Happy Wife, Happy Life?

May 27, 2015

in Uncategorized

Last week over on The Generous Husband, I wrote a post entitled Happy Wife, Happy Life? in which I suggested this common bit of “wisdom” is neither biblical nor a good to a good marriage. One of you who double dips my blogs suggested I should say something about this over here.

My wonderful wife has always hated the saying “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t no one happy”. She sees it as an indication the mother/wife is holding the family hostage to her feelings and happiness.

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I’m all about doing everything reasonable to help our spouse feel good. The important word there is reasonable. Among other things, reasonable means not violating the wisdom and truth God has given us in His word.

I’ve mentioned before some men give in because they don’t know how to say no without displaying anger or pushing so hard they fear they’ll hurt their wife. I think this is often because the man has the wrong idea women are “emotionally fragile” and easily broken. Most of us have seen women who act this way, and we get plenty of examples in the media. A man who’s had the misfortune of dating a woman like this way will be especially cautious.

I think some women play this up because it helps them get their way. In the past, it may have been one of the few ways for a woman to get what she wanted or needed, and it may be a cultural habit for some. However, as with any manipulation, it comes with a price, and it doesn’t build a happy, healthy marriage.

If you feel your happiness is your husband’s responsibility, your marriage is in trouble. Likewise if he feels your happiness is his responsibility. If you want a grown up marriage, do everything you can to make sure he knows you don’t hold him responsible for how you feel or how happy you are. 

A great thought in the comments on my TGH article:

I have learned that it works better to ask for his input BEFORE offering mine. He is more likely to share his true feelings if he is not concerned about disagreeing with me.” ~ IntimacySeeker

~ Paul – I’m XY, and I no longer fear my wife being unhappy.

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

J May 27, 2015 at 7:20 am

I actually agree with this statement but not for the reasons you stated. It seems that the woman has a unique ability to set the tone in a household. As a mom, if I’m stressed and rushed, my kids pick up on that. On the other hand, if I am flexible and willing to offer a smile often, my kids are more relaxed and at ease. It’s somewhat the same with husbands, although perhaps not to the same degree because of their maturity. If a man walks into a wife who is irritated, what does that do to him? On the other hand if she greets him with a smile and a kiss, what does that do? Rather than a warning to husbands, I take this phrase as a challenge to women to set a positive tone in the family.


Paul Byerly May 27, 2015 at 9:39 pm

Never thought of it that way – taken that way it’s great!
I hear it from men, and it’s a dire warning to make sure you keep her happy. Not a good thing that way.
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BeeU June 4, 2015 at 1:43 pm

I agree with J, I certainly have an influence on my family’s attitude. It’s a reminder to check myself and make sure I am being kind to my children and husband. Am I whiny at my husband? Then I’m betting he would be harder pressed to have a good attitude himself. Am I grouchy at my children? Then how can I expect them to have good attitudes in response?

Also, I try to make my husband happy because I love him and want the best for him. He does the same for me. We are partners in this life, on this journey, and if we aren’t going to look out for each other’s happiness then who is?


Paul Byerly June 5, 2015 at 9:02 am

@BeeU – I’m all for a woman using this as a self warning. Never thought of it that way before.
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Doug May 27, 2015 at 8:07 am

No wonder your wife hates the statement “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t no on happy” because “ain’t no on happy” makes no sense. ;}


Paul Byerly May 27, 2015 at 9:38 pm

Fixed – thanks!
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IntimacySeeker May 28, 2015 at 6:51 am

I agree with J’s comment above about setting the tone. We have powerful influence in that regard. I think that may stem from our ease in expressing our emotions combined with our husband’s innate desire to fix things.

Flip side, we can put too much pressure on ourselves to be happy all the time. We are human and we feel emotions and should learn appropriate ways to express and release them.

As marriage partners, we can help one another by allowing space and freedom to express emotions and taking care how we react. We can also prompt our spouses to seek help when we sense they are stuck in negative emotions and thoughts and are having trouble letting them go.

Letting our spouse own the responsibility for their happiness is healthy, yet if they are consistently unhappy, that does begin to take a toll and it’s difficult to be unaffected. Learning about loving detachment has helped me immensely in this area. It takes practice, but we can learn to care about and walk with our spouse without trying to fix them. We leave the fixing, molding, shaping, etc. to God. :-)


Paul Byerly May 28, 2015 at 10:26 am

I had a negative reaction to the phrase “loving detachment” but I understand what you mean, and you are correct. I suppose my concern is I can see some people (many of them XY) using that as an excuse to not care about their spouse.
Balance, always balance.
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IntimacySeeker May 28, 2015 at 1:55 pm

I learned about detaching with love through Al-Anon. I find the concepts apply to much of life and many relationships. Basically the term means giving someone the space to make changes in their behavior instead of trying to do it for them. It is actually a way of showing respect.

Applied here, “Happy Wife, Happy Life,” a husband might become so enmeshed in trying to keep his wife happy that he loses himself in the process: “if I was a better husband, if I did this or that, she would be happy and we’d be okay.” He takes on all the responsibility for her happiness and she continues to hand that responsibility to him.

I think healthy boundaries facilitate the balance you speak of. It helps to remember that boundaries are not punishment we inflict on others, but limits we place on what we expect and will tolerate.


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