It’s easy to tell if a man will be fun to date: he’s funny, friendly, flirty. But does he have staying power? Will he be a good husband, rise to the challenge of raising children, persevere through tough times, stay faithful? That’s a harder call. Fortunately, you don’t have to just go on gut instinct (or, heaven forbid, trial and error). Science is on the case: Researchers are narrowing down what kind of men have the happiest wives. Here are eight key traits they have – and how to spot them.
1. He’s accommodating
“Test the degree to which he will put his needs aside for yours,” says Gary Direnfeld, a social worker and martial expert on Newlywed Nearly Dead?. To figure that out, try his first-date test: “Ask him to a movie, and choose a chick flick,” he says. “And watch his response. If he turns and tells you, ‘That’s a chick flick, you go on your own,’ that’s someone to run from. If he says, ‘Okay, you want to see that movie, I want to see this movie, we’ll take turns,’ that’s okay. If he says, ‘Not a movie I would have picked, but if you want to go, let’s go,’ that’s a keeper.”
2. He’s had his quarter-life crisis
Turns out there’s a reason why wrinkles are a turn-on; couples who marry after they’re 25 are more likely to stay together, according to researchers at the University of Pennsylvania. Perhaps people know themselves better by that age, or maybe they’re just more mature and able to work through issues.
3. He’s school-smart
Higher education is better for more than just your career path; couples who have just a high-school education are much more likely to get divorced than those who have post-secondary education. And it’s not enough to be in school; drop-outs are even worse than those who never went. Guess they’re just not good at following through.
4. He has a good job
Money’s one of the top reasons couples fight, and, according to the Canadian paper Divorce: Facts, Causes and Consequences, two types of money are likely to stress a relationship: low income, and rapidly rising social mobility, possibly because the partners are spending too much time on their careers. (Think John and Kate. ‘Nuff said.)
5. He’s Mr. Clean
Try the bathroom test: Does his toilet sparkle, or is your first thought that you’ll be spending a lot of time at your place? A recent study pinned down what kind of chore-sharing agreement is best. Lead researcher Roderic Beaujot, Professor of Sociology at the University of Western Ontario, says, “There was a higher amount of general life satisfaction for those who had more of a shared model of a division of work” – marriages where men do 40 to 60 percent of the unpaid work, like child rearing or housework.
6. He’s not a serial monogamist
As much fun as it is, living in sin’s probably not good for your future: people who’ve lived together before they get married are much more likely to separate. This might be because couples develop bad habits while living together – like being unsupportive of each other, bad at problem solving, or even unfaithful – that they then bring into their marriages. “You don’t want to have a boyfriend who has lived off and on with a series of women, or who wants to live with you just for the fun of it,” says Anne-Marie, retired sociologist and York University professor, and author of Divorce. “It’s counterintuitive, but unless you’re engaged, living together is just not a good preparation for marriage.”
7. He’s red-flag free
It’s nice to have a clean, smart, rich guy – but let’s not forget the basics. “If you have a boyfriend that winds up being jealous, and seeks to restrict your friendships, your life, your work, your finances, run,” says Direnfeld. “That is a very controlling fellow, and you’ll have a life of misery.”
8. You like him
Until researchers make us a manbot (we’d like the Jude Law lovebot in A.I., please), we’re left with imperfect men, and real-life decisions. In the end, the most important quality is utterly unscientific: He makes you happy.