Study Claims That “Happy Wife, Happy Life” Is Actually True

A new study from Rutgers University and the University of Michigan has found that in a heterosexual marriage, a wife’s happiness is more important to the survival of the relationship than her husband’s. Researchers studied 394 couples who’d been married for an average of 39 years. The couples were asked questions about whether their spouse appreciates them, argues with them or gets on their nerves. They were also asked how happy they were during a 24-hour period while doing specific activities like errands or watching television. Most of the participants reported a high level of satisfaction with their lives, and if a woman reported being happy with her husband, he was more likely to be happy with life in general no matter how he felt about the marriage itself.

Study co-author Deborah Carr told Rutgers Today, “I think it comes down to the fact that when a wife is satisfied with the marriage she tends to do a lot more for her husband, which has a positive effect on his life. Men tend to be less vocal about their relationships and their level of marital unhappiness might not be translated to their wives.” If a guy’s not so happy with his marriage, all the little things his wife does to make his life brighter may overshadow that unhappiness. Male study participants tended to rate their marriages as a bit more positive than their wives did, but all participants who rated their marriage higher were more likely to find life satisfaction, regardless of gender. Researchers also found that when husbands got sick, their wives’ happiness took a hit because they were usually expected to be caregivers, which takes an emotional toll. On the other hand, when wives got sick, they often turned to their daughters for help, and husbands’ happiness levels stayed the same. Marriage quality and, in turn, happiness, effects a person’s health as they age, so according to Carr, “The quality of a marriage is important because it provides a buffer against the health-depleting effects of later life stressors and helps couples manage difficult decisions regarding health and medical decision making.”

Do these results reflect how your own relationships pan out? At least anecdotally, I’ve definitely found that women who are happy in their relationships go out of their way to do extra sweet things for their partners as Carr suggested, but it’s not as if guys don’t also do those things. What do you think?

[Science Daily]
[NY Daily News]
[Rutgers]

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