Happy Wife Happy Life is a Lie

There are lots of bad ideas floating around guys’ heads when it comes to marriage.

Happy Wife Happy Life is the most well-known and the most dangerous.

Not to mention it’s a total lie.

Here’s why.

The implications behind Happy Wife Happy Life are that if your wife feels happy, then your life will be happy. And then, supposedly, you will also be happy. Right? And if that is true, then in order to maximize my own happiness, I need to focus on maximizing my wife’s happiness. Right?

That’s my takeaway. If you think differently, then please leave a comment and explain yourself.

The 1st reason that it’s a lie is that this paradigm is not one of equality.

Why do I say that?

My understanding of Happy Wife Happy Life is that if my wife is happy, then my life will be happy, and if my life is happy, then I will be happy. Right? If it doesn’t mean that to you, please leave a comment and explain yourself.

If we follow the Happy Wife Happy Life to its conclusion, then we end up spending our time trying to make our wife happy. We’ll be at the whim of her emotions. What might ‘make her’ happy one day may not the next. Played out, we’ll spend our time, energy, and money trying to please our wives. Essentially, we will become the servant to our wife’s emotions.

That sucks, right?

Plus, it would never work anyway.

Which brings me to reason number 2.

Human Feelings Don’t Work Like That

I can’t make my wife happy. You can’t make your wife happy. You can’t make her mad or angry or sad or excited. You can’t do any of that to her. Nobody can do that to her. Because that’s not how human feelings work.

Most people work with a faulty model of human feelings. They think that something happens in the external world and that thing causes an internal feeling. For example, if your wife does that thing you really don’t like again, then you’ll feel a certain feeling inside. External stimulus leads to internal feeling.

It’s easy to understand how anyone could think that’s true, but this model is missing a step. It’s all input-output and no assimilation.

What really happens is that your wife does that thing you really don’t like again and then inside your head YOU give that thing meaning. You interpret it. You make it mean something. And then, based on that meaning, you feel something. You see?

You do it to yourself.

Your wife does it to herself.

That’s the nature of feelings.

Don’t believe me?

I’ll prove it to you.

I live in Taiwan. When I first arrived, nearly a decade ago, my wife and I were shoulder-to-shoulder going through customs and immigration. We didn’t speak Mandarin, and we surely didn’t read Mandarin. To say the least, it was an intense experience. It was an intense shared experience. We experienced the same things.

I felt excited and interested, but my wife felt a bit reserved, a bit anxious about what was going to happen to us.

Why did that happen? Why did we have different feelings about the same experience? If the 2 step model—external event to internal feeling—is valid, then how could we, how could anyone have different feelings about the same experience?

That’s absurd. And you know it’s absurd.

You don’t like the same movies or books or shows that your wife does.

And the reason for that is because we tell ourselves stories about what everything means. We are constantly narrating our lives to ourselves inside our heads, and it’s this narration that leads to the feelings we feel. Not the things themselves.

It’s these stories that we tell ourselves that lead to our feelings. We are in control of those stories. We just need to slow down enough to be able to sense them, to see ourselves telling them, and then to edit them as necessary.

You can’t make your wife happy. And trying to make her happy will end up with her on a pedestal and you the submissive husband.

Under no circumstance does the fact that Happy Wife Happy Life being a lie mean that you should treat your wife poorly or with disrespect. Respect and kindness are foundational to a healthy relationship. And you must deploy them liberally.

But that’s different than trying to make your wife happy.

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