Is Generosity The Key To A Healthy Marriage?

Is there an answer to the question, “What makes a happy marriage”? The answer may be found in how generous spouses are to each other. Do you make your spouse a cup of coffee, order flowers or provide a backrub? Then you may find yourself with a long-lasting and stable relationship.

A new study by the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia revealed couples who reported a high amount of generosity in their relationship were five times more likely to say their marriage was “very happy,” compared with those who reported a low amount of generosity, reports Rachael Rettner for MSNBC.

When a person is generous to his or her spouse, “The underlying message is, you´re valuable, you´re important,” said Dr. Anthony Castro, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, who was not involved in the study.

The odds of successfully combining marriage and parenthood include a mix of newer and more “institutional” marriage values, the report explains. The newer, “soul-mate” model of marriage include shared housework, good sex, marital generosity, date nights and having a college degree.

The “institutional” model of marriage include shared religious faith, commitment, the support of friends and family, a sound economic foundation provided by a good job, and quality family time.

Researcher W. Bradford Wilcox, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Virginia explains that generosity works best if you give your spouse something he or she likes, “[It´s] signaling to your spouse that you know them, and are trying to do things for them that are consistent with your understanding of them.”

But if, for example, your spouse delights in almond mochas, and you get her black coffee instead, it might not be very helpful, Wilcox said.

Based on the responses, the researchers compiled a list of the top five predictors of a very happy marriage. For men and women, sexual satisfaction ranked first, followed by level of commitment (a sense of “we-ness”), generosity and a positive attitude toward raising children, reports the University of Virginia Today.

For women, the fifth factor was above-average social support from friends and family, and for men, the fifth factor was spirituality within a marriage.

Compare these values to the 1960s and 1970s, when many couples engaged in a more individualistic approach to marriage, Wilcox said. “But that didn´t work out so well, as illustrated by the divorce revolution. By contrast, this report finds that in today´s marriages both wives and husbands benefit when they embrace an ethic of marital generosity,” he said.

Co-author Marquardt said, “One of the striking findings of this report is that equality in shared housework has emerged as a predictor of marital success for today´s young married parents, even as most married mothers would prefer to work part-time and most married fathers would prefer to work full-time.”

“Every individual situation is different,” Castro emphasizes. A couple may find themselves falling into the 14 percent of couples who are very happy without a high level of generosity. “Each specific relationship needs to be thought about individually, depending on both individual and partners´ needs.”

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