Here’s another old saying that gets kicked around now and again. Someone mentions it around a newlywed or a group of husbands joke about it (out of the wives’ earshot of course). The underlying thought to the statement is that an unhappy wife casts a dark cloud over the rest of the home, and every single member of the family is affected.
I’ll admit that I like it when my wife is happy. Actually it’s more about when she’s able to rest in real joy. Happiness is such a fleeting emotion that can literally come and go in a nanosecond. It is solely based on how current circumstances are affecting us. Joy, on the other hand, stems from a depth of spirit, and it is something we can rest in no matter what is surrounding us in a given moment. The Bible tells us that the joy of the Lord can be in us, and that it can be full.
These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. -John 15:11
If it resides in us, and it can be full, it doesn’t matter what things might be happening outside of us. The indwelling joy can overcome whatever we might be facing at a given time. Isn’t that great news?
So, back to happy (joyful) wives. I read some counseling training a while back that included a note from a husband. He was discussing how he attempts to keep his wife happy in normal everyday life. One of his quotes really jumped out to me.
He said, “Happy wife? Are you kidding me? I’m just trying to keep my wife from being hostile, combative, and argumentative. Happy is a pipe dream, and when it happens I’m 100% stunned!”
WOW! He went on to say that despite having that negative mindset he honestly tries to do the things that he knows she wants done. So, while his motives are definitely skewed, he does spend time trying to be attentive to the things that matter to his wife. I found myself thinking that’s a good thing…I guess. She wants things done a certain way, he does them, and everyone’s happy.
However, after spending some time mulling it over, I decided that it’s really not a good thing at all. Our motives matter! The reason we do things is really the most important part. Our actions can often be a facade we use to show others what we want them to see. On top of that, this husband’s actions are actually way more about his desires than his wife’s. It’s ultimately a practice in selfishness. He does particular things just to keep his wife off his case. It’s really all about him.
If you’re thinking, “What’s the problem? Everybody seems to get what they want”, I’ll tell you. This kind of bartering system whereby I do some things and you do some things in order to build some semblance of harmony in the home is a sham. It never works. Both he and she have no joy. What will inevitably occur in this husband’s (and almost certainly his wife’s) heart is a building up of disdain. He will continue to try to do those things to attain his level of peacefulness, but he will become angry, bitter and then resentful. Instead of building a lasting peace and joy in the home and marriage, he will come to resent his wife and the fact that he has to be married to her.
Now, not every marriage in that state ends. Some can sustain that level of cohabitation without many flare ups or confrontations. They continue to do their own things, staying out of each other’s way, and doing enough to stay cordial. They might even experience a passing moment of intimacy together, and no one is the wiser to the actual state of the marriage. Tragically, many marriages end up like this.
What’s missing? Why do so many marriages struggle and others end? The most important ingredient is missing. That is love. We’re talking about the kind of love that brings you joy to serve your spouse. It’s the opposite of this husband’s motive. Instead of just doing stuff to keep peace, and keep his wife quiet, the husband who truly wants to be a source of God’s joy for his wife will faithfully, cheerfully, generously serve her.
25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her… 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. -Ephesians 5:25, 28
Learning how your spouse works, what he or she likes, and what he or she doesn’t like is living in understanding and wisdom (1 Peter 3:7). Serving her because you have committed to love her all the days of your life is what it is all about. Do that in a gracious and generous way and see where happiness shows up over and over in your marriage. The joy that comes from the Lord, lived out in your marriage, will manifest itself in repeated moments of happiness.