We’ve all heard it. Hell, most of us have said it: “happy wife, happy life”. The phrase needs to die. Quickly. Not because it isn’t true. Over 2,500 years ago, King Solomon recognized that “it is better to live on the corner of a roof than with a quarrelsome woman”. There’s no question that our lives as men are much more pleasant when our wives are happy. So why do we need to retire a phrase that is 100% true?
Because that phrase promotes the idea that men need to placate their wives; that they need to do whatever is necessary to keep their wives happy. This is complete and utter horseshit. This idea keeps men weak. It keeps men from leading. It keeps men from providing tough love. It keeps men from making hard decisions for their families. It keeps men thinking in the short term, rather than the long term. In short, it keeps men from being masculine. And this makes men miserable. A man’s greatest emotional need is to be respected. To be respected by his wife and to have honor among other men. The man who is governed by “happy wife, happy life” will have neither.
That’s right, the “happy wife, happy life” mindset actually undermines the happiness of our wives. Every human being is affected by a desire for immediate gratification. We want to whatever will give us happiness in the moment. However, the heart of being an adult, and especially of being a man, is the ability to delay gratification in the short term in order to pursue the things that either benefit others or will benefit us in the long run. So while our wives might have more short-term happiness when we cater to their every whim to avoid rocking the boat, they will experience significant overall discontentment for two reasons.
First, they will not be content because their long-term happiness is being exchanged for happiness in the moment. For example, they saw “the cutest shoes and purse” and “just have to get them”. Unfortunately, both spouses know that their credit cards are maxed out, their property taxes are coming due, and they got a new bill for a recent home repair. The husband knows he should tell his wife not to buy the new items or, if already purchased, to return them. He also knows that his wife is really excited about these items and is going to be either really disappointed or really pissed off if he objects to the purchase or insists on their return. As he’s mulling over what to do, he really doesn’t want a disappointed or pissed off wife. So he’s tempted to take the easy road and just let things be. “Happy wife, happy life”, he tells himself.
And it works. His wife is happy. There’s no disappointment or argument over money. For now. This changes a couple of years later when the wife’s purchases and the husband’s appeasement gets to the point that their mortgage payments are being missed and the bank issues a foreclosure notice. This notice is followed by the filing of bankruptcy. I’m guessing that neither the man’s wife nor his life is happy at this point.
Let’s take another example. As I note here and here, it is imperative that men are connected to other men. That means that we must have consistent “guy” time, where we eat, drink, work, and do fun stuff with other men. It has to happen, and it has to happen regularly. Otherwise, there’s no way we will build and maintain any kind of meaningful friendships, which are crucial for both a man and his family to thrive. But, in many cases, men forego “guy time’ because they know that their wife will get ticked off if they go spend time with the guys. Men just decide it’s easier to stay at home with the family instead of fighting with their wives about going on that trip with the guys. “Happy wife, happy life”, they tell themselves. Bullshit. Such a man will not thrive, and neither will his family. That man needs to understand that his family needs him to be connected to other men who will support, instruct, evaluate, and validate him as a man. He needs to understand that the long-term value that he (and his family) receives from his relationships with other men is well worth any temporary discord with his wife.
Although the “happy wife, happy life” mindset might rarely lead to foreclosure, bankruptcy, or other extreme problems, it causes men to choose short-term happiness over long-term benefit, to choose what is wanted over what is needed.
Second, women whose husbands follow the “happy wife, happy life” principle will not be content because women want a man that they respect. No woman respects a man that she controls. No woman respects a man that she can easily manipulate. No woman respects a weak man. No woman respects a man who fears confrontation. No woman wants a man whose primary attribute is being nice. Don’t get me wrong, they don’t want someone who is mean to them. But they want masculinity. They want strength, both physically and emotionally. They want a rock. They want someone who gets shit done. And get this: they want someone who has the balls to tell them “no”. Undoubtedly, they’d prefer that this man was also nice and kind, but they must have a man that they respect. Regardless of what they say, this is what they want.
So, fellas, get rid of the “happy wife, happy life” mindset. Men are protectors and providers, so it’s imperative that we consider what will benefit our wives and families, and spend ourselves making it happen. But if we’re primarily concerned with keeping the peace, if we’re afraid of taking action that our wives won’t like, or if we don’t have the guts to make hard decisions, then we’re lacking as men, and our wives will suffer as a result. To be clear, this is not a license to be a jerk. It’s not a call to be unnecessarily argumentative or disagreeable, or to stop doing things that make your wife happy in the short term. Instead, it’s a call to set direction and lead. It’s a call to make hard decisions. It’s a call to take stands and exercise your masculinity. It’s a call to do what’s best for your family. So go ahead piss your wife off from time to time, perhaps even regularly. Just do it for her benefit. This is the man’s life.
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