“Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.”Markus Aurelius Antoninus
Yesterday, I was talking with a couple of male co-workers. You know, water cooler talk. We weren’t talking about anything earth shattering since I am willing to dump an entire pot of hot coffee on my head to avoid anything political or racial. The subject of family came up and one of my coworkers says “I live by the saying ‘Happy Wife, Happy Life.” My immediate response was, “don’t ever say that to me again.”
Why would I say this and more importantly, why does my co-worker believe this?
If we follow this old piece of advice, then tending to a wife’s every whim in the name of making her happy would mean that these men have a happy life. Likewise, it would also mean that a man that does not say “how high?” when his wife says “jump” would have an unhappy life. It would mean that the men awaiting their wives commands are getting all their needs met and receiving the love, affection, sex and attention they want. It would mean that they are living the good life and can’t wait to do more for her. Look around you. Are the men you know that jump through hoops to meet their wives’ demands for the sake of “making her happy” – happy? My experience is that they are miserable. But how could that be? This is time tested advice, right? Now, there are men that will argue that a man that does nothing for his wife will not get what he wants, and they would be right. But, for Pete’s sake, I am not telling a man to ignore is wife. Read on.
I want to answer this question with a related story. About 2 years ago, the little lady and I went to a local winery for a birthday party. It was a beautiful late fall afternoon. The air was crisp and the sunset was the color of a golden delicious apple. It was one of those days you can smell winter in the air. Several couples were gathered around the glow of small fire and we were all interacting. You know the scene, married men and women kinda teasing each other in a flirty and fun way. One man in particular caught my attention. His wife would snap her fingers and he would fetch whatever she wanted, no matter what he was doing. He would drop a great conversation instantly to cater to her every whim. As the evening progressed, and the wine went to work, the real feelings between this man and woman came out. She expressed her disgust for her husband, he became very angry and the night got, well, awkward. He actually left the group and threatened to leave the winery without her. Of course he didn’t, even though that is what he SHOULD HAVE done.
I don’t think I need to explain that the frustration and resentment in that relationship has been building for a long time. Do you see what has occurred in this man’s relationship? Is he a man that lives by the lie “happy wife, happy life”? Let’s break this down some more.
Does “happy wife, happy life” mean that if the man’s wife isn’t happy, he can’t be happy? Is a man’s happiness in life really based on his wife’s emotional state? I certainly hope not. If this were true how would a bachelor or a widower determine his happiness? Humans are emotional and radical creatures, and our lovely ladies even more so. The women I know can swing from highly affectionate to hateful and back to affectionate faster than a Tesla in Ludacris mode. As more emotional creatures by design, our ladies are much more tuned in to their feelings in reaction to life’s events and expressing those feelings. That is why a woman can have 8 pairs of red shoes and have a different feeling around each pair.
As a man, I am always trying to remain centered and even-keeled and generally alright. That doesn’t mean I don’t get upset and excited. I do. However, I do my best to recognize when my emotions are getting the best of me and realize that my emotions are not about the thing going on but how I am interpreting that thing. I get to CHOOSE how I feel about it. It is a basic tenant of masculinity and a privilege of being male. If my happiness (which is directly tied to me feeling OK and I am always trying to maintain) were a function of my wife’s emotional state, I would constantly be chasing my tail , up and down and up and down and ’round and ’round, trying to make HER happy for my own emotional wellbeing. That is a recipe for disaster. A man that lives like that is focused on his wife INSTEAD of focused on himself. He is no longer the rock for himself or his wife. How can a man that has based his happiness on his wife’s happiness ever maintain any kind of stability or feeling of being OK? Have you ever felt upset because your wife was upset and you went to work trying to fix that thing she was upset about? That is about YOU, not her.
But Tristan, a woman can make a man’s life a living hell. Well, certainly she can TRY. And my advice to that man would be that he gets to decide how he feels about it and he gets to take action based on what she is bringing in to HIS life. Her success or failure in making a man’s life hell is all about how the MAN thinks and responds. And I would also ask him how his leadership, or lack thereof, is contributing to her actions toward him.
“Happy wife, happy life” is in direct contradiction to the many truthful teachings of the world. Namely, that the only person responsible for your own happiness is YOU. He is not responsible for her happiness just as much as she is not responsible for his happiness.
So, what has gone wrong in the man’s life?
Going back to the man in the winery story, what is behind the resentment and anger in their marriage?
At some point in this man’s life, he began to believe that the happiness of his wife defines him. If his wife feels OK, then he can feel OK because she will love him and sex him. IF she is not OK, then he cannot be OK because he cannot get what he craves. Throughout his entire life, this man has been led to believe that he must compromise his own values, goals, purpose, mission, vision and beliefs and replace them with her happiness as the top priority in order to “keep the marriage.” He has been led to believe that fixing her problems and waiting on her hand and foot is going to make her love him. He has allowed her emotions, and therefore, allowed her to lead the relationship. AND he has convinced himself that she WANTS to be the leader. He was NEVER taught that this behavior leads to the exact opposite of what he wants. Can you see how this way of operating makes both the man and the woman resentful toward each other?
Let’s keep going about the ugly lie that has seeped into this man’s belief system. The lie that she WANTS to be the leader, or head, in Christian terms. Perhaps a quotation from Mere Christianity would best illustrate what I am getting at.
“….as far as I can see, even a woman who wants to be the head of her own house does not usually admire the same state of things when she finds it is going on next door. She is much more likely to say ‘Poor Mr X! Why he allows that appalling woman to boss him about the way she does is more than I can imagine.’ I do not think she is even very flattered if anyone mentions that fact of her own ‘headship’. There must be something unnatural about the rule of wives over husbands, because the wives themselves are half ashamed of it and despise there husbands whom they rule.”C.S. Lewis
Any time a man states “happy wife, happy life” I want to immediately ask that man how sexual she is with him. Invariably, the honest answer is ‘not very’ and the average married man just accepts that women are not very sexual creatures, especially after getting married. Well, the fact is, she is incredibly sexual, she just cannot be sexual with a man that has based his happiness on trying to make her happy. Trust me, the woman from the story above, is VERY sexual. I witnessed it that night as she got more inebriated.
Again, the average married male believes that catering to her every whim will gain him love, affection, and sex. Little does he know that trying to make her happy with every bullshit request is doing just exactly the opposite. Every time she makes a bullshit (shit test) request and the husband mindlessly honors it, her respect for her husband evaporates and her vagina dries up.
What is the CORRECT mode of operation?
A man is responsible for his own happiness and wellbeing. It is no one else’s responsibility. And her happiness is no one else’s responsibility but hers. His focus should be on himself. He should be tending his own garden and let he tend to hers. He sets the direction of his own life and invites his wife to join him in happiness. The correct mode of operation is, I do my best to make sure her [reasonable] needs are met and if she isn’t happy, or that isn’t enough, that is her problem. I have to communicate, and require her to communicate, in such a way that I can figure out her needs and then I do everything within reason to accommodate those needs. If it is unreasonable, it is not honored. MUTUAL reciprocation of her attempting to meet my needs, while I meet hers, is expected.
This is why I absolutely reject “happy wife, happy life” and so should you.