"Women might be able to fake orgasms, but men can fake whole relationships," lamented actress Sharon Stone. That's unfortunate if it's true, as it seems that emotional engagement is what women crave most in a marriage. At least, that's what a survey published in the journal Social Forces suggests, based on interviews with more than 5,000 American couples.
According to University of Virginia sociologists W. Bradford Wilcox and Steven L. Nock, emotional engagement, rather than any other factor, was the single most important contributor to a woman's marital happiness. Money, division of household chores and other factors were all less important to women. How affectionate and understanding their husbands were, and how much quality time they spent with their husbands, were on top of nearly all of the women's lists.
Perhaps that's not so surprising, but some of the other results from the survey made us do a Desperate Housewives double-take. Based on survey responses, the researchers say that women who don't work outside the home themselves, and whose husbands earn the lion's share of income, report the highest levels of marital happiness. Which is in stark contrast to other academic studies that have suggested just the opposite.
Interestingly, Wilcox says that related research found that even women who think that men and women should both earn income and share housework equally, are actually happier in their marriages when their husbands bring home the lion's share of income and when they do not work outside of the home.
"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 Wilcox. "I was very surprised to find that even egalitarian-minded women are happier when their marriages are organized along more [traditionally] gendered lines."
Some of the other findings had us wondering if the survey was carried out in Stepford. According to the researchers, it seems that women who have more traditional attitudes (taking care of the home and family, men taking the lead in earning etc.) are happier in their marriages and report more affection and understanding from their husbands.
The researchers themselves were surprised by some of the results, summarizing that "equality does not necessarily produce equity." And while conventional wisdom suggests that the best marriages are unions of equals, the research does seem to indicate otherwise. "Our work suggests that the reality is more complicated. 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," concluded Nock.
Source: University of Virginia