A Happy Wife Really Does Mean a Happy Life

When it comes to the success of long-term marriages, a wife’s happiness is more important than her husband’s, according to new research. In fact, her happiness can make him happier with his life no matter how he feels about their union.

“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,” said Deborah Carr, a professor in the Department of Sociology, School of Arts and Science of Rutgers University. ”Men tend to be less vocal about their relationships and their level of marital unhappiness might not be translated to their wives.”

The finding was published in the Journal of Marriage and Family.

Researchers examined statistics from 394 couples who had been married for an average of 39 years. At least one spouse was 60 or older. The participants, who were part of a national study of income, health and disability in 2009, were asked if their spouse appreciates them, understands their feelings, argues with them, or gets on their nerves. The subjects also kept a detailed diary about how happy they were in the previous 24 hours during everyday activities including shopping and watching television.

“For both spouses being in a better-rated marriage was linked to greater life satisfaction and happiness,” Carr said. But, she added, the study also found that the happiness levels of wives dropped if their husbands became ill, while the husbands’ happiness level didn’t change if she became ill.

“We know that when a partner is sick it is the wife that often does the caregiving which can be a stressful experience,” said Carr. “But often when a women gets sick it is not her husband she relies on but her daughter.”

Carr said that the happiness level of spouses is important because as people get older, the quality of a union can affect the difficult decisions facing aging couples. “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.”

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