It’s classic advice when it comes to marriage and family relationships: it’s better to be happy than right.
Well, if you are already practising the “smile-and-nod” two-step in preparation for the holidays, for the sake of your own yuletide happiness, researchers in New Zealand suggest biting your tongue may be really bad for your health.
In effect, they conclude, being right – and saying so – is better for happiness.
Now, the study was meant to be somewhat light on the science side: it involved only one couple, as explained in the December edition of the British Medical Journal.
In this case, the husband was assigned the job of agreeing with every opinion his wife expresses, and every demand she made without complaint. (In a timely coincidence, the opposite “experiment” is being endorsed by a new book selling like hotcakes in Spain, which encourages wives to be submissive and treat their husband’s words as the voice of God.)
What were the results?
By day 12, “the situation had become intolerable” for the man, the study’s lead author, Bruce Arroll, at the University of Aukland, explained to the Telegraph.
In fact, the husband’s happiness had fallen from a pretty strong seven out of 10, to a dismal level three in less than two weeks.
The wife in the experiment – who was not told what was happening – saw her happiness go up, from 8 to 8.5 in about six days – which is not that big of a leap, really, considering that she had someone doing her bidding without question. All that simpering would get irritating after a while, wouldn’t it?
On the 12th day, the husband gave up – made his wife a cup of tea, and confessed all. Researchers had to call off the experiment at that point.
“Many people in the world live as couples and we believe that it could be harmful for one partner to always have to agree with the other,” the researcher concluded.
Of course, they pointed out, a future study “is needed to see whether our results hold if it is the male who is always right.”
Perhaps, they can look to Spain to see how well that’s working.