What Makes a Happy Marriage

Speaking at the 2011 TED Conference, Jenna McCarthy, author of numerous books on love and relationship, talked about what social scientists have found common in happy marriages. The answers, amusingly, may not be what you expect.

smiling couple

1.  The wife looks better than her hubby. Watch any family sitcom and chances are that for the main couple of the show, the wife is more attractive than her husband. This is good news for couples in Singapore because our women are often more beautiful than our men are handsome – not that we’re saying our men look bad ‘cos they’re not. Seriously. Anyway, Ms. McCarthy’s advice: for women, you don’t really have to make yourselves the prettiest among your girlfriends, just look better than the female equivalent of your husband.

2.  Optimists have better relationships. In general, people who keep an optimistic view fare better in life than those who more frequently see the negative side of things. But this holds truer for the married life. Couples who look at the bright side of any situation, studies show, are more capable of weathering any storm. As added bonuses, optimistic couples are also happier, healthier and report higher life satisfaction.

3.  Doing housework improves marriage. A study by the London School of Economics found out that men who help around the house – including childcare and shopping, and not just repairs – have more stable marriages. This is more relevant here in Singapore where the norm is that both spouses have a full-time work and thus, it only seems fair, should equally contribute to caring for their home.

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Photo by Z Wedding Design

4.  Smiley people make better spouses. How can you predict if someone is going to have a good marriage? Researchers at DePauw University in the U.S. say look at their childhood photographs. According to their study, people who showed the weakest smiles are more than three times to have gone through a divorce than those who beamed their way through their childhood years. The lesson: to know whether your boyfriend will make a good husband, check his photo albums.

5.  Drinking alcohol is bad for marriage. Various studies have already linked large consumption of alcohol and bad marriages, but a more recent study from Indiana University found a more unexpected problem for heavy drinkers in that it delays drinkers from getting married. So, apparently, the strict policies on drinking alcohol that we have here in Singapore is actually also helping our marriages.

6.  Romantic films aren’t for happy couples. While watching romantic movies is a good idea during courtship, scientists at Edinburgh’s Heriot Watt University warn that you probably shouldn’t do it anymore after marriage. The reason for this is because such films depict an ideal relationship, which might make your own relationship look rather unsatisfying in comparison. Ms. McCarthy’s advice: watch something where the protagonist suffers a bit (or a lot), and you’ll walk out of that theater feeling like you’ve got a fine life with your partner.

7.  Happy couples have few divorced friends. This is quite alarming, but it seems that divorce is contagious. Apparently, when one of your friends is going through a divorce, it raises your anxiety levels and possibly makes you foster negative feeling you have about your marriage. When this happens to you, Ms. McCarthy says that instead of looking at the bad side of your marriage, look at the bad side of your soon-to-be divorcee friend’s situation. Would you like to be in her shoes? We think not.

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Photo by Weelian Photography

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