Why Telling Stories Is Great for Your Relationship


Gabrielle White

The stories we tell ourselves matter. It’s entirely up to us to determine what those stories are, and in turn, how resilient and happy we are.

But what about the way we share our stories with others? The urge to share ourselves is a bonding mechanism: movies, plays, television, book clubs, and even studies of religious texts are all ways we experience stories together. They create a shared experience and facilitate social bonding.

Good Storytellers Are Attractive

Research shows that being able to participate in this social bonding experience pays off in perceived attractiveness - at least for men, it does. Research in the Journal of Personal Relationships describes three studies encompassing more than 300 men and women who rated each other's attractiveness against their abilities to tell stories, where about half the stories told were intentionally unclear and rambling, while the other half were concise and engaging.

Women rated the men who were good storytellers as more attractive, more likely to be good leaders, and more socially adept. Whether or not women were good storytellers had no measurable effect on whether or not the men found them attractive. Sad but true.

There could be many reasons why women prefer men who can craft a good narrative: certainly storytelling ability is a good indicator of the ability to communicate and connect with others. And since the women associated this trait with leadership, it may also be seen as indicating a man’s ability to influence others to procure resources.

Stories Can Bring Us Together

In a Wall Street Journal article covering this research, relationship therapist Anna Osborn suggests couples can harness the power of storytelling as a healing tool by turning it into a joint exercise. The next time you and your significant other (or anyone you care about, for that matter) are in conflict, try individually telling the stories of your experiences with the problem. Then work to combine your stories into a shared narrative, which helps create a common understanding.

For another way to take advantage of the power of storytelling, seek out novel experiences: travel, take a glassblowing class, say yes when your crazy roommate invites you to karaoke night. If you're single and dating, these stories make great first date fodder. And if you're coupled, we’ve written about this before:getting outside your comfort zone together can be a powerful tool for keeping love alive.

But beyond stimulating love-related neurotransmitters, new experiences also bring up stories that otherwise might never come up between you and your partner. Not to mention the stories you'll be able to share with others later… and we all know there’s nothing hotter than watching your significant other work a crowd. Or as the research suggests, maybe that’s just the female in me talking.

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