It’s the kind of throwaway line that resonates with many: “happy wife, happy life”. If you’ve experienced marriage I am sure that you can see the truth in this! If your wife is happy, that means that your life is happy. And the converse is also true.
Although there is some truth here, there are two problems with this way of thinking.
Problem #1: It makes your motivation for working on your marriage all about being happy.
I know this sounds really weird in a culture where people assume that happiness is our main goal in life. Many parents have told me that they don’t care what their children do in life as long as they are happy. The throwaway line “well, whatever makes you happy” is also commonly heard. Happiness is seen as a measure that we have succeeded in life. And on that measure, it needs to be said that most people haven’t succeeded.
Let me suggest something radical: happiness is not your main goal in life. If God is really there, and He really made the world and redeemed His people and is the true King, then serving and glorifying Him is your main goal in life. Or at least, it should be. And as you strive to do that, ironically, you will find great enjoyment in doing what you were designed to do.
Aiming for happiness never gets there in the end.
Problem #2: It makes your ultimate motivation for working on your marriage a selfish one, that you might be happy.
Although we’d like to think we are altruistic and care for other people more than ourselves, often there is a selfish motive in it. We want our wife to be happy for her, sure, but it has a great side-effect of making the house we’re living in much more pleasant at the same time. And that cannot be a bad thing.
Into that context let’s hear what the apostle Peter says to husbands:
7 Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. (1Peter 3:7 ESV)
Did you see how radical that motivation is? The goal for a husband acting in an understanding way towards their wife is that prayers might not be hindered. Peter might say: “Happy wife, better prayers.” A key reason for working hard on marriage is because problems in marriage hinder your prayers. (And the “your” is plural; this is speaking of the prayers of both husband and wife). The marriage relationship, for all its benefits and encouragements, is not our ultimate relationship. The one we have with God is.
Prayer is far more important than what we often think. We need to fix our earthly relationships to not hinder our heavenly one. And we need to work on serving God, not just being happy.