How to Make Your Wife Happy

The key ingredient to a woman's marital bliss is her husband's emotional commitment, suggests a new study based on a survey of 5,000 couples across the country.

The finding is in contrast to previous research that focused on a husband's salary and division of household work as the main drivers of a woman's perception of a happy marriage.

Even so, the new research determined that women whose husbands bring home more than 68 percent of the bacon are the most content.

"Regardless of what married women say they believe about gender, they tend to have happier marriages when their husband is a good provider — provided that he is also emotionally engaged," said W. Bradford Wilcox, a University of Virginia sociologist. "I was very surprised to find that even egalitarian-minded women are happier when their marriages are organized along more gendered lines."

Fairness is also considered an important element.

Women who perceive that housework is shared in a fair manner consider themselves happier partners. Fair in this case does not necessarily mean splitting housework evenly—most of the women in this happier category perform the majority of household chores themselves. But because they believe that their husbands are playing an important role as providers, they view the unequal work split as fair.

"Wives are surely sensitive to imbalances in routine tasks and efforts, as almost all research shows. However, we find that they are more concerned with their husband's investments in the emotional content of the marriage," said study team member Steven Nock, a professor of sociology at University of Virginia. "We interpret our results to suggest that partners need to pay more attention to how their partners feel about their relationship and about marriage generally because equality does not necessarily produce equity."

The findings are detailed in this month's issue of the journal Social Forces.