Originally published on MSN.com - December 29, 2022
The old trope "happy wife, happy life," sounds pretty nice. To begin with, it rhymes — so it sounds pithy and it's easy to remember.
And yes, most husbands do prefer it when their wife is happy.
The problem is this: It can cause many husbands to shift from loving to resenting and disconnecting ... and maybe even cheating and divorcing.
Once he feels he is being yoked to a plow, and once he realizes that he is the only one pulling the plow, it won’t take long for the marriage to disintegrate.
Yet, you can turn this around at any point once you understand the true cause of so many failed marriages is one partner sacrificing in order to make (or keep) the other happy when the same cannot be said in return.
Here are five reasons 'happy wife, happy life' is a recipe for heartbreak
1. He might feel like a servant, instead of a partner
An ox may be forced to do the heavy lifting, but a man can divorce any spouse at any time if he grows uneasy with her holding the reins.
2. He might suppress his resentment
If he resents her weekly marching orders, and she lacks the skills to make sure that he truly wants to do something, he will stuff his feelings until he explodes.
3. It can sap a relationship of passion
If you carefully examine the few husbands who accept countless weekly demands from their wives, these are the husbands seeking a partnership, not a “passionship."
4. It can rob a relationship of empathy
Even if your husband enjoys staying busy doing chores and errands this doesn’t provide either of you with marital happiness which is built upon empathy and intimate and passionate connection instead of domination.
5. It can drive him to satisfaction with someone else
The more a husband becomes nothing more than a busy bee, the more he is running around loose, the faster he might begin to flit from flower to flower. Eventually, he will discover another way to live — with more love and fewer to-do lists!
Why does a husband do the 'Happy Wife' dance at all?
His father may have told him that this works, but “Father Knows Best” was a TV series in the 1950s, in the days before mutuality when women were totally focused on keeping their husbands happy.
The pendulum always swings in fashion and social norms — but don’t be fooled by an older husband's smile.
Today, the more tasks and chores a man does to “keep her happy”, it's possible that the more requests and demands will be piled on him until he is literally buried.
The situation is stressful and unhealthy, and this may be a cause of most husbands predeceasing their wives.
Is there a safe way to live the 'happy wife, happy life' marriage model?
The first question to ask in exploring this is whether both partners are being made happy by the dynamic.
As a wife, are you more focused on all the things he does, or are you paying attention to his mood, his attitude, and his vibe?
Husbands may force themselves to smile as they receive new Honey-Do lists and complete the old ones. Watch, listen and learn how your demands are affecting the relationship and think about slowing your roll on the to-do list.
A genuinely happy husband is as essential to any loving long-term relationship as is a genuinely happy wife.
If one or both of you are faking it day after day, then separation, mediation, or litigation is your excruciating destiny.
If he is old fashioned and believes that fixing the house, the car, the job, etc. will put a smile on your face and passion in your breast, the minute he ignores a line item on the list, love him anyway.
Feel and express unconditional love, demonstrate lasting passion and initiate joyous frequent sex.
Seek the joy of 'feeding a hungry duck'
As one of my teachers, Marshall Rosenberg, Ph.D., the Founder of Nonviolent Communication® said:
Please do as I requested, only if you can do so with the joy of a little child feeding a hungry duck. Please do not do as I request if there is any taint of fear of punishment if you don't. Please do not do as I request to buy my love, that, is hoping that I will love you more if you do. Please do not do as I request if you will feel guilty if you don't. Please do not do as I request if you will feel shameful. And certainly do not do as I request out of any sense of duty or obligation.
In other words, never let anyone do anything for you without the joy of a small child feeding a duck. If you do, they will make you wish you hadn’t
There are other recipes for a beautiful lifelong partnership that actually work, including couples learning to connect on a deeply emotional and empathetic level so that there’s no cause for simmering rage or betrayal and cheating.
Be good to yourself and your partner
What works? A combination of self-empathy and empathy for your partner.
Wives, please make sure that you center yourself before you communicate a to-do list so that you sound like a loving wife instead of a boss.
Self-empathy allows you to calm yourself and that always leads to better results. Then, using empathy, you’ll choose words that motivate and inspire him instead of threatening.
Husbands, imagine a world in which you learn to talk about your wife’s needs and also about your own needs in a peaceful loving way instead of saying “Yes, boss” every time.
Many men feel so confused that the kindness and generosity of all their hard work didn’t pay off and when a man feels hopeless about his marriage, watch out.
The root of the problem is that wives haven’t been trained to think about their true needs and their husband’s needs and learn to create motivational conversations about goals and projects.
When wives shift from the old demand system to inspiring their husbands, this heals a major source of strife in a marriage.
The truth is, generosity is not trading off one thing for another. If you do something to get something else that is the barter system, not generosity.
If you pay for something and you receive it, you don’t feel excited and grateful, do you? Learning about marriage; what makes a joyous marriage and “passionship” and what makes another marriage struggle is the first step toward creating a strong bond.