Happy Wife, Happy Life

Posted on October 10, 2014


This topic should warrant two posts, one now and one when I have actually read the study.  In recent weeks, there has been some media buzz about a study done by Rutgers about marital quality and well-being later in life.  You can check it out here: http://news.rutgers.edu/research-news/wife%E2%80%99s-happiness-more-crucial-her-husband%E2%80%99s-keeping-marriage-track-rutgers-study-finds/20140911#.VDcP1PldXeo .  When last I checked, the October issue of the Journal of Marriage and Family in which the study was published had not yet reached the Bethel Library so I only have the press articles to reference.

There is an old cliché that says, “If Mama ain’t happy, then no one’s happy.”  It appears from the study that the converse particularly holds true: “If the wife is happy, the husband has a high level of life satisfaction.”  The study looked at long term married couples (average 39 years) and found that the happier the wife is with the marriage, the happier the husband is with his life in general.

Previous studies have demonstrated that marriage is good for your physical and mental health, longevity, financial position, and life satisfaction.  This study takes a look at how the marital satisfaction of the partners impacts well-being.  As it turns out, the results say, “Happy wife, happy life.”

Not only is this intuitively correct, but it is consistent with what I see in therapy.  About ¾ of the time, it is the wife who calls about marital therapy.  Often the husband’s goals for therapy are to make his wife happy.  When they come in for subsequent sessions, if they did not have open fights during the week, the husband will report it was a good week.  The wife tends to have a different standard for what constitutes a good week.  It usually involves feeling understood and appreciated.

Guys, we often seem to think there is something unfathomable to deciphering what a woman wants.  My experience is that when I ask wives about what they need, they are generally able to articulate it pretty well.  After she has done that, it is often the case that couples come back for the next session and the husband hasn’t given her what she said she needed and is frustrated because she is still dissatisfied.

The science is there (and it isn’t rocket science).  If you want to have a happy life, do what you need to do to make your wife feel good about being married to you.  If she wants you to say affirming things to her, do it.  If she wants you to hold her hand or give her kisses, do it (it isn’t exactly tough duty).  If she wants you to really listen to her (i.e. hear her, understand her, communicate that you got it), then do it.  It is in your best interests.  First, you can save a ton of money on therapy.  Second, you will be happier with your life.