I was honored to speak to Marcus Luttrell a while back. He's an American hero, a man's man. So it surprised me when he used the phrase "A happy wife, happy life." We've all probably heard this at some point and have likely used it. But, is it true? Should it be? What did Marcus mean by it? What kind of impact can this common phrase have on men as leaders of our families?
When it Goes Bad
In most of the scenarios where I see the mantra of "Happy wife, happy life" practiced, the man is unwilling to lead. He's unwilling to direct his family or wife in a way that would upset her. There isn't room for true dialog and compromise, but rather, the guiding dynamic is keeping mom happy so they don't have to deal with the fallout.
What I Think Marcus Luttrell Meant by It
I don't think it's a stretch to say that Mr. Luttrell isn't a pushover. I would also imagine that he guides his family, though I don't know him personally in that regard. When this scenario goes bad, it's usually because of an imbalance in the home. The husband is passive, the wife is either demanding or filling in the vacuum of leadership left behind and eventually things get out of control.
But, when the wife is a competent and secure leader in her home, she can be relied on to make wise decisions. The man, having married wisely, can rely on his wife's guidance for things in the home. His job becomes more of a supportive role, knowing that she has things under control.
If this is in place, then the man can spend more time building outside of the home. Of course, good fathers are active in the life of their families so there has to be some balance there. But, most men want to build influence outward. If his family is a secure base of operations, he's more free to do so.
What if the Wife Works?
Many couples are dual income these days. While this makes sense before kids (or afterwards), it strains the natural dynamic families are designed to operate by. Women are more nurturing than men. Men are more work oriented than women. Honestly, I don't know where the "Happy wife..." saying has a place a dual working scenario since both husband and wife have decided on a more egalitarian approach rather than a distinction of gender based roles.