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What Makes Wives Happy?

Both New and Old Ideas of Marriage, Study Shows

Equal Partners

Psychologist and couple's therapist Peter Larson, PhD, says a sense of equality within the marriage is a critical predictor of happiness, regardless of whether the participants adopt gender roles perceived as traditional or nontraditional.

Larsen says in a study of the 5,000 happiest and 5,000 unhappiest couples from a 20,000 couple dataset, he and colleagues found that four of five couples who perceived themselves as equal partners within the marriage considered their marriages happy.

Only one of five couples who considered their marriages traditional, meaning that the husband tended to make decisions unilaterally, had happy marriages.

This was the case regardless of whether the women worked outside the home or not.

Larson notes that his own marriage might be viewed as traditional -- when it is anything but -- because his wife is a stay-at-home mom to their three small children.

"She has a master's degree in psychology and worked to put me through grad school, and we make decisions together," he says. "It looks traditional from the outside, but we treat each other with equality. That is the key."

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