Scientists report that the more content a woman is in her marriage, the happier her husband is with his life, regardless of his feelings 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,” says Deborah Carr, a professor in the department of sociology at Rutgers.
“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, a research professor at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research, coauthored the study in the Journal of Marriage and Family on marital quality and happiness among older adults.
APPRAISING THE MARRIAGE
The study differs from previous research, according to Carr, because it examines the personal feelings of both spouses to determine how these marital appraisals influence the psychological well-being of older adults.
Researchers analyzed data of 394 couples who were part of a national study of income, health, and disability in 2009. At least one of the spouses was 60 or older and, on average, couples were married for 39 years.
In order to assess marital quality, those involved in the study were asked several questions, such as whether their spouse appreciates them, argues with them, understands their feelings, or gets on their nerves.
They were also asked to keep detailed diaries about how happy they were in the previous 24 hours doing selected activities like shopping, doing household chores, and watching television.
Those involved in the study, on average, rated their general life satisfaction high, typically five out of six points—with husbands rating their marriage slightly more positive than their wives.
“For both spouses being in a better-rated marriage was linked to greater life satisfaction and happiness,” Carr says.
Still, she says, the study also found that while wives became less happy if their spouses became ill, the husbands’ happiness level didn’t change or reflect the same outcome if their wives got sick.
“We know that when a partner is sick it is the wife that often does the caregiving, which can be a stressful experience,” says Carr. “But often when a women gets sick it is not her husband she relies on but her daughter.”
The study is important, the researchers say, because the quality of a marriage can affect the health and well-being of older individuals as they continue to age.
“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 says.
Happy Marriage, Happy Life? Marital Quality and Subjective Well-being in Later Life, Published on Journal 《The journal of Marriage and Family》in Sep 2, 2014.