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How to Have a Happy Marriage

New research on marriage shows that the happier the wife, the happier the life. This insight into how to have a happy marriage is inspired by a Rutgers study – and the findings can be applied to any relationship.

happy marriagesIn The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages: The Little Things That Make a Big Difference, Shaunti Feldhahn shares her findings about little, very unexpected, often overlooked actions that make a huge difference. Happy married couples go to bed mad, keep score (just not in the way you think), boss their feelings around, have factual fantasies, get in over their heads, don’t tell it like it is, and don’t look to marriage to make them happy.

If you’re struggling with your relationship, read. A happy marriage is within your reach – and it may not be enough just to read this research and learn that happy wives equal happy lives. You may have to dig in a little, and figure out how to make your wife happy (if you’re an unhappy woman, read these reasons why you are so unhappy).


In this article, I describe research that offers insight into link between marital quality and well-being later in life and offer tips on having a happier marriage.

What the Latest Research on Marriage Says…

The quality of your marriage affects your health and well-being as you get older. This isn’t surprising: the happier your marriage, the more protected you are against the health-depleting effects of later life stressors. If you can learn how to have a happy marriage early, you’re better able to manage difficult decisions regarding health and medical decision making.

The more content the wife is with a long-term marriage union, the happier the husband is with his life – no matter how he feels about their nuptials or married life. Basically, a happy wife means a happy life. This is because happy wives tend to express their happiness by doing things for their husbands, while husbands just “be happy.”

“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,” said 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 co-authored this study on how to have a happy marriage with Vicki Freedman, a research professor at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research. The study was published in the Journal of Marriage and Family.

This research on happy marriages is different because it examines the personal feelings of both spouses to determine how their perception of marriage affects their psychological well-being – especially as they age. The 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.

having a happy marriage

“How to Have a Happy Marriage”

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. Research participants were also asked to keep detailed diaries about how happy they were in the previous 24 hours while they were doing activities such as shopping, doing household chores and watching television.

Husbands rated their marriages more positively. The research participants rated their general life satisfaction high, on average. Spouses gave their marriages five out of six points, typically – with husbands rating their marriage slightly more positive than their wives.


Not surprisingly, the higher you rate your marriage the happier you are with your life in general. “For both spouses being in a better-rated marriage was linked to greater life satisfaction and happiness,” Carr said.

When wives get sick, husbands aren’t usually the caregivers. “We know that when a partner is sick it is the wife that often does the caregiving, which can be a stressful experience,” said Carr. “But often when a women gets sick it is not her husband she relies on, but her daughter.”

Wives are more affected by husbands’ illness than vice versa. This marriage research study 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. Why? Because husbands aren’t the caregivers when their partners fall ill. My husband would be the exception to this rule. When I got laser eye surgery and wore a blindfold for three full days to heal, Bruce took incredibly good care of me.

This is a good lesson when you’re reading research on how to have a happy marriage: remember that the findings don’t necessarily apply to everyone equally. Research studies don’t apply to everyone in the same way, especially if the research participants were in a different age, health, sociological, or marriage cohort. For instance, this research study included participants who were married for an average of 39 years. The insights into how to have a happy marriage may have varied if the couples were married for an average of 10 years, or an average of 50 years.

I welcome your thoughts on how to have a happy marriage below. If you’re struggling with your relationship, read How to Survive an Unhappy Marriage.

Is your relationship in trouble? Get 7 Steps to Fixing Your Marriage from relationship coach Mort Fertel. It's free and helpful, no strings attached.


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Source:  Wife’s Happiness Is More Crucial than Her Husband’s in Keeping Marriage on Track, Rutgers University.


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