We’ve all heard the saying, “happy wife, happy life.” While that’s true in part because you need both participants in a marriage to be happy, content, and satisfied, it’s also a lie. “Happy wife, happy life” implies that you should do whatever it takes to make your wife happy because as long as they’re happy, you’ll be happy.
However, speaking from experience, I can tell you that this is absolutely false. Mutual participation, where you both do whatever it takes to make each other happy and not just one of you, is the key to a happy and lasting marriage.
If this means that you occasionally have to compromise, then so be it. However, compromise should never be all one way, where you give everything and receive nothing in return, or vice versa. Instead, compromise means that both parties need to occasionally give things up and sacrifice on behalf of their significant other.
As I said before, I speak from experience when I say that personal happiness can’t be completely contingent on the happiness of your wife. I found this out very early in marriage when I thought it was my sole responsibility to do whatever it took to keep my wife happy.
More than once, I would buy things or go on dates or vacations that we simply couldn’t afford, putting us in a sticky financial situation. Rather than looking like a grand romantic gesture, I would have a hard time getting joy out of the things I was doing on her behalf because I knew it wasn’t a smart decision.
My wife would instantly pick up on my attitude, and it would take the joy out of whatever was happening for her, as well. As a result, many of my grand ideas and gestures fell flat and did more harm than good.
It wasn’t until I was honest with my wife about our finances and why I had the attitude that I had that things turned around in our relationship. While it was one of the hardest discussions we’ve ever had, it was easily one of the best.
By nature, I am a laid-back, unconfrontational people-pleaser who will do anything to make sure that everyone is happy. I had this attitude all through high school, college, and the mission field, and I carried it into my marriage.
Therefore, anytime my wife and I would have a disagreement or small fight, I would say and do whatever was necessary to bring about a swift resolution. If that meant taking 100% of the blame 100% of the time, then so be it. Anything to make the discomfort of a disagreement come to an end!
However, as with the concept of “happy wife, happy life,” I quickly learned that not standing your ground has consequences. Rather than bringing about a swift and mutually beneficial resolution, admitting fault and not standing my ground always seemed to make things worse rather than better.
To be clear, my wife is in no way to blame for these people-pleasing tendencies. Where she actually wanted to work out differences and strengthen our marriage, I simply wanted to sweep problems under the rug and pretend like they weren’t there.
It wasn’t until I finally stood my ground and pushed back on occasion that our relationship grew stronger than ever. You see, my wife truly wanted to be the best partner that she could be, even if that meant me calling her out every once in a while.
However, I wasn’t allowing her to do that when I told her she was doing everything perfectly and I was doing everything wrong. It was making our marriage completely one-sided, and, this time, it really was 100% my fault.
To be clear (again) standing my ground didn’t mean blaming her for everything or refusing to admit when I was wrong. It simply meant pointing out that I would sometimes say or do things that hurt her because she had said or done something that hurt me. It also meant helping her understand how some of the things she did affect me and made me feel.
While this seems like “Relationship Basics 101,” the idea of standing my ground was completely foreign to me, thanks to my people-pleasing tendencies. In addition to strengthening our relationship, learning how to push back for the sake of having honest and mutually beneficial discussions also made me a much better and stronger man.
Growing up, I tried to pretend like I didn’t care what other people thought of me. However, the only person I was fooling was myself because I cared a great deal about the opinions of others. As much as I didn’t want to admit it, I carried those feelings with me into marriage, and it ended up hurting both of us.
You see, my wife is a very strong, determined person with bigger ambitions and dreams than I could ever hope for. Before I even met her, she knew exactly what she wanted to do with her life and how she was going to make it happen. She now has her bachelor’s degree in exercise science, is a Doctor of Physical Therapy, and has the travel PT position she’s always wanted.
I, on the other hand, am a 31-year-old college dropout who still doesn’t know what I want in life. To say that I married up would be the understatement of the century, and I’m no longer ashamed to admit it.
When we first got married, however, I was prideful and cared way too much about what people thought of me. I was highly concerned that people from the outside looking in would think that my wife ran the show and that she wore the pants.
As a result, I was very self-conscious and afraid to help my wife pursue her dreams because of how it would look to others.
I knew that helping my wife could potentially mean changing jobs, moving to a new state, and flipping my life upside down, and everyone would know that it was her idea and not mine. In the conservative community that I was raised in, this would be construed as me not taking charge and being the weaker spouse, which was very much frowned upon.
In retrospect, I’m ashamed that I ever felt this way. These feelings were extremely selfish and misguided and rooted in the false notion that other people’s opinions of me and my marriage mattered. Helping my wife pursue her dreams was the best decision I’ve ever made, and it actually ended up helping me discover my own dreams.
The keys to a happy marriage aren’t a long laundry list of do’s and don’ts. Instead, you can boil it down to three basic principles:
While there are certainly other things that can strengthen your marriage, these are the three keys that made the biggest difference in mine. As such, they’re a great foundation to build upon, and you’ll have a hard time building a lasting relationship without them.
Jalin is a full time writer who enjoys writing about his own journey being a dad, husband, and someone deeply passionate about his work. His authenticity in what it means to be a stay at home Dad shines through in his story as he seeks to inspire other men to not only run after their dreams, but to do so in a way that is supporting and uplifting to the people most important in your life.