Whose satisfaction is more important in a mixed-gender romantic relationship?

Featured image for YFile on relationship satisfaction survey by pexels-wendy-wei-2719500

Changes in your relationship satisfaction today are linked to how satisfied you will feel down the road, says York University psychology Professor Amy Muise, who is the co-author of a new study examining man-woman partnerships for satisfaction levels. The research analyzed daily diaries and other data collected over several years.

Findings of the international study, “Women and Men are the Barometers of Relationships: Testing the Predictive Power of Women’s and Men’s Relationship Satisfaction,” published in the journal PNAS, challenge the idea that women’s perceptions about their relationship are more consequential than men’s, highlighting those partners influence each other in romantic relationships.

Amy Muise
Amy Muise

“We found that men’s and women’s relationship satisfaction were equally strong predictors of their own, and their partner’s, next-day and next-year satisfaction,” says Muise, who was among the international team of researchers working on the study. The group analyzed more than 50,000 relationship-satisfaction reports including a study of daily reports for up to 21 days by 901 mixed-gender couples, and another study of 3,405 mixed-gender couples reports, assessed annually across five years.

The first study combined nine daily diary data sets from Canada and the United States – adding up to 29,541 daily reports of relationship satisfaction. The second study analyzed five annual waves of data from the German Family Panel (pairfam), surveying 3,405 mixed-gender couples who provided 21,115 relationship-satisfaction reports.

“Results underscore the interdependence of romantic partners’ satisfaction and indicate that both men and women jointly shape romantic relationship satisfaction,” says Muise.

The idea that women are the “barometers” of relationships and women’s relationship judgments are more predictive of partners’ future relationship satisfaction than men’s judgments is a long-held view among laypeople and relationship researchers, but this idea had not been directly evaluated, which is what led to the study.

Based on their findings, is it time to retire the adage “happy wife, happy life” and instead use “happy spouse, happy house?”