Being the best partner — 31 March 2012
‘Happy Wife, Happy Life’ – a complaint or a mantra?

Disaffected men who feel coerced to comply with their wives needs sometimes use the expression “Happy Wife, Happy Life” to justify their compliant behavior. This common adage often receives an affirming response or chuckle from supportive listeners. Besides its entertaining value, this expression may actually harbor some great benefits for both wives and husbands.

Traditional prehistoric roles have relegated males’ innate skills of physical strength and capacity to focus as hunters to becoming breadwinners and protectors of the family. Women’s talents as gatherers of food and mothers reinforced women’s aptitude for becoming the family’s nurturers and caregivers.

Today’s young couples have a much more egalitarian relationship in terms of sharing wage earning, household chores and childcare. Research by “Families and Work Institute’s National Study of the Changing Workforce Families” documented,  “Both men and women are less likely to agree in 2008 that men should earn the money and women should take care of the children and family than they were in 1977.”

Childrearing practices have attempted to minimize gender differences as well.

Though both genders are capable of being strong and tender, the centuries old programming impacts not only their behavior but also their unique formula for giving and receiving love. Men who see themselves primarily as providers expect their basic needs to be reciprocated in kind. As nurturers, women see love as best expressed through tender attention.

It is no wonder that men and women often feel frustrated by the disparity between what they give and what they wish to receive.

Additionally, attaining self-worth, personal satisfaction and happiness stems from the same concepts of role division. Men often want to know what the woman has done all day, while women want to know what the man has felt during his day. When the partner is unable to respond to the other by imitating the initiator’s style – frustrations rise.

Another essential dimension feeding the “Happy wife-Happy Life“ saying is the inherit need of men for autonomy, independence and self-sufficiency. Men, who have been traditionally raised by women, vowed to become autonomous as they grew up. Once they got married they found the expectation of becoming accountable to their wives as infantilizing. Resentment and shame were born out of this perceived subservience. Women were thus portrayed as controlling, demanding and emasculating.

To improve harmony, men may want to consider “Happy Wife-Happy Life” as their mantra:

  • Appreciate that when your wife is happy she is less likely to find fault with you, which makes your life happier as well.
  • Realize that your wife sets the emotional atmosphere at home. Accommodating her will create greater family harmony.
  • Abandon the notion that pleasing your wife emasculates you. To the contrary, it makes you a better husband, partner, provider and lover.
  • Understand that you possess the power to control family unity. By giving your wife attention, appreciation, adulation, conversation and shared time you can make both of you happier within your marriage.





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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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