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

Happy Wife, Happy Life is Bad for Marriage - SavvyMom

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 for me occurred one day 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, or submit to our will because someone told you that doing so is the secret to a happy marriage. Because it’s not. We want a partner.

And 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.



  1. Ashleigh on August 12, 2018 at 8:01 pm

    I honestly couldn’t agree more. I’ve felt the same about this for a very long time. It also makes my skin crawl. My husband and I do lots of things apart. I don’t drag him to things he’s not interested in, and vice versa. We do our special things together and I think it’s more enjoyable that way. We talk about what we can afford and what we cannot. We both surprise eachother with things every once in awhile. I’ve been after a true partnership for awhile and I’ve finally found it. I wouldn’t want someone feeling forced to go somewhere or feeling like they have to buy me something just to keep me happy. 🙂 I’m trying to teach my daughter that you don’t need a man to do things or buy things for you, you do that on your own…it’s just a bonus to have someone who takes care of you as much as you take care of them.

  2. Bonnie on August 13, 2018 at 8:02 am

    You hit the nail on the head! It makes me so irritated when I hear that phrase. As if “WE “control” all the happiness and unhappiness in the marriage. I truly enjoyed your article. So glad to see I’m not the only one who gets “ticked” when they hear it.

  3. John Riley on January 19, 2019 at 10:16 pm

    My wife loves this phrase. I hate it. I never have been a martyr, rather this is a relationship that expects only females have feelings, wants, etc. Fun stuff, right? PS, she doesn’t work and never plans to put her degree to test. Anyway, You all seem really empowered here. Congrats.

  4. Ryan Durand on April 8, 2019 at 6:43 pm

    This is the first time I have seen someone address this saying. The other that compliments it is “I (you)deserve someone that makes me (you) happy” I hear women say it in groups all the time. It’s nice to see someone else seeing the bigger issue. These small saying hold deep truths and in the current climate they are causing very big problems.

  5. Apreel on January 17, 2020 at 8:38 am

    John Riley, my man… The only dude in the comments I agree with. All these feminists saying that this phrase is bs but for the wrong reasons.
    It isn’t because “OH SO YOU THINK WOMEN ARE EVIL!??!?” but because men have learned if they don’t want to do something that the wife wants they will get mentally abused in passive aggressive gas lighting arguments. They’ve learned to just sigh and accept it. Because they have no options.

    But I’m glad all the women here seem to find a way to make themselves the victim and show how instead of this phrase being sexist towards men it’s actually sexist towards women… Sigh.

  6. Shadow on June 4, 2020 at 11:15 pm

    This phrase is based on toxicity but not of the masculine variety. If a spouse says this then it means you have to reevaluate your relationship. This may have been an acceptable logic for the days of old but this is a world where marital unions are beginning to lose their luster. I’m not saying women are wrong, I’m saying that an argument like this can make the red pill more lucrative. Respect the opposite sex but also love yourself.

  7. Peace and Love on May 23, 2021 at 9:12 pm

    Happy wife = happy life is only true of both are genuinely happy.

  8. Some guy on May 20, 2022 at 2:46 pm

    Much like calling a woman “crazy”, this is a phrase a man uses when he’s in an abusive relationship but doesn’t have the words to vocalize it.

    Transpose the genders of the kinds of stories a man will tell before uttering the words “happy wife, happy life” and you’ll see a pattern of controlling and emotionally abusive behavior.

    Men in abusive relationships infantilize their wives because that is the only way they’re culturally permitted to cope with behavior that would be unacceptable in an adult.

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