When I first started doing weddings I liked to include a joke one of my therapy teachers told the class: “There are two rules for a happy marriage. Rule number one: Always make the wife happy. Rule number two: Never forget rule number one.” I would then add that in marriage it should be both people trying to make each other happy, but I wish I didn’t use this joke because in a way I was perpetuating an unhealthy marriage dynamic. Unfortunately, there are some very blatant double standards when it comes to men and women. For instance, my sister pointed out that she can’t be as straight forward as her male co-worker because she would be called a “b-witch.” I can see her point. At the same time, she knows she gets away with saying and doing things no man could. And when it comes to marriage jokes, guess who’s taking the hit? The guy. It’s the Homer Simpson situation where the guy is too dumb to know what to do while the woman is the innocent better half. Overall, I have no problem with this kind of joking and I enjoy being the target of friendly teasing, but we need to be careful not to emasculate men, especially when there are some common dangerous non-joking sayings in our culture.
“Happy wife, happy life”: I’m guessing you’re familiar with this one. What I like about this saying is it points out the fact that on some level every guy wants to make a woman happy. Getting a woman is a major motivator for men to push themselves to be better. It was very helpful for me, especially since I didn’t have my first girlfriend until I was 21, so I had lots of time and motivation to do some cool things. Women, on the other hand, typically don’t understand this. They’re not making themselves better for men; they’re also doing it for women or people in general. There’s also a chance they do it because they like to do it or because it’s what social standards require. Not guys. I worked hard in school because it was a competition and I wanted to be able to impress girls. My marks may have had zero help in getting me a girl (they really didn’t), but it did eventually help me become a therapist, which required good marks, so it worked out. Impressing girls was also my initial reason for working out in grade seven, which became a habit I’ve carried since because it’s routine (another guy thing) and I don’t want to die earlier than I need to if I can prevent it. Having heart disease in your family can also be a powerful motivator to be healthy… some days.
The downside of this saying is it can encourage men not to have an opinion. A lot of guys develop this “I’ll just do whatever you want,” attitude when it comes to what the family eats, does, and where they travel, but this can really upset women who feel this incredible burden of having to make all the decisions. Add the fact that women want to make everyone happy (women always seem to have bigger goals than men) and women can be overwhelmed by the pressure of carrying all the weight of the family. They need help from their partners to carry the load, and a lot of men give up on this thinking they’re being helpful when their actions are making things worse.
“You can be right or you can be married”: I heard a comedian say this line because it was the advice his dad gave him when he got married. It doesn’t specifically target men, but in this context, it was a son receiving dad advice. When the comedian said this statement, there was an explosion of women cheering. Here’s the problem with this message and the reason those women shouldn’t have been cheering: The underlying message is “Your wife is an irrational, stubborn monster you need to appease by saying ‘you’re right’ as you bottle up your own feelings and become quietly resentful and distant as you look for ways to cope with not having a backbone, which can be through booze, pot, porn, talking to other women, showing off at work, sports, etc.” The result of becoming distant, besides the natural problems of the coping tools a guy chooses, is the woman will scold him for never sharing anything, but in his mind her scolding him for this is better than getting in a fight over him sharing what he’s actually thinking or for not sharing it in the “female acceptable way.” Can you see why this is a bad message? It’s telling men to shut up and not trust their partner. Guess what couple I’ll likely be seeing as a therapist (or who should be seeing me) because the couple needs to work on communication.
“A good husband makes a good wife”: This statement made me angry because I’ve met a number of good men who married miserable women, and it didn’t matter what they did, nothing was right. I have a friend who is very open about how her second husband was married to a woman like this and when his first marriage ended and a few years later met and married my friend, he was blown away by how happy she was with him. When she told me what he does without being told to do it, I was impressed… and told her not to tell my wife. He’s an impressive guy, but he was originally with the wrong woman because nothing he did was good enough. Now he’s thrilled because he gets to be validated for what he does. His actions had no affect on the first woman because a miserable person will always be miserable.
The statement, “A good husband doesn’t makes a good wife,” is also stupid because grammatically, it’s saying a good husband could be married to another dude and be good at being his wife: “A good husband makes a good wife, so will you be my bride?”
“When a wife has a good husband, it is easily seen on her face”: Following the last example, this is very untrue. What’s more important is a happy person has a thankful attitude and is someone who looks for ways to be positive. My friend from the previous example was first married to an absolutely useless guy who worked for a total of six months full time in the thirty years they were married; they had three kids to support, which became her responsibility. He was ridiculously lazy, yet she was always friendly to everyone around her and had a smile on her face… at least when she wasn’t at home. I can’t say for sure at home. The smile she had definitely wasn’t because of her first husband.
The one saying I do like is “A good marriage would be between a blind wife and a deaf husband.” I like it because it points out how both sides contribute to the relationship and that we both have something to work on. Whether joking or not, ultimately, we need to be aware that men and women are different, but we are equal. Together our differences can balance us or drive us apart.
This week may you consider if you have any sayings in your head that are misguiding.
Rev Chad David, ChadDavid.ca, learning to love dumb people (like me)