How happy a woman believes her marriage is has a direct impact on the quality of her husband’s life, according to research in the Journal of Marriage and Family. And that holds “no matter how he feels about their nuptials.”
“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 at Rutgers University, in a written statement. “Men tend to be less vocal about their relationships and their level of marital unhappiness might not be translated to their wives.”
Carr and Vicki Freedman, research professor at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research, looked at data from 393 couples who took part in a national study of income, health and disability in 2009. The spouses were generally older -- at least one of each pair was at least 60 -- and they had been married an average of 39 years.
The participants were asked whether they feel appreciated by their husband or wife, whether they argue, if they feel like their feelings are understood and whether the spouse “gets on their nerves.” Each couple kept a happiness diary to quantify their happiness as they did particular activities like shopping, watching TV and household tasks.
Most rated their overall life satisfaction high, usually about a five on a six-point scale. Husbands rated their marriages slightly higher than did the wives.
The considered associations between the quality of the marriage and both general and monetary life satisfaction, as well as how a spouse’s appraisal of the marriage impacted the other’s well-being.
An individual’s own degree of marital satisfaction is “a sizable and significant correlate of life satisfaction and momentary happiness” for both genders.
“However, the association between husband’s marital quality and life satisfaction is buoyed when his wife also reports a happy marriage, yet flattened when his wife reports low marital quality,” the study said.
“For both spouses, being in a better-rated marriage was linked to greater life satisfaction and happiness,” Carr said. She noted that women were less happy if their husbands became ill, something that did not happen in reverse. Carr’s theory is that wives become less happy because they are often responsible for caregiving “which can be a stressful experience.” Men don’t always assume that role if the woman becomes ill; it often falls to a daughter.
“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,” Carr said in the statement.
“It is a finding that Wally, the hard-pressed husband of Nora Batty in ‘Last of the Summer Wine,’ would no doubt readily have agreed with,” noted The Telegraph’s John Bingham.
“Happily married women are also more likely to boost their husband’s ego by praising him and less likely to give him the kind of tongue-lashing the broom-wielding Nora Batty specialized in doling out,” he wrote.
The Telegraph also quoted Harry Benson of the Marriage Foundation think-tank: “There is plenty of research that says happy mother makes happy family but this is interesting because it suggests that even when the children have grown up and left there is still a noticeable effect,” he said.
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