Marriage Myths–Part 1: Happy Wife, Happy Life

September 22nd 2023

Marriage Myths–Part 1:

Happy Wife, Happy Life

Maybe you’ve heard the slogan, “Happy wife, happy life”. Maybe you’ve not only heard this slogan but believe it to be true. In fact, maybe you not only believe this slogan, but you believe it is the “best” marital advice you’ve ever been given. I wouldn’t be surprised, because it seems as if this slogan has become a predominate view for how to have marital harmony in the twenty-first century. This is true not only in the world, but in the church, too.

Surprisingly, I first heard this little phrase over twenty years ago by a pastor. It was his primary point to a “sermon” in a series he was doing on family and marriage. Since then, I’ve heard this slogan on numerous occasions, usually delivered in a manner that is both jokingly and awkwardly nervous (as if the one telling it had encountered the consequences of an unhappy wife). This motto resonates with experience (especially bad ones) and has a sense of comic truthfulness. All joking aside, though, the point of the slogan is clear: a husband better capitulate to his wife’s happiness or his home and life will truly be miserable.

A Myth To Be Avoided

Here’s the problem: this little slogan and mindset has become so pervasive and universally accepted that it seems as if no one challenges its experiential authority. This is true even among Christians (Remember, I first heard it from a pastor?)!  Why is this slogan and the embracing of it a problem? Despite its seeming “comic truthfulness” and experiential affirmation, it simply is not the biblical view of a healthy marriage. It has become a myth to be avoided. Let me explain why.

There are assumptions made by the world about men, pertaining to men being dumb and doing dumb things. Can you think of a sitcom on TV that doesn’t fortify and exploit this assumption?  Yet, this assumption actually goes a few steps further – it simply assumes a low bar for men, that they are dumb and cannot do anything about it. So then, the only hope for men is to make women happy for everyone’s sake. Thus, because this assumption is readily accepted, many women are happy to agree and perpetuate this myth. And why not, after all, are they not the ones who benefit?

This is one of the world’s solutions for discord and tension in the home. But this solution is based in selfishness. Even the husband’s desire to make his wife happy is really under the guise of appeasement with an end goal of his own happiness. The goal, then, is happiness for the wife in getting her way, and happiness for the husband in avoiding marital conflict. The true result is a diminished view, at best, or a counterfeit view of happiness, at worst.

What really happens? The Proverbs tell us: “The wisest of women builds her house, but folly with her own hands tears it down” (Prov 14:1). To foster the mindset that everyone needs to tip toe around the house in order to make momma happy is a surefire way to “tear down” her house. This myth perpetuates a destructive self-centeredness.

A Solution To Be Embraced

So what’s the solution? It’s time to retire this mythical and potentially dangerous slogan. Accordingly, it’s time to reclaim God’s solution for the family, which is always better than any worldly, sinful solution, like the one this slogan perpetuates. God’s way is always the only way to true joy. It’s a way covered in grace and filled with the Good News that, as Christians, God’s power is working mightily within us, as we commit our way to him.

Consider the following verses from Colossians, chapter 3:

“Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them” (Col 3:18-19).

It’s here that we get a genuine sense of the pathway to true happiness in our marriages. In these God-given roles as husbands and wives, the solution for joy in our homes is submissive wives and loving husbands. Thus, these commands to husbands and wives fly in the face of the mindset behind “happy wife, happy life.” If a wife sincerely submits to her husband, it will increasingly lead to letting go of selfish desires and control. True happiness is not found in either.

Likewise, sacrificial love for wives elevates a husband’s motives and actions beyond merely appeasing his wife, to a greater motive of doing what’s right and what’s genuinely in her best interest. Loving your wife will inevitably include confronting her sin rather than just avoiding uncomfortable conversations, as husbands “speak the truth in love” (Eph 4:15). The wisdom of the Proverbs affirms this:

“Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy” (Prov 27:5–6).

If a husband genuinely loves his wife and truly wants her to be happy, then he must be concerned with her sin, which causes her relationship with Christ to suffer and chokes out her true joy. A truly happy wife is one who is walking in God’s ways. When a husband loves his wife in this way, it isn’t always easier, but it is what’s right and, ultimately, it’s what has her best in mind.

A Marriage To Be Desired

Amazingly enough, living according to God’s will moves our marriages beyond the nervous and awkward tiptoeing of wondering how a husband’s possible choices might make his wife unhappy, to a home that glorifies God and results in true joy for all. Ironically, living by the motto of “happy life, happy wife” might provide a thin veneer of harmony and peace, but it will not prove to be a truly good, lasting, or happy solution to the tensions in your home. In fact, it will eventually augment them.

So, let’s erase this phrase from our Christian life: “Happy Wife, Happy Life”. Instead, why not embrace a motto like this: “When God is glorified above all else as we seek his will – then there will be true joy in our home.” It’s not as catchy as “happy wife, happy life,” but it is much closer to the heart of God, and the true blessings he desires for every Christian marriage.

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Author: Todd Burgett

Todd is married to Lisa and they have 3 adult children. He has been pastoring since 1995 and joined the RBC pastoral team in 2022 giving oversight to several ministries including the Redeemer Training Center. Todd went to The Master's Seminary where he graduated in 2021 with an advanced degree in expository preaching.