“How can I be happy when she’s not?”

"Joy" by Mimi Stuart Live the Life you Desire

If misery loves company, what does happiness do? It turns out that happiness is infectious, at least between married to each other. Recent research shows that married men are significantly more satisfied with their lives when their wives are happy with theirs, and vice versa.

British researcher Nick Powdthavee found that in married couples happiness can overflow from one spouse to the other, even for a partner who is facing difficulties. Unfortunately, the same results were not seen among unmarried couples who lived together.

In contrast, the negative effects of constant complaining or whining are greater than intended. The intended message of regularly pointing out flawed details in one’s surroundings, like “the toaster is sticking again,” can become a different message of “I am a pain to be around and will not stop complaining until you’re as unhappy as I am.”

It may seem obvious that it’s more enjoyable to be with someone happy than angry or depressed. Yet, this research gives people another good reason to seek happiness and not feel guilty about it. Since happiness is contagious, there’s no reason to try to make others feel better by showing them that your life is just as miserable as theirs. Instead, people can welcome happiness and serenity–at least to make their spouses happy.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

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