Happy wife, happy… wait… happy wife?


Before beginning the following essay, we need to have a foundation in place… an understanding… a common ground that allows for appreciating the ideas involved as presented in good humor while being accepted without judgement.

It’s a joke people. It’s not a reflection of my home, or yours, or anyone else. But it is designed to be a scenario where—perhaps—three or four friends, gathered as a group and including a husband and wife, are standing together at a party…

Friend number one: “Well, you know, happy wife, happy life.”

Friend number two, also a husband: “Hold on. Happy wife? Is such a thing even possible?”

Entire group, including friend number two’s wife: “Ha ha ha ha…” (Laughter continuing until at least one person begins wiping tears away.)

See how fun that is? We’re having a really great time. Relaxed and goofing around and… and no one went running to Terry to tell her about it.

Do we have a common ground here? A safe place? Good.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

This is dangerous territory folks. Shaky footing all around, and no clear path ahead.

This morning I set off on a list of things I needed to get accomplished. I had written the list myself, but made the mistake of letting my wife know of its existence. This was accomplished in the simplest of stupid moves, something like my saying: “Hey, I’m headed to the store today so I can get a few things and fix that electrical outlet. I’m thinking I’ll also grab some stuff to cook on the grill for dinner while I’m out. Do you need anything?”

Turned out, there were a few additional errands to run. After the first three suggestions from her, I grabbed a pen and began taking notes.

In the background, some television program was on, and a character uttered that phrase we all know about a happy wife. Which, with my making sure I had everything written down that my wife had mentioned—combined with my sarcastic mind and think it but don’t you dare say it out loud at this time thoughts—became a thought of wondering if it was even possible to have a happy wife.

We’ve all heard the saying. But sarcasm and humor aside, let’s ask: Is it true? If you’re married, does a happy companion make for a happy life? And I’ll be honest here with my response.

I don’t know.

As a bit of a side to our story, I probably should offer thoughts about how fortunate I am. Terrific wife. Very happy overall. Zero complaints. And I do strive to do whatever I can to make her happy.

The thing is, I don’t know about this saying involving making her happy having an equal or somewhat proportional reaction toward my happiness. And there are several parts to the equation that make me wonder…

There are times when I might be reading a book, watching television, or just tinkering around on a project. And within those moments, my happiness has very little to do with how my wife is feeling at that very moment.

I am equally convinced there are occasions when my wife is laughing, smiling and enjoying each and every detail of her surroundings… while at that precise minute I’m covered in dirt and grime, cursing during fits of blinding frustration, certain that my misery will extend for the remainder of the day.

I can be happy when perhaps she isn’t. I can be ticked off and grumbling while she’s carefree and smiling. We have moments where the scales do not move in any ways as a result of her side or my side of the happiness meters.

Then we travel together. See a movie. Celebrate an accomplishment… visit the kids… head out for a day with friends… and the happiness is contagious.

Still, I imagine that like many husbands, my goals are a bit subtler, built on a desire for quiet rather than a pursuit of happiness.

There’s a sink that won’t drain properly… a run to the grocery store needed… laundry to wash. I’d be much happier tuning my guitar out on the deck, wasting a bit of time on a gorgeous afternoon. But, there will be peace and harmony in the kingdom if I put the guitar away, then sort a load of towels before heading out to pick up some milk and bread.

Do I really care what color we paint the living room? You could argue I’m compromising because it makes her happy. There might be a compelling case made that blue, seafoam, eggshell or whatever, all colors are beautiful in a tranquil home. Honestly, the color doesn’t matter to me. And, if the color is what she selected, there will be less complaining about the need to paint the living room.

Honestly, this is a discussion between friends in the end. Simply put, I enjoy doing things to make my wife happy because they make her feel good. That, in turn, makes me feel good. So yes, happy wife does mean a happy life. And I am completely in favor of as much happiness as possible.

(It does not guarantee dinner though. So… yeah… trip to the store. There is that.)

If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at Bob@inmybackpack.com