Bowen Buchbinder Vilensky

Happy Wife, Happy Life – Observations by a Family Lawyer

By Damien Bowen, Director at Bowen Buchbinder Vilensky Lawyers

1 September 2015

Research suggests marriages last longer if the husband is the one who is miserable…

In a recent article in the Weekend Australian (July 18-19 2015), Bettina Arndt the well known sex therapist, journalist and clinical psychologist took a look at social science research into marriage and marriage breakdown.  She outlined how research has been used by media and other interest groups to paint men as “the bad guys” and how conclusions drawn from research which portrays negative images of men always captures the attention of the media.  She argues that the annual Household Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey had been inaccurately interpreted and poorly reported in the media upon its recent release.  Arndt argued that the media really only reported half the research, and that was the half least complimentary to males.  HILDA reported that males whose wives work outside the home either full time or part time are less satisfied with their relationships than those whose spouses do not work.  The conclusion the media and commentators drew from this was that men prefer to have, “… their little ladies safely installed behind the white picket fence.”   Arndt however, ventured the opinion that these findings more likely reflected the wisdom of the old saying: “Happy wife, happy life”.  The reason most women are out of the workforce is because they are mainly the mothers of very young children.  The research suggests that both parents are happy in the relationship in those circumstances.

Arndt went onto say that the “stay at home mum” carries the burden of child rearing and studies such as the HILDA survey showed that the hours a wife spends on home duties and child rearing inevitably exceeds the hours a man puts into to similar duties.  What is ignored is that the man is the sole bread winner and the contribution he makes as bread winner is a contribution to the family which is being ignored in the exercise.  Frequently when “in the home” and “out of the home” work is added together, the hours a man puts into paid and unpaid work is roughly equivalent to the hours the wife puts into unpaid housework and child rearing duties.  It frequently works out that each party contributes about 70 hours a week.

Marriage rates in Australia have been dropping.  Increasing numbers of couples live in defacto relationships whose numbers are up from 1.5 million in 1996 to 2.9 million in 2012.  The latest HILDA data shows that cohabitating couples tend to be happier than married couple.  Yet about 90% of married couples are still together after 4 years compared 74% of defacto couples.  After 11 years the figures are 80% for married couples and 57% for defactos.

John Gottman, one of America’s foremost marriage researchers conducted a survey tracking newlyweds and following them up for six years to see which marriages were happy and stable and which ended in divorce.  They were surprised at the outcome but that outcome led them to sum up with this advice to men “If you want your marriage to last for a long time … just do what your wife says.  Go ahead, give into her.  The marriages that did work all had one thing in common – the husband was willing to give into the wife.  We found that only those newlywed men who are accepting of influence from their wives are ending up in happy stable marriages”.

From this you could conclude that men know they can’t afford to have unhappy wives because it affects their own life happiness if their wives are miserable.

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3 Responses to “Happy Wife, Happy Life – Observations by a Family Lawyer”

  1. Great research. I really do appreciate with you. If you can afford your wife and make her happy there will be more chance to have a happy family.

  2. Thanks Damien Bowen for a great research. Its a great way to make family happy.

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