Wives, It’s Not Your Job to be Happy All the Time
I previously wrote about a common dilemma husbands face when it comes to their wives – the feeling that they need to make sure their wives are always happy. Since a marriage is two individuals coming together, it makes sense that each partner plays a role in expectations and dynamics of the relationship. Important as it is to address a husband’s belief that he needs to make sure his wife is happy all the time, it’s equally important to address the wife’s side of the coin.
The common phrase I hear from wives is, “I can’t be happy all the time!”
Wives I have great news for you, it’s not your job to be happy all the time. It’s unrealistic to expect that you will be happy all the time. Furthermore, it’s healthy to feel unhappy, even disappointed.
It’s OK for you to have a bad day.
I know those are bold statements, but how nice would it be if those statements were true?
Given that I’m not a wife I won’t claim to understand your experience. What I do understand comes after hearing from a number of wives, including my own, about your experience, the pressures you feel and the expectations you live with on a daily basis. It’s those pressures I’ll address, specifically as they relate to marriage and your husbands.
Husbands, a big part of this post is also for you. I know that if I asked any of you I would most likely hear that you don’t want to pressure your wife or make her feel like a failure or that she isn’t living up. I’m guessing you truly want her to be happy, to enjoy life and be present. Right? Yet there is still this struggle and dynamic that leaves you both feeling disconnected and alone after a while. Let’s address this and help you two get on the same page.
I won’t pretend to understand what it’s like to be a wife and all the pressure you must feel. I do know that you face great demands on a daily basis, and that you struggle to feel like you live up to all the expectations on you.
I’m guessing that you feel like you have to have it all together all the time and need to be OK more often than not.
“I’m not good enough” and “I’m failing” are common thoughts in your mind.
I can’t imagine the pressure you face and the feelings of discouragement and disappointment you feel some days.
It’s time to take some of the weight off.
It’s OK to Have a Bad Day
You might not believe this, but it’s OK to not be OK.
You can have a bad day.
Expectations come from different directions communicating the same message, “you need to have it together and be happy all the time.” That expectation is simply unrealistic and unattainable. Striving to be a super mom or a super wife, with the pressure to always be happy, is a recipe for discouragement, resentment and burnout.
You are human and will have your off days, or even off weeks or months. And that is ok. It needs to be ok.
Just because you don’t have it all together doesn’t mean there is something wrong with you or that you are failing in some way. It doesn’t mean you aren’t good enough.
I can hear it now, “but you don’t understand, everyone around me needs something from me, all the time, I can’t fall apart, I have to keep it all together.” There are definitely pressures you feel from the world around you, the culture you live in and the communities you are a part of. There is also the pressure you feel from inside your family, from you kids if you have them and definitely from your husband.
Take it from a husband, the last thing we want is for our wives to feel pressured, discouraged, resentful and burned out. It’s why we strive so hard to make sure you feel the opposite. And therein lies the real issue. It’s not all on you or about you.
It’s Not All on You
I know the kind of pressure I feel as a husband and father, and the sense of responsibility I carry with me on a daily basis. At the same time I’ve heard a lot from wives and moms about the pressures you experience. The weight is definitely different and in some ways sounds heavier when broken down. It’s easy to get into a “my responsibilities are heavier than yours” dynamic, where you each try to convince the other that you are taking on and doing more.
The reality is you are both stressed and under pressure.
You each face different stress and pressures and deal with those in different ways. It’s really tough to understand what someone else is going through if we haven’t gone through it ourselves. What is most challenging is when you are both carrying all this weight you forget that you two are in this together.
The good news? It’s not all on you!
Although it may not feel like this right now, or you may not have that dynamic with your husband, the reality is the weight and burden of life should and can be shared. You just need to learn how to do that and how to unload what you don’t need to be carrying. Which leads us back to this happiness issue. It’s time to unload the weight of trying to make others, and needing to be, happy all the time.
Happiness Isn’t the Issue
Husband, if it isn’t your job to make your wife happy, and wife, if it isn’t your job to be happy all the time, then what’s the issue here?
Anytime you go round and round a topic as a couple and repeat the same kind of conflict, it is a sure sign there is a deeper issue not being addressed.
When it comes to happiness, the deeper issues comes down to expectations and needs. Since I’m not a wife I can’t begin to explain some of these from your perspective, but I can shed light on this issue as a husband and why you as a wife feel a certain pressure from your husband.
