An article in the WSJ’s The Juggle column tipped me off to a recent study in the Journal of Family Psychology about how marital satisfaction is related to the workload that husbands and wives take on.
The study of 169 couples in the first four years of marriage found that when either partner works a lot, satisfaction with the marriage goes up — as long as that partner likes his or her job. When there’s no child in the picture, a husband’s workload going up correlated to higher happiness in the marriage, but when there were kids, a husband working more was linked to a downtick in marriage satisfaction for both husband and wife.
More surprising was what happened when there were kids and mom worked more:
Mom working more was linked to higher ratings of marital satisfaction for both partners. And overall, women were more affected by their husbands workloads than the other way around.
Why would it be that moms (and dads) are happier when mom is working more? The researchers suggested that one reason could be when moms are working more, dads tend to pitch in with domestic duties and the playing field becomes more level.
Another likely idea (and one that I identify with) is that working hard can be invigorating — especially when you’re doing something you enjoy and/or are good at. In my estimate, what boosts personal and relationship happiness is when both partners have a sense of meaning and purpose. Kids provide that (perhaps at the deepest level) and many parents feel full and satisfied in their roles as mom or dad — others do best when they’re working hard at both family and career.
There’s no right answer here, only what feels best for you and your family. But do you find that working hard is good for your marriage, and is there a difference when mom versus dad’s workload increases? On the flip side, have you found that working more makes you less happy at home (specifically in your relationship).
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