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“Happy Wife, Happy Life" — True or False?
Marriage advice

“Happy Wife, Happy Life" — True or False?

Is it true that if a man keeps his wife happy, he will also have a happy life? In this article, we'll explore whether this saying is true, and what steps you should take to have a happy marriage.

Together Team
July 30, 2022

Not everyone is happy 100% of the time, so how do you ensure a happy marriage? 

And when people say “Happy wife, happy life”, does that mean your happiness depends solely on whether or not your wife is happy?

In this article, we'll explore the origin of this saying and how to maintain a happy marriage.

What does “Happy wife, happy life” actually mean?

Put simply, it means that if a husband wants to have a happy life, he better ensure he has a happy wife first.

The origin of this phrase is uncertain though. Some believe we originally heard the phrase in the theater as far back as 1776, and others say it came from a real estate advertisement.

Regardless, the saying has withstood the test of time and people may still believe it is simply “common sense”, but does that mean it is a fact?

Is “Happy wife, happy life” even true?

There are, in fact, health benefits to having a happy partner. Psychologist Olga Stavrova did a study in 2019 which suggests that your spouse’s happiness promotes your chances of living a long life, irrespective of physical health or socioeconomic factors. Olga found that a spouse’s happiness was actually a better predictor of longevity than personal happiness!

However, some people would say that this saying promotes unbalanced and frankly toxic relationships. Marriage takes effort from both parties, whether it's sharing responsibility or taking accountability. Indeed, communication and relationship experts Linda and Charlie Bloom point out that when we expect someone else to supply our happiness, that isn’t love, it's co-dependence.

Also consider that a wife could use the belief that it’s her partner's role to keep her happy, to avoid the responsibility of generating her own happiness or cultivating her own well-being. As a result, she could become increasingly demanding of her husband, which is a breeding ground for resentment on both sides.

Although it may work short term, the wife’s unrealistic expectations of her spouse can lead to arguments and unhappiness eventually. There’s also the risk that if a wife is too demanding, this could push her spouse to look for partners who are easier to please.

How to have a happy marriage

To have a healthy and functional relationship, happiness is not the only factor you should consider. According to Dr. David Capuzzi and Dr. Mark D. Stauffer, the foundations for a strong marriage include:

  • Communication and trust
  • The ability to identify your own needs (and tell each other what these are)
  • Respect for one another
  • Making and respecting boundaries
  • Be willing to compromise
  • Understanding that it’s okay to have different points of view
  • Allowing each other to have separate interests outside of the marriage
  • Being able to forgive each other

Aside from being able to work with your partner on the above, finding out you and your spouse’s primary love language will also help to discover how each person’s needs get met. Dr. Gary Chapman developed the five love languages model in 1992, which are:

  1. Words of affirmation
  2. Quality time
  3. Physical touch
  4. Acts of service
  5. Receiving gifts

This model is built on the premise that each person has their own way of how they feel cared for. So the way you feel most appreciated and loved may not be the same way your spouse does. 

For example, if your primary love language is physical touch, but your partner’s love language is words of affirmation, you can give them all the hugs in the world but they are still going to feel as though their needs have not been met. This highlights the importance of being clear about what our own needs are, but also appreciating that everyone is different and that what works for one person doesn’t work for all.

If your wife is happy, then chances are you will experience the ripple effect of her happiness yourself and in the dynamics of your marriage. But instead of questioning whether your partner cares about you, makes time for you, or meets your needs, be sure to ask yourself, do you care about yourself? 

Are you carving out time to pursue your interests and provide self-care? Can you meet your own needs? Both husband and wife should strive to cultivate their happiness and hopefully come together and share the benefits.

Can you always make your wife happy?

Not everyone is going to be happy 100% of the time. It’s a mistake to base your well-being on your wife’s happiness, or vice versa. Perhaps the goal isn’t happiness, but rather, it’s a byproduct of a life well-lived.

A healthy and satisfying marriage emerges when a couple sets their mind to weather the trials of daily life together. They can accept that not every day is going to be wedded bliss, rather than blame the other if not every moment is fantastic.

As Esther Perel, psychotherapist and relationship expert, points out, “we are asking [our partners] to give us what once an entire village used to provide”. These days, we may see our spouse not only as someone to provide companionship, economic security, and perhaps children — now, we expect them to be our best friend, confidant, and lover too. 

Realizing this is important for both the husband and wife. We are tribal creatures, evolved in a community with everyone playing to their strengths. It is too much pressure on one spouse to believe that they alone can provide the solution to address all of their spouse’s discontent. In the end, putting all the blame (and burden) on someone else for feeling unhappy can suck their enjoyment out of other areas of their life, such as at work or hobbies.

It is natural and important for you to care about how your partner feels, but not at the expense of your happiness. To have a better marriage, both partners need to be happy, not just one. This is the common goal to work together towards.

If one partner is feeling satisfied and self-fulfilled in other areas of their life, this could have a positive effect on their spouse’s mood and motivate both sides to bring this happiness to their marriage. Happiness breeds happiness, so when both partners bring their happiness home, then they both can flourish and lead fulfilling lives.

Together Team

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