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Happy Life, Happy Wife

By Laurie Israel, Mediator/Lawyer
©Copyright 2010

Did you ever hear the expression "Happy Wife, Happy Life"? This overused adage seems to help some people (generally husbands) focus on their wife's happiness in order to secure a peaceful, happy marriage. It seems quite manipulative. What about the man's happiness? It's interesting that the opposite "Happy Husband, Happy Life" is not used. Studies show that divorces are more often initiated by wives, so perhaps there tends to be an inequality in marital contentment, weighed towards the husbands' side.

I originally thought the expression "Happy Wife, Happy Life" was of Oriental origin, because it seemed like the kind of thing you'd find in a fortune cookie. However, my Google search on the term brought up no Oriental sources.

The search for "Happy Wife, Happy Life" did in fact bring up a website www.happywife.com , the work of Rabbi Aryeh Pamensky, who offers many marriage improvement resources (including his own books, tapes, seminars, etc.) on the site. The term, however, does not seem to be derived from Rabbinic literature, and according to Pamensky, his courses and materials are used by people of difference faiths other than the Jewish, and also by secular couples.

The adage is confirmed by a 2009 German study of Australian divorces that notes where there is a disparity on satisfaction of the husband and the wife, divorce is much more likely, especially if the relative dissatisfaction is experienced by the wife. Economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/01/29/dont-become-happier-than-your-wife/

Then there's www.yourhappywife.com. This site seeks to assist husbands in making their wives happy by helping them choose presents for their wives, which can be conveniently ordered on the website. Actually, the wares are quite attractive, including eco-soap and herbal teas. These might certainly pave the way for a clueless husband seeking to make his wife happy. In addition, the husband needing further help can email the site and pose his marital question or problem. "Within 24 hours or sooner", the person(s) operating the site will respond with the best advice they can give. The site notes that all emails will be kept confidential and, in order to receive the best advice possible, that honesty is expected from the husband seeking advice. (I'd like to be a fly on that wall!) As Rabbi Pamensky says on his site, "A happy wife is a happy life. It's just that simple."

But is it?

George Pransky, a psychologist in Washington State has another theory of marital dysfunction. His theory is that a person's own mental/emotional state is the biggest indicator of whether the marriage will work well. If two people have a low mental or emotional state, Pransky says, marriage enrichment or marital therapy is like spraying for mildew in a damp basement. It never works as a long-term cure. In his marital counseling, Pransky tries to elevate the couple from the damp basement into an environment of good mental health. It is only then, Pransky says, that people can truly work on their marriage to make it thrive and survive. Prasky's book, "The Relationship Handbook", is a great resource for those couples who want to elevate their mental state and start working on their relationship. You can order a copy through www.amazon.com.

So perhaps the more accurate stating of the adage is "Happy Life, Happy Wife." Or even "Happy Life, Happy Husband."

Laurie Israel is founder and managing partner of Israel, Van Kooy & Days, LLC, a law firm located in Brookline, Massachusetts. She combines a family law practice with estate planning, tax, mediation and collaborative law. Laurie is currently on the board of directors of the Massachusetts Council on Family Mediation and former board member of the Massachusetts Collaborative Law Council. Her writings include articles on mediation to stay married (marital mediation), collaborative practice, marriage, divorce, and pre- and post-nuptial agreements. She is a frequent presenter at professional conferences. Her websites are: www.ivkdlaw.com, www.mediationtostaymarried.com , www.laurieisraelthink.com and www.yourfamilymatterslawblog.com.

She can be contacted by phone at (617)277-3774 or

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