Maintaining a solid marriage is difficult by any standard, but a new study out of Rutgers University suggests that the woman's happiness is a better predictor of long-term, heteronormative marital bliss than the man's satisfaction.
Researchers looked at nearly 400 couples who had been married for an average of 39 years. After asking them to keep diaries and indicate the levels of satisfaction each partner felt within the union, it turned out that men typically reported being happier.
What was interesting, however, is that the researchers discovered that men's spirits tended to be higher when their wives reported higher levels of happiness. Women, on the other hand, were not affected by shifts in their husband's happiness.
The study doesn't doesn't delve into why this might be the case, but the researchers offered some of their theories to Science Daily:
"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 [Rutgers] Department of Sociology, School of Arts and Science. "Men tend to be less vocal about their relationships and their level of marital unhappiness might not be translated to their wives."
Carr also added that although women often become caregivers when their husbands fall ill, the happiness of men typically doesn't fall simply because their wives are stressed or less satisfied with such an arrangement. Hooray for caregiving!
While this is a useful glance at what makes long-term happiness possible in marriage, as gender roles and traditional responsibilities shift, these measures of happiness may become outdated. Until then, let's just assume that if your partner is happy, you'll probably be more satisfied in your relationship!
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