One of the most common goals my clients have is to make their wives happy. It’s noble, if a bit misguided. That’s because no one can “make” anyone else happy. But more importantly, it usually requires men to stop honoring themselves. It often comes down to giving up part of who they are to give their wives what they want. It’s the “happy wife/happy life” and “if Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy” crap that men have been fed for way too long.
If you’ve bought into that way of thinking, you’re putting your marriage at risk. You can’t have a true partnership if only one person’s wants, needs, and desires are considered. If the marriage doesn’t work for both of you, it won’t work for either of you in the long run. But men have been taught that what matters to them should always come second. That the secret to a happy marriage is to always say, “Yes, dear”. And this leads to some common scenarios. None of them good.
1. You stand up for yourself and this causes tension and arguments. The truth is that no one wants to be told ‘no’ and your wife is no different. But sometimes saying ‘no’ is necessary and the result is that she doesn’t like it. A frequent outcome is a tug of war, you vs. her, right vs. wrong heated discussion that goes round and round until one of you gives up but both of you feel defeated.
This gets exhausting so many of my clients move to the second scenario.
2. You back down and resentment builds. Because you either don’t like conflict in the first place or eventually tire of it, you stop asking for what matters to you. You do what your wife wants but start to feel resentful. And resentment kills love. I’ve seen plenty of unproductive responses to this such as actively distancing from the marriage, secretly doing what you want anyway, and purposefully working against your wife’s reasonable requests.
3. You give in and lose who you are. This is often the one that many good guys, maybe you, choose. You just stop noticing what it is you want and accept whatever she gives you. There is peace but no real connection. This is because it becomes an emotional starvation diet for you. Not doing the things that excite you and make you who you are diminishes what you can bring to the marriage. It makes you less than a whole person and who she fell in love with in the first place.
I am a big proponent of honoring your wife’s requests as often as you can. But I am equally adamant that your wife honors yours as often as she can. This makes you both feel loved and appreciated. An essential thing if your marriage is going to be all it can be.
The truth is that every decision either of you makes will directly or indirectly impact the other. So, it is important to consider your wife before taking any action. But it is equally important to consider yourself as well. Not before her, not after her, but in addition to her.
In a healthy marriage, you don’t stop being who you are. You can have your interests and beliefs without defense, justification, or argument. They can exist in harmony with your marriage if there is a willingness to be flexible and negotiate what this looks like. Because a good marriage isn’t you vs. your wife. It’s you and your wife. Now and always.
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