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Wives Say Emotional Engagement is Key to Happy Marriage

What makes a happy marriage? A new study finds that the most important factor for a woman isn't money or who does the housework, but the emotional engagement of her husband.

One newlywed, interviewed on CBS-TV, said she supports her husband in school and at the end of the day she wants affection and attention. "I'll say, I need a hug or I need a kiss. Or don't you want to hear about my day today?"

Five thousand couples in the National Survey of Families and Households said much the same thing. Women in the sample ranged between 20 and 60. Half worked either full or part-time.

University of Virginia sociologist Brad Wilcox said the findings don't support the common perception that equity is the most important quality in a happy marriage. "We find in the study that women are happier when they are at home and when their husbands are the primary breadwinners," he says. "Women appreciate when their husbands give them the financial security to make choices."

Responding to those results one woman told CBS-TV likes being a stay-at-home wife. "The majority of my time is with my children day in and day out doing various activities. [My husband] is busy doing his thing at work and it works well together."

But, she says, no husband is perfect. "He doesn't put the toilet seat down, and he doesn't always take the trash out and he never picks up the dry cleaning, but he has a great sense of humor and puts me first above everything."

According to the study, fairness does matter. Married women are happier when they feel housework is shared by their spouse but not necessarily divided equally. The study is published in the March issue of the journal Social Forces.