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Health & Sex

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For Happy Marriage, His Personality May Be Key

Study looked at health, 'positivity' and other traits in older couples


If the husband had high levels of positivity, there was also less conflict, Iveniuk found. The opposite was not true -- the amount of positivity the wives displayed had no effect on the husbands' reports of conflict.

However, if men were easily stressed out or were very extraverted, the wives tended to complain more about the marriage, Iveniuk found. The stressed-out person tends to be a difficult person to live with, he said, and wives may bear the brunt of that more than husbands with stressed-out wives.

Wives married to husbands who score high on extraversion may find it difficult to ''tame them,'' Iveniuk said, and find it hard to deal with their high energy level and impulsivity.

An expert who was not involved with the study said its findings may also reflect women's tendency to take things personally.

Traditionally, "women are far more responsive to the feelings of others, the behavior of others. We're reared to be more sensitive to how others relate to us," said Jamila Bookwala, a professor of psychology at Lafayette College, in Easton, Pa., who also studies marital quality.

If a husband is more positive, the wife is likely to feel her marriage is much better. "If she's a grouch, he is less affected by it," she said. Men may simply be better at shrugging off perceived slights and criticisms, she suggested.

Other research has found, in general, that older men rate marriage quality higher than do older women, Bookwala said.

Couples in long-term unions might take a step back and think about whether they could do things differently to preserve or increase harmony, Bookwala and Iveniuk agreed.

"Take a look at your reaction [to conflict]," Iveniuk said. If a man's inclination is to withdraw at the first sign of trouble and leave the discussion, maybe he could stay and talk it out.

Women might realize that they tend to be more relationship focused, and also be aware that this can actually make them more vulnerable to criticism, Bookwala said.

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