Part 2: Quest for Happiness Series
What women really want
If equality in work isn’t the answer for making happy wives (see Part 1: Quest for Happiness Series, The Equality Myth), what is?
According to the same study that looked at the division of labour*, the best predictor of marital satisfaction among wives was emotional connection. ‘Emotion work’, as psychologists call it, is being responsive to your spouse’s feelings and open about your own.
In practice, it means showing an interest in her day, being attentive when she debriefs (aka prattles about every detail), acknowledging her feelings (without trying to problem solve for her), and reassuring her that she is doing a great job as a wife and mum. Typically, when a wife feels listened to and understood, she relaxes and can let go of a lot of her obsessing.
The second part of ‘emotion work’, is being open and honest with her. When a husband is emotionally vulnerable and tender, she feels secure in the relationship. Women on the whole don’t like being out of touch with their man. When a husband is withdrawn and emotionally unavailable, they will fear the worst. Being open about where you have been, what you are doing and what you are thinking is good marital practice.
So a word of advice for those desperate husbands out there. If you do only one thing to rescue your marriage from misery or disaster (or both), pay attention to the emotional intimacy in your marriage. When a woman feels emotionally connected to her man, it makes up for a lot of other shortcomings.
*Wilcox and Nock, University of Virginia