One aspect of the real issue is as husbands we derive our worth and value from the impact we have on those around us. If our wives are happy it means we are good enough, we’ve done our job. If our wives are unhappy then we are failures as husbands and as men. Added to that, we find worth and value from our ability to fix issues and solve problems. Most of us see our wife’s moods as an issue we need to fix and a problem to solve. And therein lies the dilemma.
Wives don’t want or need to be “fixed.”
I could be wrong with that statement, but I have yet to hear a wife tell me she wants her husband to fix how she feels. I’ve never heard a wife tell me that she is a problem and needs her husband to “solve” her. I have heard many other statements from wives over the years:
“I want to be understood.”
“I want to feel supported.”
“I don’t want to feel alone, I want him to be with me.”
“I just wish he got me more…”
“I need help around the house.”
These deeper needs go back to the first post aimed at husbands and what a husbands responsibility is towards his wife. Some of the pressure you feel as a wife is put on you by your husband, not because he wants to, but because he is trying to fulfill a need he has; the need to be good enough.
When it comes to this issue, wives, if it isn’t your job to be happy all the time when it comes to your life and especially with your husband, then what is required of you?
Clearly Communicate Feelings and Needs
Most couples who come see me tell me that their core issue is communication and that they don’t communicate well. This is only partly accurate. The truth is you two are communicating all the time, just not clearly or about the right things. In other words you are constantly having an incomplete or the wrong conversation.
When you stop worrying about the happiness issue you can address the two primary concerns when it comes to relationships: feelings and needs.
Clearly identifying and then communicating what you feel and what you need will change your dynamic. This goes for both of you.
There are plenty of resources out there about how men and women communicate differently and how to communicate better as a couple. I want to provide you with the foundational concepts so that you can start changing how you two relate and take some pressure and weight off your shoulders right now.
Start with tapping into your self-awareness. Pay attention to what you feel and start to put words to those feelings. I commonly experience wives trying to reach out to their husbands to get them to understand something and meet a need. This reaching tends to focus on details of an issue or some sort of criticism or complaint of his behavior. Both of those trigger that “fix it” response in the husband ultimately making it impossible to meet that deeper need.
When you clearly communicate what emotions you feel you begin down a different path of relating and you get to stop worrying about not feeling ok.
Once those emotions are clear, attach them to something specific. “Being at home with three screaming kids all day is exhausting.” “I feel overwhelmed, discouraged. Being a mom and working full-time is wearing we out. Most days I want to just collapse when I get home.” Your husband may not totally understand where you are coming from, but that’s ok, he doesn’t always need to because you are going to follow that up with something he can work with: what you need and expect from him and what that would mean to you.
“Honey, it would mean the world to me if you could watch the kids tonight and give me a break.”
Put all that together and your husband knows what you are feeling, what you need and what exactly he can do.
I recognize that there is more to it than this and that the issue of pressure and stress is more complicated. This shift only addresses the dynamic between you and your husband. I also acknowledge that these changes take time to develop and shift your experience together.
One caveat, if there is a lot of conflict in your home or if the dynamic has degraded to the point where you two just can’t communicate you are going to need some help doing this. Making these changes requires both of you to get on the same page and agree to do things differently. If that isn’t possible at home consider seeking professional help to get the ball rolling and develop some momentum around this. When you two start addressing the core issues change can happen really quickly.
Remember, it’s not your job to be happy all the time. It is your responsibility to clearly communicate how you are feeling and ask for what you need.
Wives I know there is a lot more to it than this and that my perspective as a husband and man is limited. Just like the post aimed at husbands this is just a place to begin. The real change happens when you two come together and start having different conversations.
One conversation that makes a lot of difference is when you help your husband understand what you really expect of him. It’s easy for us to take on responsibilities and come up with expectations that are not ours to carry or are not realistic. We often come up with expectations that we think someone else has on us, but in reality we aren’t actually sure. I know you get what that feels like and experience it to.
So instead of carrying the expectation of happiness start by talking together about what you each expect of the other. You might be surprised what you hear and even more surprised what you don’t hear. As long as those conversations are healthy and productive, and you two can communicate clearly, you can make
some big shifts in the pressure you feel. You’ll begin to understand what you each need and start working towards meeting those needs. Worst case scenario is that your needs are actually acknowledged and understood for the first time. How great would that be?
If those conversations start to deteriorate or escalate quickly then it is time to invite a third party in to help you two get to the real issues. A skilled professional can quickly help you two have the right conversation and stop a damaging pattern and dynamic.
Ready to take the pressure off? I invite you to call me and we can talk through what that looks like (720-588-2005). Or you can schedule an appointment online today.