10 minute read
It’s said man to man, with a wink, a slight smile, and often with a touch of sarcasm.
You hear it at the coffee shop while waiting in line, at the office, at lunch with a buddy, during “kitchen talk” at a party, or in the man-cave where “What’s said there, stays there”…
However intended, it is believed by many husbands to be true.
A happy wife means a happy life, wink-wink.
This seemingly innocent belief has far reaching implications for husbands and their wives.
Let me share what I’ve experienced as a past believer in this myth, how it can erode a relationship over time, and provide alternatives.
A Happy Wife
It’s a noble sentiment for a husband to aspire to. Of course he wants his wife to be happy. He decides to do his best to make sure she is. He does the things he knows will please her, and avoids doing the things which will upset her.
He puts her needs first to show that he is a loving and caring husband.
A Happy Life
A happy life is the anticipated outcome for husbands who have a happy wife. Rewards come a man’s way for accomplishing things on the to-do list and making a woman’s wants the priority: going out with the boys more often, watching a game without interruption, getting more sex, or buying a new TV or whatever item a man has had his eye on.
It’s a barter system. The concept has been used for centuries – I give you what you want so I can get what I want.
So what’s wrong with that?
In this situation, everything.
- Men don’t behave with integrity or authenticity when they put this myth into practice. They don’t share what’s important to them. They diminish their self-worth.
- They make assumptions. Through trial and error they try to figure out what works and what doesn’t work to make her happy – based on the day, situation, her mood, etc. Often these assumptions are incorrect.
- The myth leads to long-term disappointment, frustration, resignation, and resentment for a man. They begin to develop thoughts like, ‘Why does she get everything she wants and I don’t? Doesn’t she see how much I sacrifice for her?’
Avoiding conflict about the small things leads to avoiding conflict about the big things.
Men become distant and non-communicative when they don’t discuss how they feel and what’s important to them. They capitulate even more to avoid an increasingly uncomfortable conversation.
Their resentment and frustration build.At some point, they’ll have had enough. They may experience a mid-life crises, health issue, engage in an affair, drink more, go on a spending-spree, or become physically and/or emotionally absent.
As a man sacrifices his happiness for his spouse he sows the seeds for his own rebellion in the future.
He eventually acts out on feeling stuck and suppressed.
- The concept of “Happy Wife Happy Life” seems like a great situation for a woman. Why wouldn’t she want to be put first in the relationship? It’s like a fairytale dream come true. It’s romantic. She believes, ‘He loves me so much that he’s puts my happiness ahead of his own.’
- Getting what she wants is like fast food for the ego – quickly satisfying, but in the long-term it creates a sense of entitlement and of holding power in the relationship. She has the capability to reward her husband, or not, based on her level of happiness. It poisons the relationship over time.
- By adopting this myth, a woman is missing the opportunity to know who her husband really is, and cuts herself off from experiencing a deep and fulfilling relationship.
- Women need to ask themselves, ‘What type of relationship do I really want?’ Do they want one of honesty, respect and trust, or one fraught with untruths?
Both parties willingness to participate in the myth of “Happy Wife Happy Life” creates a co-dependent relationship. “I need you to complete me. I need you to make me happy. I need you to validate my self-worth.”
That is not love.
A lasting and fulfilling relationship is built on trust, honesty and respect.
Only through open and vulnerable conversation can a couple understand what is important, to each other, and in their relationship.
Personal experience cautions us from telling the truth. Honesty can result in upsetting others. We may fear of having a relationship end, lose a job, or way of life. So we avoid telling the truth to minimize conflict and evade potential negative consequences.
In a “Happy Wife Happy Life” relationship, men suffer in silence and women believe everything is okay as long as they’re getting what they want.
I will no longer contribute to this myth. There is equality in my 2nd marriage today. My wife is in agreement. We’ve discussed the challenges and the missteps in our past relationships, and acknowledge our contribution to their ending.
We’ve learned from our past.
My wife and I choose honesty. We choose to be best friends. We want the best for each other, to grow individually and as a couple.
We talk about our challenges as they arise. It is damn uncomfortable at times. It’s not easy being honest and vulnerable. It’s a conscious choice that will take time and love to realize the benefits.
A trusting relationship involves cooperation and discussion when there are conflicting priorities.
Resolutions can be discovered in compassionate, empathetic, respectful, and loving conversations.
The results… have been extraordinary for us – intimacy on many levels.
Do you really want a happy life and a marriage that is authentic and fulfilling? If yes, then:
Wives – Create a safe and non-judgmental environment where your husband can share his feelings, desires and challenges with you.
Husbands – Give yourself permission to make your happiness a priority. Talk to your wife, sincerely, about what you want and why.
Together – Build your relationship based on respect and love. Treat each other as equals. Want the best for each other. Want the best for yourself. Be each other’s best friend.
Get uncomfortable. Get real. Get honest.
Each of you can have a happy life, together.
A version of this article is posted here on The Good Men Project.