If the above boats drove you and wife a bit crazy, then you want to look at heavier style boats than the ones you are looking at! I grew up living on Lk Washington, my step dad and I used to sail our 21' CB boat all the time, including 20-30 knot days with 2-3' waves from out home tween Kirkland and Juanita, over to sandpoint and back, down to 520 etc. I do not remember ever getting really beat up, until coming home from CLark Island North or Orcas in 5-6' seas, and 30-40 knot winds one day. Then the prop would come out of the water etc.
The boats you have sailed are on the lighter end of things for there sizes. A Cat 25 would be a bit heavier than a J24, and most certainly have better handling etc. Same with a Cat 36, or a Tartan 37 over the C&C 36.
I've had my Jeanneu 30 in 30+ winds out of Edmonds, in 4-6' seas, and never felt unsafe, except when we had too much Sail up, and stuffed the rail in the water, but reef, lower SA, and away we went!
Wife on the other hand, does get a bit nrevous in windier conditions, and I have to reef a bit sooner etc, including a day we went north to Port Ludlow, 110 and a double reef in low 20 knot winds, did not lose that much speed, but she was happier, wind lowered a bit an hr later, took out 2nd reef, 30-60 min later out came the reef, and wind was down to 10-15 and runnng down wind into the port, so out came the 135!
Not sure where you live, but a yr of sailing out of Windworks, or Seattle Sailing on different sized boats could be good for the both of you to decide what style of boat would work best for the two of you here in Puget sound.
She drives me boat,
I drives me dinghy!