Experts Try to Discover Whether It's Better to Be Right or Be Happy

Would you rather be happy or right in a marriage? It's an age-old question that's tough to answer.

In the Christmas edition of The BMJ, formerly the British Medical Journal, researchers at the University of Auckland in New Zealand try to answer this question by evaluating the effect of being right versus being happy on a couple's quality of life.

The study involved a married couple living in their own home.

The authors decided that the wife would prefer to be right and the husband would prefer to be happy. So the man was asked to agree with his wife's every opinion and request without complaint. Even if he believed she was wrong, the husband was told to bow and scrape. The man was informed of the intervention but his wife was not.

Quality of life of both was measured using a scoring scale of one to 10 with 10 being the best possible quality of life.

The study had to be stopped after 12 days after the experiment went rapidly downhill. The husband found his wife became increasingly critical of everything he did. The man's quality of life score fell from 7 out of 10 at the start of the study to 3 at 12 days. The women's increased slightly from 8 to 8.5 at six days.

The wife, who didn't quite know what was going on, just got out of control, says study author Bruce Arroll.

"Her behavior was just getting increasingly sort of demanding and sort of bossy, I guess would be the word, which became unbearable for the male participant," he says.

"It seems that being right is a cause of happiness, and agreeing with what one disagrees with is a cause of unhappiness," say the authors. "The results of this trial show that the availability of unbridled power adversely affects the quality of life of those on the receiving end."

They conclude: "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. However, more research is needed to see whether our results hold if it is the male who is always right."