There is plenty about marriage that is hinged on a wife’s happiness.
According to a new study, how happy her husband is, how happy he is with the marriage itself, how long the marriage lasts, its quality, and the general satisfaction of the couple towards life is significantly affected by one thing: the wife’s happiness.
Here’s what Deborah Carr and her colleagues from a university in New Jersey did: they interviewed 400 couples who had been married for an average 39 years.
The happiness of the marriage gauged the feelings of each partner towards their spouse using a questionnaire that included questions such as whether or not their spouse appreciates them, understands their feelings or argues with them, and how happy they were doing particular activities as a couple.
Saturday Magazine spoke to three couples who have been married an average of 12 years. We sought to establish how the results of this study play out in the Kenyan context, and what the couples have learnt about keeping the wife happy.
Thomas and Maryanne have been married for 12 years. They have two children aged 11 and six. Both run their own businesses – Thomas is in IT, Maryanne in events planning. Was Thomas aware of the ‘happywife, happy life’ secret in the early years of the marriage? “No,” he says. “It’s something we both learnt along the way.” He shares an experience.
“I am an introvert, I like to keep to myself. Maryanne is an extrovert, a people’s person. Before we understood each other’s personality, she thought it was OK for us to play host to guests weekend after weekend. I thought it quite exhausting. I dreaded her get-togethers and resented her for involving me in them.
I became unhappy, making her unhappy, and the mood in the home was dampened. I have had to go out of my way to accommodate her and her guests and now we are happier,” he says.
Wanyonyi, 37, has been married to his wife Helen for 13 years and they have three children. He supports the findings of this study with an emphatic “yes.”
Helen is the combative type who doesn’t communicate her unhappiness unless confronted. Before he understood this, he says his wife Helen would dig up minor issues from the past that he thought were already resolved.
“Any failing on my part – like forgetting to wish her a good day, or asking her how her day went, or forgetting to do something she had asked – would be blown out of proportion.
I thought she was just being combative, I had no idea she was unhappy. Now, when I suspect something is amiss, I have learnt that I have to confront her with her feelings.”
Patience and her husband Gitau also agree with the study. They have been married for 10 years, and have two children. Gitau points out that the husband also has a role to play in cultivating a cheerful mood in the marriage, and that the buck doesn’t have to stop with his wife.
“I have learnt to read her moods and adjust how I react to them. When she is crabby and stressed, she is likely to snap at me. Instead of arguing with her or retreating into my corner, I have learnt to give her some time to centre herself or she will dampen everyone’s spirit. She really appreciates this.”
Women are controlling, and emotional beings with (in Wanyonyi’s words) large emotional tanks. But every man has to learn the language of his wife, and know what it takes to make her happy.
In a secure, mature marriage, the wife will, in turn, go out of her way to make her husband happy once her happiness needs have been met. But it takes far less to make a man happy, says relationship and marriage counsellor Anthony Kagiri.
“Men want a wife who understands and appreciates that he is bound to make mistakes. You point out the mistake, he amends it and life goes on.”
For the sanity of the household, a wise husband won’t ignore a mistake his wife has pointed out.
“Second, they want a wife who allows them to just be. Most men complain that their wives are very nagging. If women could know the point at which to stop pushing a point it would make things much easier.”
This is true: One of the findings of the research is that the happy-wife couples had a high level of satisfaction towards life in general compared to the less-happy-wife couples.
The quality of a marriage reflects in other spheres of someone’s life. Happiness breeds positivity. Positivity projects beyond the borders of the marriage to life outside of it, breeding satisfaction, says Kagiri.
“When a man is happy with his marriage, he is at peace at work, in his relationships and interactions with other people, and in his other pursuits outside the home.
When there is happiness in the marriage and, by extension, in the home, people are uplifted and energised to get out there and pursue their ambitions since they have a greater personal drive and purpose for living,” Kagiri says. Homes and marriages create a greater-than-self purpose of living for the couple.
“A home is the totality of what we do every minute of our lives.”
A happy wife means a happy life