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Happy Wife Happy Life

Why the Phrase “Happy Wife, Happy Life” is Detrimental to Marriage

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If there’s one saying that makes my skin crawl and ignites my feminist rage it’s “happy wife, happy life.”

I’ve always loathed it but the tipping point occurred recently after listening to two men in a coffee shop talk about all the things they were (sigh….) doing for their wives that (sigh….) they’d really rather not.

Buying the bigger car, taking the vacation, coming home from work earlier… it was all terribly difficult but these were sacrifices they had to make because …. happy wife, happy life.

I rolled my eyes repeatedly and sighed audibly, which of course accomplished nothing because my passive-aggressive always errs on the side of passive, and what would have been the point of sticking my nose where it doesn’t belong?

What would I have said? “Can you two stop being such assholes by giving your wives everything they want?” 

Trust me, I get how crazy this makes me sound. Guys will see this as proof positive that women are never satisfied.

“I get her the car, I take her on the vacation, I spend more time at home and I’m still the bad guy?”

Dudes, I get it, I hear you. But stay with me for a second because I’m about to explain that it wasn’t what the coffee shop guys were saying, it was how they were saying it. We remember this from being ten years old, right? Moms are big on it. It’s kind of the same as “I don’t like your tone.” The meaning of what you say is always coloured by how you say it.

The way they were talking about their relationships disappointed me.

It made me wonder, how does this happen between two people? And, when did women assume sole responsibility for family happiness? Who decided that denying us would result in misery?

To be fair, I’m sure every man can share a cautionary tale of denying his lady her desires, but widespread acceptance of the belief that women – and only women – control the emotional temperature of a relationship indicates it’s based on something more than a handful of anecdotes.

I want to punch something whenever I hear “happy wife, happy life” because it insinuates that women are always standing between a man and his true desires. And mocking a woman’s decisions is a pretty rich position for a guy to take considering he’s one of them.

Shrugging your shoulders and saying “happy wife, happy life” to explain why you’re allowing yourself to be dragged into hot yoga or the latest rom-com seems innocent, but I truly believe it chips away at the foundation of respect and equality good relationships are built on.

Being a writer means I’m hyper-sensitive to language so maybe it’s silly to get worked up over a meaningless phrase, a cliché. But what I can’t abide is the perpetuation of unhelpful stereotypes among both sexes. I don’t want to see commercials featuring men pretending to be useless around the house and this is no different. I won’t pretend you’re a clueless Neanderthal if you don’t pretend I’m a nagging bitch. Seems pretty fair, doesn’t it?

Let me be clear: we don’t want you to do stuff for us out of obligation.

We want partners, not martyrs.

Don’t appease, placate, submit to our will because someone told you that doing so is the secret to a happy marriage. Because it’s not.

A successful partnership is built on respect, communication, and equality.

Yes, we end up doing things we don’t really want to do and making choices that aren’t our first choices because relationships are also about compromise. And it’s great to do things to please your partner even, or especially if it’s not something you would choose.

But you’ve got to want it. And if you don’t want it, let’s talk about it.

It’s not 1956, fellas. Let’s acknowledge that we’ve come a long way (baby) and eliminate “happy wife, happy life” from both our minds and vocabularies.

 

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