This has been burning a hole in my biscuit for quite a while now.
In preparing for a column on “stupid things we say,” I made a list of all of the ignorant things we go around saying, ranging from clichés to total misstatements of facts. Upon reviewing the list, it occurred to me that one common expression stood out so much it needed an entire soapbox of its own:
Happy wife, happy life.
This seemingly playful and fun saying gets thrown around by men and women alike, married and otherwise, but it is neither playful nor fun at its base root, nor is it ultimately taken as such by society. Words matter and these four words are having a powerful effect on too many people.
And no, this is not a case of another middle aged white guy bitching about men being put down (although there is certainly an element to that within these words). This is much deeper for it demeans the very heart of loving relationships and it’s being accepted as truth and a way of life by, mainly men (and some C-word women) who already have a hard-enough time navigating their way towards happiness and successful relationships.
In case you’re hard-of-English, let’s start with the meaning of this idiocy; the premise is simple…keep your wife happy or else she’ll make your life a living hell. Well isn’t that loving?
Or, we can go “deeper:” The job of a man (husband in this dumbass rhyming four word display of lunacy) is to make sure his lover (wife in this asinine expression) is completely fulfilled in every way and insure her happiness. By doing so, he in turn will live a happy life. Well that certainly sounds one-sided doesn’t it? Isn’t it, in a healthy relationship, the job of both people to do whatever they can to help the other be happy? And why do we make the man go first? Why is it happy wife, happy life, which basically implies the woman will only fulfill the man’s needs once he’s done so for her first? Jesus this is so screwed up Freud, Jung and Einstein in a room together couldn’t explain the emotional horror of this way of thinking.
I was watching the competition cooking show “Chopped,” the other day and it was a couples special where newlyweds were teaming up against other newlyweds to make better food. During one of the dishes a former New York Giants football player got into a disagreement with his wife over cooking pork. She was adamant, so was he, and then he just gave up and said “happy wife happy life.” Idiot. She overcooked the pork exactly as he said she would, and they got cut…happy now, stupid?
All of this also ignores this basic truth; no other person makes you happy. You are either happy or you aren’t, and then you seek out others, and hopefully the most significant other, to enhance your happiness to levels never before known. It also implies that you have to be married to be happy which is absurd on its face. In fact, you can be single and happy, and even be in a bad marriage and be happy if you’re a well rounded, self-actualized person.
The most damning of all is that “happy wife, happy life,” re-enforces that men come second (giggity), a message sent daily in American society today. Men do not need to sideline their personal self-interests in the name of their woman (and vice-versa). I will never forget a friend’s father of mine who, at the age of 70, lost his wife to illness. I had known the father for about 20 years at that point and had never seen or heard him do anything related to golf. A week after the funeral, he was playing with us…and he spent every day he was able for the next 15 years playing golf. At one point I was able to ask him why I’d never golfed with him prior and his answer was simply heartbreaking as his wife “wouldn’t allow it.” It was his job to be at her beckon call and do whatever she wanted to do, even if he hated it. Happy wife, miserable man.
One more thing; when in the actual hell did we start defining our own happiness on the happiness of our mate? Guess what? People have bad days, bad weeks, bad months. Your mate might not be as happy as he or she could be, but how co-dependent have we become as a collective that that means you must also not have a happy life? If you truly tear into this expression, it’s actually quite disgusting.
I’ll go with “happy me, happy life.” It doesn’t rhyme, but it makes a hell of a lot more sense.