Happy Marriage In Older Couples Often Depends On Husband's Positive Attitude
March 15, 2014

Husband’s Attitude Can Affect Marriage Happiness

Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

According to a study from University of Chicago researchers, older couples rely on a husband’s health and attitude when it comes to being happy.

Researchers found that a husband’s agreeable personality and good health are crucial in preventing conflict among older couples that have been together for a long time.

“Wives report more conflict if their husband is in poor health,”, James Iveniuk, PhD candidate in the Department of Sociology and lead author of the paper published in the Journal of Marriage and Family, said in a statement. “If the wife is in poor health, there doesn’t seem to be any difference in terms of the quality of the marriage for the husband.”

The team analyzed data from a national survey that included 953 heterosexual couples who were married or cohabitating. Study participants ranged in age from 63 to 90 years old with an average of 39 years in their relationships.

The researchers compared the characteristics of the husbands to the characteristics of their wives and vice versa based on interviews with each person in which they described themselves.

The study found many gender differences when looking at personality traits including openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and anxiety. They even created a term called “positivity” which is described as a person’s overall desire to be seen in a positive light.

“Wives whose husbands show higher levels of positivity reported less conflict. However, the wives’ positivity had no association with their husbands’ reports of conflict,” Iveniuk said.

Linda J. Waite, Lucy Flower Professor of Urban Sociology and director of the Center on Aging at NORC and co-author of the study, said the marital conflicts are not primarily about fighting or violence but simply “how much does your spouse bother you?” She said the conflicts were about when one spouse criticizes another, makes too many demands, or generally gets on the other person’s nerves.

The team also found that men who described themselves as neurotic or extraverts tended to have wives who complained more about the quality of the marriage.

“Several previous studies have been about the implications of marital status on health,” Waite said in a statement. “This research allows us to examine individual marriages and not ‘married people.’ We have the reports on the quality of the marriage from each person, about their own personality and their own health.”