Men who have been married a long time may find support from their wives frustrating, researchers suggest.
While wives see emotional support as a positive thing, men can feel “helpless or less competent” if their spouse offers too much.
These findings were published by researchers from Rutgers University in New Jersey and the University of Michigan. Their study of long-term married couples gathered data from 722 couples who had been married for an average of 39 years. Each couple was asked a series of questions about their relationship and how the reaction of their spouse to stressful situations affected them.
Men and women in the study reacted very differently to marital difficulties. In general, wives felt good when they talked about the issues that were troubling them. By contrast, husbands reported increased levels of frustration in the same situation.
In addition, men and women reacted differently to the prospect of giving support to their partners. While women felt good about it, husbands who “provide high levels of support to their wives” may become frustrated if they “would rather be focusing their energies on another activity”.
Deborah Carr is a professor in Rutgers’ Department of Sociology. She said the study revealed that “support is good only if one views it as helpful and desirable” because the majority of people “want to feel they’re capable of managing their own life”.
The research was published in the academic Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences.
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