Please upgrade your browser for the best Refinery29 experience. Read more.

Saved! Access Favorites in your account profile. Removed from my favorites

Could This Be The Secret To A Happy Relationship?

Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
For a strong relationship, you might want to re-examine your contributions to the household income.

Young men are a lot happier without the pressure of being the primary breadwinner, whereas women are more contented the more they contribute to the household income. At least, that is, according to new research on married heterosexual couples in the U.S.

The research, conducted by sociologists at the University of Connecticut, followed more than 3,000 married people aged between 18 and 32. The aim was to investigate the impact of traditional gender expectations on young peoples' mental and physical health, taking into account how the individual's income compared to their partner's, The Times reported.

The researchers compared the couples' earning ratios to data on their levels of happiness and depression. And the results vindicate what feminists have been saying for decades – that gendered expectations in marriage are bad for both sexes. So far, so unsurprising.

More remarkable was the fact that husbands were happiest when they earned half as much as their wives. Once their earnings were more than this, their health and psychological wellbeing declined.

By contrast, breadwinning had the opposite effect on women. Their mental health improved as their economic contributions increased.

Christin Munsch, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Connecticut, who conducted the study, said this result could be explained by age-old cultural expectations. "Men who make a lot more money than their partners may approach breadwinning with a sense of obligation and worry about maintaining breadwinner status," she said.

Whereas women "may approach breadwinning as an opportunity or choice," she added. "Breadwinning women may feel a sense of pride, without worrying what others will say if they can't or don't maintain it."

According to one academic, these attitudes are also likely to be held in the UK. Shireen Kanji, from the University of Leicester, has conducted similar research in Britain and Europe and found that male breadwinners worked for longer than they wanted and reported feeling more stressed.

While "the male breadwinner model" is still prevalent, "we do see signs it is cracking under the strain," Kanji told The Times. "There are men who are more confident about themselves, who want to be more involved in the care of their children.”