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Mar 14, 2014 04:57 AM EDT

Chicago Researchers Reveal Secrets to Happy and Lasting Marriage


A latest University of Chicago study found that husbands' pleasant personality and good health helps prevent marital conflict among older couples. However, these characteristics in wives didn't have much effect on marital conflict.

"Wives report more conflict if their husband is in poor health," the study's lead author, James Iveniuk, PhD candidate in the Department of Sociology, said in a statement. "If the wife is in poor health, there doesn't seem to be any difference in terms of the quality of the marriage for the husband."

For the study, the scientists analysed results of a national survey that involved 953 heterosexual couples who were either married or co-habitating. The participants were aged between 63 and 90 years and the average length of their relationships was 39 years.

The National Social Life Health and Aging Project survey conducted interviews, where every participant had to describe his/her characteristics. The researchers connected these descriptions to the survey and compared the characteristics of the husbands with wives.

For the study, 'Positivity' was defined as the urge of a person to be seen in a positive light.

The California researchers found that wives, who had husbands with higher levels of positivity, reported less conflict. However, if the wives displayed higher levels of positivity, it did not have any influence on the conflict.

The study also found that men who described themselves as neurotic or extroverts were more likely to have partners who constantly criticized the quality of their marriage. On the other hand, men with self-described neurotic wives always considered the 'hysteria' to be more of a feminine trait. In such couples, husbands received more criticism and demands from their wives, but also higher levels of emotional support.

"Several previous studies have been about the implications of marital status on health," Co-author Linda J. Waite said. "This research allows us to examine individual marriages and not 'married people.' We have the reports on the quality of the marriage from each person, about their own personality and their own health."

The study, 'Marital Conflict in Older Couples: Positivity, Personality, and Health' is published in the Journal of Marriage and Family.

The researchers said that future studies can focus on how a happy marriage not only requires positive traits but also needs a better balance of emotional responsibilities between the couple.

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