You’ve probably heard the old saying “Happy wife, happy life” before, and perhaps you’ve just dismissed it as antiquated advice. However, it appears that there’s some truth to this maxim after all. Apparently, even if a man is a part of an unhappy marriage, their lives may still be generally happy as a whole, as long as their wives are happy, too.
A study conducted by Rutgers University’s Prof. Deborah Carr, which was later published in the Journal of Marriage and Family, found that the happiness married couples experience relies heavily on whether the wife is happy. In other words, if the wife is miserable, then the husband—and the overall relationship itself—would become miserable too.
“A wife’s happiness in the marriage has the power to overtake a husband’s marital unhappiness to make his overall life quite pleasant,” Carr told The Huffington Post. Carr and her co-author from University of Michigan, Prof. Vicki Freedman, analyzed data (daily diary entries) on 394 couples—both individuals were at least 50 years of age, with one being at least 60 years old if not older. These couples included in the study had been married for 39 years on average.
In their diary entries, the couples had to rate their marital satisfaction from 1 to 4. Here’s what they found: husbands who weren’t that satisfied with their marriage (rating it a 1) but had wives who rated the marriage a 4 lived happy lives as a whole. However, those husbands who rated the marriage a 1 yet had wives who also rated it a 1 showed unhappiness and overall had a low well-being.
On the other hand, this study revealed that it didn’t affect the wives whether or not their husbands were satisfied with their respective marriages. Carr explained why this is the case—when the wife is happy, even though the husband is not, there’s a higher chance that she’ll provide the husband with benefits that will make his life better overall. For instance, she may do household chores, be a shoulder to lean on, offer emotional support, and basically do things that will provide a positive experience for the husband.
Now, the reason why the husband’s unhappiness or marital satisfaction didn’t affect the wives is because the wives from the group surveyed didn’t have a clue whether their husbands were happy or unhappy with their marriage. This all stems from the fact that men weren’t taught to to talk about what they felt, whether it be good or happy feelings. It was more normal for them to just say nothing and stew over their unhappiness. Carr says that once a wife is unsatisfied with her marriage, she’s most likely going to do something about it, and she’ll make sure her dissatisfaction is known. “She might complain; she might be less forthcoming with love and support.”
The difference in gender plays a part as to why wives have a tendency to be more unhappy or dissatisfied with their marriage.
In Carr’s study, she discovered that the husbands usually gave a higher marital satisfaction rating than the wives. A study from previous researchers before her also found the same discovery. There’s a plausible explanation for this, though. According to Carr, women are more socialized to scrutinize and evaluate their relationships compared to men. However, there’s also another possible reason for this. Most of the time, one’s marriage is bliss thanks to all the things the wife is doing, such as providing love and support, among many other things. In this case, the husband receives more.
For the particular generation surveyed, wives would do more of the household chores and other housework, like preparing the meals. When a spouse gets sick, only the wife’s happiness becomes affected, while the husband’s life satisfaction rating isn’t affected at all. This is because when husbands become ill, wives have a tendency to become their personal caregiver and would do everything they can for their spouse. If the wife got sick, however, husbands would usually let friends or their children take care of their wives instead.
Given this information, it’s clear to see that comparing husbands and wives, the husbands receive more in terms of partner support. Thus, research claiming that getting married is good for men’s health makes sense, but this, unfortunately, isn’t necessarily the case for women.
Communication is key.
This applies to all relationships—it’s important to communicate one’s feelings openly and clearly. It may be difficult to do, and may even cause pain, but couples need to talk to each other if they want to be on the same page and make the marriage (or relationship) work.
Of course, marriage isn’t black and white, and there are many factors to consider as to whether the relationship is worth staying for. However, once you and your partner practice open communication regularly, there’s a much higher chance that the marriage could still be saved.