Not money, emotional engagement makes wives happy
Mar 6, 2006 - 5:02:37 PM

Emotional engagement, and not money, is the single most important factor in women's marital happiness, say researchers.

Most research on American marriages has focused on the division of housework and paid work -- who does what inside and outside the home.

The new study by researchers W. Bradford Wilcox and Steven L. Nock at University of Virginia looked at more than 5,000 couples. It found that wives care most about how affectionate and understanding their husbands are, and how much quality time they spend with their husbands.

The researchers also found that women whose husbands earn the lion's share of income, who don't work outside the home, or who share a strong commitment to lifelong marriage with their husbands report the highest levels of marital happiness -- in sharp contrast to academic conventional wisdom.

In addition, perceptions of fairness matter for married women. Women who report that the division of housework is fair are happier in their marriages than women who think that their husbands don't do their fair share.

"Conventional and academic wisdom now suggests that the 'best' marriages are unions of equals," Nock said.

"Our work suggests that the reality is more complicated. Wives are surely sensitive to imbalances in routine tasks and efforts, as almost all research shows.

"However, we find that they are more concerned with their husband's investments in the emotional content of the marriage. We interpret our results to suggest that partners need to pay more attention to how their partners feel about their relationship and about marriage generally, because equality does not necessarily produce equity."

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