Marriage, Kids, Love & Happiness – Can we Have it All?

By Emily Murray

While marriage tends to get a bad reputation with celebrity divorces and shows like ‘Cheaters’ popping up every day, there are undoubtedly those who still appear to be very much in love decades after saying ‘I do.’ So what makes some couples stand the test of time and others last merely a few months? According to the latest annual report for Marriage, Inc. there are 5 qualities that make a good marriage.

But before I get to that part, let me lay out the most shocking part of the survey first. The satisfaction of married couples with children was generally lower than those who were married and did not have children.

As discussed in a TIME article on the subject, this report was published early this month (December 2011) and was based on the survey results of the General Social Survey and the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth as well as a smaller survey called the Survey of Marital Generosity which was funded by the University of Notre Dame. While there were many unhappily married parents, there were also some that were happy in spite of the extra stress and work that are normally associated with parenting.

After carefully considering what factors the happily married parents may have that the unhappy ones were lacking, the study authors came up with 5 qualities that generally seemed to exist in a happy marriage. Mothers who had these 5 things (in order) in their marriage seemed to be the most content. (as listed according to the article):

1. Sexual Satisfaction

2. Commitment

3. Generosity to husband, including small acts of service like making coffee for him in the morning, expressing affection, and being willing to forgive

4. Good attitude toward raising kids (i.e., she wanted them)

5. Social support from family and friends

For the men in the marriage, their 5 were nearly all the same, except instead of “social support from family and friends” they seemed to need “marital spirituality.”

Additionally the study concluded that those who were unmarried and had children were also more likely to be discontent than those who were married with children.

Of course, like most things, many warn that this report perhaps should not be taken at face value since the goal for the organizations behind the research is naturally to promote marriage…

What do you think? Are these straightforward guidelines for happiness or is it simply a report with an agenda?