The Secret to a Happy Marriage

Is sharing the housework the secret of a happy marriage?

The next time your other half complains about the lack of work you do around the house, it would be wise to take note.

Sharing household chores is one of the most important factors in a happy marriage – and far more significant than having children, a study has found.

The findings, from an American survey of more than 2,000 people, show the extent to which couples no longer see parenthood as central to their relationship, instead favoring “personal satisfaction”, said researchers.

Having a good sex life, a nice house and shared tastes and interests were also put ahead of raising a family in the study of couples’ priorities by the respected Pew Research Center in Washington.

Overall, having children came eighth out of a list of nine factors seen as contributing to a successful marriage – a drop of five places on the same survey in 1990.

Top was “faithfulness”, followed by “a happy sexual relationship”, with “sharing household chores” in third.

However, while playing down the significance of parenthood to a happy marriage, those surveyed still named children as their highest source of personal fulfillment. This, said researchers, shows that children are no longer seen as the “glue” of marriages – and parents would much rather live apart than be in an unfulfilling relationship.

The findings are all part of a trend which has seen couples delay having children and an increasing number of babies born to single mothers, they said “Marriage today, like the rest of our lives, is about personal satisfaction,” said Andrew J. Cherlin, a sociology and public policy professor at Johns Hopkins University in Washington.

He said the change of emphasis “allows us to grow and change throughout our lives”. But he added: “On the other hand, our relationships are much more fragile, because we think we should leave them if they become unsatisfying.”

One of those surveyed, Sarah Vassiliou, 42, said: “When I think of marriage, I don’t think of children at all. I have them. But with marriage, I think of a husband and a wife, and I don’t think it’s the children that make it work.”

Those taking part said by a margin-of nearly three to one that “mutual happiness and fulfillment” was more important to them than the “bearing and raising of children”.

Forty-one per cent said children were “very important” to their marriage, compared with 65 per cent in 1990.

Those naming chore-sharing as very important went up by 15 per cent to 62 per cent. This might be explained by an increasing recognition of the stress involved in raising children, said researchers.