Why “Happy Wife, Happy Life” Will Make You and Your Wife Miserable

Comedian Jeff Allen has recently capitalized on a humorous and catchy little modern proverb: “Happy wife, happy life.” His comedy is compelling, and his style engaging, but, like many catchphrases in Christian pop culture, his seemingly harmless comedy actually communicates falsehood. The truth is, the idea of “Happy wife, happy life” is not found in the Scriptures, and pursuing this advice will make both you and your wife miserable. Here are three biblical reasons.

  1. Neither you nor your wife knows what will make you happy. The assumption behind, “Happy wife, happy life” is that your wife knows what she wants, and your life would be happier if you would just give her what she says she wants. Jeremiah 17:9 teaches us that no one knows their own heart and, if there is one thing we do know, it is that the heart can easily be deceived. Eve got what she eventually wanted in the Garden of Eden, presumably while Adam was not far away. Adam was the original poster boy for “Happy wife, happy life,” and when Eve got what she eventually came to believe would make her happy, no one was laughing.
  1. Even if you give your wife what she says she wants, you cannot make her happy. We all come to realize that a new job, a new truck, a remodeled house or 2.4 healthy kids cannot make us happy. James teaches us that we do not even realize that we often ask wrongly for things that we intend to spend “on our own passions” (James 4:3). There is no more miserable person than one who receives the thing they set out to get only to find that cannot satisfy the longings of their heart. Conversely, the one who is pursuing Christ with all her heart can be content and satisfied even while enduring the most difficult of circumstances. Marriage cannot make one happy and, therefore, a spouse cannot make the other happy, either.
  1. You were not designed to make her happy. The Scriptures do not instruct a man to make his wife happy. Every person is made in the image of God and, therefore, a wife finds her ultimate meaning, worth and, yes, happiness, in him alone. Your wife was made to be complete in God. She will be most happy when she counts everything a loss compared to the “surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:8). When a husband gets in-between his wife and God he can easily become an idol. She may appeal to you, require of you, and even manipulate you. But life will eventually deliver circumstances which you cannot control or overcome. You will learn that God is God, and that husbands make lousy gods. She will find that her soul will be satisfied (made happy!) with nothing less than God himself.

So, what’s a husband to do?  Here are three actions for husbands who love Jesus:

  • Take initiative. Ephesians 5:23 says that the husband is the head of the wife. Husbands, this means that you have been given an important role; and that, for God’s own reasons, he is holding you responsible, not for your wife’s happiness, but for the way you minister godliness in your home. Oh how our Christian homes will be impacted when the men step into the role that God has designed them for: not primarily to respond to the needs of our wife, but to set the pace in following closely after Christ!
  • Know the Word of God. Eve could’ve really received benefit from this. When you know the Word of God and are seeking to apply it first to your own heart, you have the credibility, boldness and wisdom to show your wife what the Word says by first doing it. Isn’t that what Paul is teaching us in Ephesians 5:26 when he speaks about a washing and sanctification that comes “with the word”? The church is in need of men who are actively pursuing God by actively pursuing his Word.
  • Understand the uniqueness your wife and then aim at the goal of giving her sacrificial love each and every day (1 Peter 3:7). But this does not equate to living each day to try to make her happy. Understanding your wife does not mean, “Try to keep her comfortable.” It means that we understand where our wife is weak, and we bring service, prayer, humility and love to cover that weakness. Does your wife struggle with body image? Was she abused? Is she an addict? Does her insecurity breed social anxiety? Does she avoid people who have hurt her? Is she pre-occupied with politics? My Christian friend, making her “happy” in these areas will not yield a “happy life.” Not for her or for you. So take initiative. Step into your role and bring a humble spirit as you pursue God with her.

Setting out to make your wife happy will not make your life happy. If this becomes your goal, you will experience failure, frustration and a string of fights. But if you will faithfully pursue Christ Jesus with all your heart and mind, you will begin to deliver to your wife what she really longs for, a godly husband.

[Today’s guest post is written by Jon MacDonald, Pastor of Family Life/Discipleship at Sheboygan Evangelical Free Church in Sheboygan, Wisconsin.]

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