Skinnier Wives Make for Happier Marriages

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The key to a happy marriage is not love, after all. According to a new study, both men and women report feeling more satisfied in their marriages when the wives are thinner than their husbands.

The study, published in the July edition of Social Psychological and Personality Science, examined nearly 170 newlywed couples under the age of 35 over a period of 4 years. Each of the couples was given a survey every 6 months regarding their happiness and satisfaction in their marriage.

The researchers found that as women's BMI (body mass index) surpassed that of their husbands – both partners reported more dissatisfaction in the marriage. After adjusting for income, education, depression and divorce the results showed that initially men were more satisfied in their marriages and women were more satisfied over time when the wife was thinner than the husband.

Surprisingly, the actual value of the BMI had no influence on happiness whatsoever, only the ratio between the husband and wife.

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While this may make larger, happily married women upset the study authors say that this is actually good news for women.

"There's a lot of pressure on women in our society to achieve an often unreachably small weight," said Andrea Meltzer, a doctoral candidate at the University of Tennessee and lead author of the study. "The great take-home message from our study is that women of any size can be happy in their relationships with the right partner. It's relative weight that matters, not absolute weight. It's not that they have to be small."

The reason the BMI ratio affects marital happiness is unclear, however the researchers suggest that perhaps it is in line with the idea that couples are happier when men are more powerful, and bigger, than their wives. Furthermore, Meltzer suggests that perhaps men equate weight with attractiveness, which is why initially this makes the marriage more satisfactory for them. If the husband is not satisfied then over time this could lead to the female's dissatisfaction as well.

However, the study authors also caution against using these findings as an absolute predictor of marital happiness. "Obviously a lot of things play into relationship satisfaction and this is just one of them," said Meltzer. "It's not a guarantee to be happy in a relationship."

Resource: Social Psychological and Personality Science

Updated 8/5/2013

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