Does a Happy Wife Really Make a Happy Life?

The saying “Happy Wife, Happy Life” has been popular for quite a while among many American couples. It vividly explains the psychological know-how of happy marital love and life. This old adage tells a husband that the emotional state of his wife is more important to a satisfactory relationship than his own.

What Marriage Therapists Think About “Happy Wife, Happy Life”

Some marriage and family therapists, like Diane Gleim, disagree with this approach. Diane thinks that this saying is baloney and quotes the opinion of one wife who said:

“I appreciate all that my husband does for me but I will admit there are times I want him to push back.”

That woman was aware that “getting her way” did not make her satisfied with her marital relationship. Instead, she felt negative consequences.

Does Research Support the Saying “Happy Wife, Happy Life”?

Theoretically, the adage “Happy wife, happy life” sounds plausible and can be explained both from evolutionary and social psychological perspectives. As Professor Emily Impett from the University of Toronto Mississauga explains,

“Evolutionary perspectives might suggest that women have evolved psychological mechanisms that make them especially attuned to the quality of their relationships—to help them select an optimal mate”

“And there is also a social psychological perspective. The social performance of gender roles requires women to attend to the needs of their partners and take responsibility for maintaining relationships. So, their views about the relationship would be more likely to affect couple dynamics. But that is not what we found at all. We found that both men and women have equal power to shape the future of their relationship.”

There aren’t many studies that have looked into this premise and thoroughly tested it. And those which did tended to have small sample sizes and therefore were not very convincing.

New Studies Test Whether the Saying “Happy Wife, Happy Life” Is True

Recent research also puts the saying “Happy Wife, Happy Life” into question, as Ty Burke showed

As Emily Impett explained:

“People experience ups and downs in their romantic relationships. Some days are better than others, and it is widely believed that women’s relationship perceptions will carry more weight in predicting future relationship satisfaction”
“This idea that women are the barometers of relationships is captured in expressions like ‘happy wife, happy life.’

What Studies Actually Show about the Phenomenon of “Happy Wife, Happy Life”

In a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Canadian researchers Impett, Johnson, and their colleagues tested this old adage. They analyzed data collected in 9 samples from Canada, the United States, and Germany. Their study included relationship satisfaction reports from 901 couples. Researchers asked them to keep a daily diary for up to 21 days. Also, researchers asked 3,405 couples how happy they were in their relationships annually for five years.

Emily Impett commented on the conclusion researchers drew from the studies, saying,

“The relationship satisfaction of both men and women was equally strong predictors of their own future satisfaction and of their partner’s—whether it was day-to-day or year-to-year.”

“Men’s satisfaction matters equally, in terms of how they feel and how their partner feels about the relationship in the future.”

“Just think about what happens in the daily lives of couples. When one partner is having a particularly bad day, that lingers in the relationship. On the flip side of that, when one partner is feeling particularly good about the relationship, both partners reap the benefits of that. We see the same pattern over longer periods of time too, from one year to the next. Relationship satisfaction forecasts future satisfaction. “

What Is Really Important for Satisfaction in Relationships  

Overall, the findings emphasize how important it is for both spouses to be aware of and take the necessary steps to cultivate satisfaction in relationships. As Emily Impett explains,

“Many couples wait too long to seek help for issues in their relationships, but people know when they are experiencing more negativity than positivity, and they have the potential to try to shift things.”

“We already know the things that couples can do to maintain relationship satisfaction. Be responsive to a partner’s needs, support them when they are down, share in their good news, and cultivate gratitude. It is important for people to be aware of their own satisfaction and its fluctuations. Knowing how you can impact your own relationship satisfaction matters for you, and it matters for your partner too.”