Miserable men make for happy women - at least when blokes express their angst in turbulent relationships.

Findings from a new US relationship study mirror NZ research which showed men who threw tantrums and talked about problems could make the women in their lives happier than the silent sulkers.

University of Auckland psychologist Dr Nickola Overall said men who engaged in conflict with spouses and girlfriends showed they cared about making relationships work.

The American study showed women were satisfied when seeing visibly upset male partners express themselves.


"There is a lot of research to show that conflict engagement and expressing negativity is not necessarily bad for relationships," Overall said. "Men often withdraw from conflict or disengage - and that's a powerful predictor of dissatisfaction across time, and divorce."

Overall's research showed that expressing anger often helped minimise problems. Unfortunately, men were often hard-wired to repress or ignore relationship problems.

"Women are more socialised to be relationship-oriented," Overall said. "They think about relationships more. They're the ones more likely to be managing the relationship. And mostly, when you ask couples to discuss a relationship problem, it's usually something that's brought up by the female partner - it's usually their issue."

Aucklander Gladys Rowntree didn't share that view. She said males tended to complain more - and more impulsively. But Rowntree agreed that silent treatment led to issues festering, while open conflict resolved those problems. "I think an argument shows they care enough to fight back."

Toby King and Sophie Van Der Linden joked that they hadn't been dating long enough to argue, but agreed with the new study's findings. Van Der Linden said couples today displayed more equity and fewer gender stereotypes than they did in her parents' time.

Overall said the realisation arguments were good for relationships carried a caveat. "It's good to ... express your negativity because it does bring about change but it can also create situations in which the negativity escalates."