David Wilkinson

Banisher of fears, slayer of anxiety & developer of emotional resilience

The Key to a Happy Marriage lies ... with the wife.

The Key to a Happy Marriage lies ... with the wife.

One of the factors which helps us have successful interpersonal and social relationships is the ability to regulate our own emotions. For example if someone we like does something we don't like quite often we will just gloss over the incident. The same applies, but in a slightly different way, if the boss does something we don't like, we might mutter about it but we 'bite our tongue' and get on with it. If however we have reached the end of our tether we might just let it all go and have an angry outburst. There are some obvious career limiting aspects about this last option.

In a study just published in the journal Emotion, researchers from Stanford University found that the secret to martial satisfaction lay in the ability of the couple to be able to recover effectively and quickly from conflict or "hot button" incidents. The quicker and more fully the couple are able to recover from such incidents, and not hold on to them, the greater the levels of satisfaction the couple tend feel about the relationship.

However the research goes further.

They discovered that the key to a satisfying relationship lies with the wife. If the wife is able to up-regulate positive emotions and down-regulate negative emotions (see this article for an explanation of up and down regulation) then there is a much higher chance of the relationship being happier. The researchers found that wives who calmed down quickly also tended to be able to employ constructive communication strategies. Such strategies include behaviours like clearly expressing her feelings and suggesting solutions and compromises to the problem at hand. This contrasts with destructive communication strategies, such as criticizing, blaming and holding on to hurt. Constructive communication is more likely to result in conflict resolution, thereby positively impacting marital satisfaction.

Why exactly it is the wife that holds the key to the emotional health of the relationship is open to speculation.

The point for me is that if both members of the marriage work together to actively deal with conflicts, as opposed to blaming, criticising or just avoiding the issue, both are likely to have a happier and more satisfying relationship.

It would appear, for whatever reason, a calm wife equals a calm marriage which in turn is more likely to equal a satisfying marriage. 



Bloch, L., Haase, C. M., & Levenson, R. W. (2014) Emotion regulation predicts marital satisfaction: More than a wives' tale. Emotion, Vol 14(1), Feb 2014, 130-144. doi: 10.1037/a0034272

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