The conversations of life

Hang in there: study finds laughter replaces bickering as couples get older


Honeymoon long since over? Don’t worry – a University of California study has found the arguments that can mark the early and middle years of marriage usually give way to humour and acceptance as couples age.

The researchers based this finding on a series of observational interviews over 13 years with 87 middle-aged and older husbands and wives who’d been married for between 15 to 35 years.

Overall, they observed the longer couples were married, the more teasing and jokes – and less criticism – they displayed towards each other (good to know!)

It supports an earlier study that concluded wives were more ‘emotionally expressive’ than their husbands (we’re guessing this means more tears) and as they grew older, tended towards more domineering behaviour (I don’t know what they’re talking about).

But in general, this behaviour dropped off across all ages and genders as people got older.

Happy wife (and husband) = happy life

The study authors say it explains one of the great paradoxes of life – while people lose family and friends as they get older, those in happy marriages are relatively happy with low rates of depression and anxiety.

We think it makes perfect sense. There is this ageist idea that couples get less happy over time when in fact, many people become more focused on the positives in their lives as they age – spouses included.

So, the next time, you and your significant other are arguing over who takes the dog for a walk, take heart – one day you’ll be laughing about this.

Unless they forget your anniversary.

With a background in nursing, Annie has spent over 20 years working in the health industry, including the coordination of medical support for international TV productions and major stadium events, plus education campaigns with a number of national health organisations. In recent years, she has also taken time out of the workforce to be a full-time carer, giving her first-hand experience of the challenges and rewards of this role.

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