocery store

You and your partner probably connect on levels unmatched by more casual connections, but this new research found that your beloved may still find talking to strangers more enjoyable than talking to you. The reason may be a matter of sheer volume. Even if your long-term relationship includes many stimulating conversations, chances are it also involves many others that revolve around logistics, responsibilities, or conflict—especially if you cohabitate or share children.

"It turns out that you have much more fun talking to a stranger," study co-author Adam Mastroianni, a fifth-year PhD student in psychology at Harvard, told The New York Times. "When you talk to a friend or your romantic partner, maybe sometimes you argue. When you talk to someone new, you become sort of the best version of yourself, and it's kind of fun to be that self."

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There are plenty of benefits to talking with strangers.


It may be daunting to think that your spouse or partner enjoys talking to strangers more than you, but the good news is that you can also reap the benefits of broadening your circle.

Researchers from the BBC conducted an experiment in 2019 to determine how engaging with strangers affects the average person's day. They asked bus and train commuters in Chicago how open they were to initiating conversations with strangers, to which most replied that they believed they would have a better commute in solitude. However, some participants were randomly assigned to talk to strangers and they reported having the best commute afterward.

Other studies have found that the mental health benefits of speaking with strangers abound whether the person views themselves as an introvert or an extrovert. Regardless of a person's expectations based on their self-perceived personality traits, the results of engaging strangers tended to be positive.

Strangers are likely more open to talking than you realize.

Women with protective face masks, walking down street and talking
miodrag ignjatovic / iStock

Though many of us hesitate to engage a stranger for fear of bothering them or being rejected outright, the BBC team found that most people were responsive to a stranger-initiated conversation. "Our commuters estimated that only about 40 percent of their fellow train passengers would be willing to talk to them," the team reported. "Yet every participant in our experiment who actually tried to talk to a stranger found the person sitting next to them was happy to chat."

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…And they probably like you more than you think.

Mature friends laughingat backyard party
Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock

Studies have found that, on average, people tend to underestimate how much others enjoy speaking with them—especially after first impressions. One 2018 study published in the journal Psychological Science found that "people systematically underestimated how much their conversation partners liked them and enjoyed their company," an "illusion" they refer to as the "liking gap."

Mastroianni's study also found that, in many cases, people left the conversation wanting more. "What we're finding is that the people who said they wanted to continue a conversation were not the people who felt cut off; they still had a lovely time and left wanting more," he told The New York Times. "It wasn't so much like they felt rejected. It was more like, 'I had a delicious piece of cheesecake and I could have had another—but the one that I had was really great, and so I'm feeling good.'"

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Lauren Gray
Lauren Gray is a New York-based writer, editor, and consultant. Read more
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