Why I’m Not Fond of the Saying, “Happy Wife, Happy Life”

The other day my husband and I were in a serious conversation. My heart was hurting and I was completely overwhelmed with life while I felt like my husband was living with no burdens at all. To me, it seemed as if all of the responsibilities of our lives were resting on my shoulders while he was living on easy street.

After we talked more (and I cried more), we discussed the expectations and standards of ourselves, our marriage, our children, and everything else in between.

During this conversation I came to realize we needed to take stock in our lives and make some changes. But as the conversation continued, it dawned on me that I needed to be more diligent in casting my cares on to the Lord, rather than on to my husband.

I also realized I was dealing with a syndrome I don’t care for. One that I was so easily deceived into thinking while I was having my own little pity party. This syndrome I’m referring to is the Happy Wife, Happy Life Syndrome.

I’m not a fan of this martial perspective because I think it does more harm than good. Maybe I feel this way because I know how deadly this deception could so easily undermine a Christ-centered marriage.

The mantra of a ‘Happy Wife, Happy Life’ is a flat out lie from Satan and it’s a self-serving way of life for me to embrace.

Does your spouse make you happy? Often in marriage, we can look to our spouse to meet all of our needs and even expect them to be responsible for our own happiness, and we end up missing out. We not only miss God's heart for marriage, but  his heart for us as well. If you find yourself there today, end the trap and pursue joy instead!

Happiness applies to one’s happenings, thus the minute our happenings change and are no longer perfect, then our attitude will change. Then we turn to our husband and expect him to change things so we can be ‘happy’ again. This is a viscous emotional cycle that is detrimental for a thriving marriage.

The premise of this saying is placing such a huge burden on our husbands’ shoulders expecting them to fulfill all of our needs so we can be ‘happy’. Not too mention the emotional manipulation game we can so easily play with our men, although they don’t know it!  It won’t take long in life for the disappointments to ensue since every human being is less than perfect.

The Happy Wife, Happy Life perspective will just lead to unmet expectations in marriage, which will lead to disappointment.  This is where I found myself the other day.

If I focus on living for and pleasing the Lord in my life then my perspective won’t be all about me. It will be about my Savior, the one who loves me unconditionally and the one who can meet all of my needs. My husband is not capable of meeting all of my needs. Some, yes. But not all. But if I go through life expecting my husband to make me happy, well that reality won’t last very long.

A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart. Luke 6:45 (NLT)

My heart is desperately wicked and it wants to be worshiped at every chance it gets. If I’m not careful to walk in discernment, my wishes could easily become an idol and wreak havoc on my marriage.

The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? Jeremiah 17:9

Instead of focusing on the happy wife life mantra, instead I’m going to pursue this…

“Joyful Wife, Joyful Life!”

How about you? Will you embrace this perspective for your marriage?


Jolene- JoleneEngle.com

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  1. When I read about the primacy of happiness, I’m reminded of a vignette from the Second World War.

    Britain’s Royal Air Force took in many pilots and aircrew from occupied Europe – Poland, Czechoslovakia, France, Norway, and so on. One of these worthies was delegated to night bombing, and was (understandably) horrified, as his chances of survival were approximately 1 in 2. He went to his CO, and said he’d really be much happier as an instructor, only to receive this reply.

    “Happy? We don’t care if you’re HAPPY! Don’t you realize that we’re fighting for your bloody survival?”

  2. I agree with everything except the last remaking of the slogan , which it isn’t any different since it sets the same message joyful instead of happy , it still implicates that either the spouse happiness and depandant on each other !!!

  3. I agree! And on the flip side, I am learning that as the wife, I am the heart of the home. If I choose to be joyful, my whole family is joyful, but if I choose to give into an emotional roller coaster, I bring the whole lot with me. That puts the responsibility right back on my shoulders for my own emotional status, and helps me intentionally craft the atmosphere in my home.

  4. I love your “joyful wife” alternative, Jolene. Joy in Christ is truly what we are all to be after. I can see your point about how a wrong adoption of the idea could be harmful for a WIFE. However, I find the “happy wife” phrase to be helpful in communicating to HUSBANDS that an attitude focused more fully on the wife’s needs will better serve the HUSBAND in promoting a “lay down your life for her” attitude in practical things. It’s amazing to me still, how the lens a person views from colors what they see. I’ve never thought of the phrase from the vintage point of the wife like you described, so now I have more to consider and pray about. Thank you!

  5. One thing you mentioned is so very true, something that dawned on me earlier this week. Sometimes, I expect my husband to fulfill my deepest desires and have expectations for him that are not intended to be there. The Lord revealed to me that my husband will continuously “let me down,” because I am holding him responsible for things that I can only trust the Lord with. Our self-worth and appreciation needs to come from God. We are an image created after Christ himself! And our image, is the one thing the enemy wants most! When I have the urge to confide in my husband about every little thing that’s bothering me, I first take it to the Lord knowing that only he can heal my wounds, satisfy the longing of my heart and bring peace to my mind. Of course our husbands are amazing too, but the first thing any of us should be doing is confiding the Jesus first. I have found so much more peace in my marriage this week by doing so. It’s also made me love my husband more now that I’m not holding him to the standards of God, I don’t feel so “let down,” by unreal expectations I had for my man.

  6. I will be honest and say I didn’t read through this whole thing….but here I go anyway.

    I learned early on that a man (or woman) can’t make you happy. If you’re not happy and cannot change that on your own then having a spouse around to “fix” you won’t keep you happy for long. I am an Army Wife and have to live without my husband for weekends and sometimes several weeks away for drill or training. I learned that I have to make myself happy or it would ruin our relationship because I shouldn’t burden him with constantly whining about stuff he can’t help me fix at the moment.

    After months of trying for our daughter all I cared about was that she was safe. When she was born 7 weeks early all I cared about is that she’d come home from the hospital. Now, 5 years later all I care about is her alive. As long as my daughter is alive, I am happy. Everything doesn’t matter. My marriage is happy. My life is happy. All because the child I begged God for is alive.

  7. I have to say I do see us women as the anchor to get husband support, children taught&keep everything functioning on a daily basis. I’m speaking for myself family life in service to God does give us more responsibilities. But we have time in the midst of it all to pray that he gives us the abundance of joy to keep doing what we are doing. Husbands help to love us as Christ loved the church. It’s so vital.

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