Most of us have certainly heard the phrase “happy woman, happy life”. But was not this saying used only to encourage men to treat their wives well? A new study from Rutgers University, New Jersey, shows that the happier a woman is in a marriage, the more the husband is satisfied, regardless of how he feels personally for the wedding.
Previous studies have suggested that a happy marriage has several health benefits. Indeed, a happy marriage could reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Meanwhile, another study suggested that marital happiness depended on the fact that wives managed to keep calm after arguing with their spouses.
In this latest study longitudinal conducted on 394 couples aged 60 and over, and published in the Journal of Marriage and Family, Deborah Carr, a sociologist at Rutgers University, and Professor Vicki Freedman of the University of Michigan, worked together to study marital quality and happiness in the elderly.
“I think it comes down to the fact that when a woman is satisfied with her marriage, she tends to do a lot more for her husband,” says Professor Carr, “which has a positive effect on his life.”
She adds that because men generally talk less about their relationships, “their level of marital sadness may not be felt by their wives.”
The researchers say their study is different from the previous ones because it focuses on the personal feelings of husbands and wives to assess the effect these emotions might have on their psychological well-being.
Happy woman, happy husband
The study was conducted on 394 couples with at least one spouse aged 60 or older. On average, couples have been married for 39 years.
Professors Carr and Freedman asked participants questions such as whether their spouse liked them, spoke to them, understood their feelings or irritated them … Husbands and wives also kept a journal about their satisfaction over the previous 24 hours, from certain activities such as shopping, housework …
Overall, participants had a high level of satisfaction with life in general, 5 points out of 6, and husbands tended to rate their marriage slightly more positively than their wives.
Professor Carr argues that the best-rated marriage was linked to greater satisfaction of life and happiness for both spouses.
However, they also found that wives became less happy if their husbands became ill, but that the level of husbands’ happiness did not change at all when their wives became ill.
This is probably due to the fact that wives take care of the majority of care when a partner is sick, says Professor Carr, who notes that this can be a stressful experience. “But often, when a woman gets sick, it is not about her husband that she counts, but about her children or her friends,” she adds.
“So maybe she’s listening more, giving her more emotional support, or perhaps giving her more help with daily activities. ”
“All of these things can make a husband happier overall, even if it does not affect his perspective on marriage,” Carr said.
The team says this study is proving to be very important because of the effect that marriage can have on the health and well-being of seniors as they age. Professor Carr says that a happy marriage is a weapon against the harmful effects of stress on health, and makes it easier for couples to make medical decisions.