Washington | Men and women in long-term marriages deal with marital difficulties differently, with wives becoming sad and worried wile husbands feel more frustrated, a new study has found.
Researchers from Rutgers University and University of Michigan in US, looked at sadness, worry and frustration among the most common negative emotions reported by older adults and found that men and women react differently to marital pressures.
The men don’t really want to talk about it or spend too much time thinking about it, said Deborah Carr, a professor at the Rutgers University. Men often don’t want to express vulnerable emotions, while women are much more comfortable expressing sadness or worry, Carr said.
Men and women have very different emotional reactions to the strain and support they experience in marriage, Carr said. While talking about issues and offering support makes the wives feel good, this only frustrated the husbands surveyed.
For women, getting a lot of support from their spouse is a positive experience, said Carr. Older men, however, may feel frustrated receiving lots of support from their wife, especially if it makes them feel helpless or less competent, Carr said. In the study, 722 couples, married an average of 39 years, were asked how their marital experience and the reactions of their spouse affected them.
They responded to whether they could open up to their spouse if they needed to talk about their worries, whether their spouse appreciates them, understands the way they feel about things, argues with them, makes them feel tense and gets on their nerves.
The husbands in the study who more often rated their marriages positively and reported significantly higher levels of emotional support and lower levels of marital strain than their wives – felt frustrated giving as well as receiving support. Men who provide high levels of support to their wives may feel this frustration if they believe that they would rather be focusing their energies on another activity, Carr said.
It may also have something to do with the age of the couples, with one spouse in the study having to be at least 60. Men of this generation may feel less competent if they need too much support from their wives, Carr said.
This is particularly important as couples age, become more dependent, less healthy and face the possibility of getting dementia or becoming a caregiver, Carr said. If older men or women with dementia have reduced impulse control, they could lash out against their spouse if they’re feeling frustrated, she said. It’s very important to keep in mind these dynamics even with long married couples who you may not think have any problems, she said.
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