I find the phrase “A happy wife means a happy life”, in the context by which it is normally stated, passive aggressive and offensive to women. I heard it this week and, like my good friend Popeye, that was all I could stands; I could not stands no more.
Him: (in a less than enthusiastic tone) “I don’t know, we’re doing something with the neighbors.”
Me: (in a sarcatic tone) “You seem really thrilled about that.”
Him: “Dude, happy wife equals happy life.”
Does he really want a happy wife? Probably.
Is his wife happy that they are going to the neighbors? Maybe.
But she’s no fool, and she’s not happy with a husband that bends to her, regardless of his sarcastic and naïve “happy wife” comment. Women want what they want, and so do men. Otherwise, it would not be called a want. But wanting something and wanting it as a consolation to an otherwise engaging significant other are two different things.
In a lot of cases, when men say “happy wife means happy life”, what they’re really saying is “I don’t feel like engaging with her on something that we’re not going to agree on” or “she’s going to end up getting what she wants at the end anyways.” In other words, a lot of men take the easy way out. What’s more, there is little to no investigation into how the relationship got to this point. So how did it?
For men in particular, part of this “happy wife” mentality comes from the notion that women are all high-maintenance diva’s that will make marriage more difficult if they don’t get what they want. Instead of developing a foundation of communication and respect that goes both ways, avoidance sets in and so goes healthy, substantive dialogue and conflict.
Going back to the discussion between me and the “happy wife” guy, the rest of our conversation went something like this:
Me: (after calming myself down) But are you happy?
Him: Sure. Are you happy?
Me: Yes, and I would not answer that with a sure. I am happy.
Him: You seem judgmental about this. Are you?
Me: Can we have an honest discussion here?
Him: Of course!
Me: Yes, I am being a bit judgmental here. What I hear you saying is that you don’t really want to go to the neighbors, but you’re doing so not because it will make your wife happy but because you don’t feel like having the conversation with her.
Him: (sarcastically). Sorry, my wife isn’t as reasonable as yours, and we don’t communicate easily like you.
Me: My wife and I have disagreements, but it does not stop us from engaging with each other. It may be easier for you to bend to your wife and, if that’s the case, I think you may be naïve to how happy your wife actually is.
Him: You don’t know her. Let’s stop talking about this before this gets off the tracks.
Me: Fair enough.
Clearly, he and I could not have an honest discussion about this, but I’ve seen enough of these situations to know how they generally roll. I also know enough about the human condition to know a other things:
- Women are not going to be happy just getting what they want if it also means an agreeable, non-substantive relationship with their partner.
- Women know when they are being patronized and comments like “happy wife” and “let me ask the boss” are patronizing.
- Relationships do not thrive on conflict avoidance and passive aggressive behavior.
An involved and respectful husband makes a happy wife.