Such characteristics in wives play less of a role in limiting marital conflict, perhaps because of different expectations among women and men in durable relationships, said a study from University of Chicago.

"Wives report more conflict if their husbands are in poor health," said lead author James Iveniuk from department of sociology at University of Chicago.

If the wife is in poor health, there does not seem to be any difference in terms of the quality of the marriage for the husband, he added.

The participants ranged in age from 63 to 90 years old and the average length of their relationships was 39 years.

Iveniuk and colleagues found many gender differences when they examined personality traits including openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and anxiety."

Wives whose husbands show higher levels of positivity reported less conflict. However, the wives' positivity had no association with their husbands' reports of conflict," Iveniuk said.

The clashes are not primarily about fighting or violence but rather whether one spouse criticises the other, makes too many demands or generally gets on the other person's nerves. Another finding is that men who describe themselves as neurotic or extraverts tend to have wives who complain more about the quality of the marriage.

Men with self-described neurotic wives may consider worrying to be a more "gender-appropriate" role for women.

Husbands reported more criticism and demands from their wives overall, but also higher levels of emotional support, the study noted.

Future studies might examine the question of whether low levels of conflict in marriages require not only the absence of frustrating factors, such as poor health and negative traits, but also a better balance of emotional responsibilities between husbands and wives. The study was published in the Journal of Marriage and Family.


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