For years I have been hearing the quote, "Happy wife - happy life." It has honestly never set well with me. The imbalance is jarring. The same goes for when a bride says it's HER wedding, as if the groom isn't half of the day. It also doesn't speak to the myriad of options when it comes to what a couple might consist of - man/woman, man/man, woman/woman, non-binary.
Whenever there is an imbalance in a relationship, there can be trouble. I have seen it happen many times over my lifetime, relationships where one partner's needs are put above the other's It happens slowly over time. And it usually comes from a great place - one person wants the other person who they truly love to be happy. They decide out of love to put their partner's needs front and center. This beautiful gift can unfortunately create a pattern in the relationship where what makes one partner happy becomes the entire focus, while the other partner's needs become less and less important.
One day, a reckoning can occur. The spouse doing most of the giving and adjusting stops and looks at their life. They realize they aren't happy any more and often that means leaving the relationship. All those little steps along the way where they thought they were doing the right thing by keeping their spouse happy and not sharing clearly what they needed has born very sad fruit. I am sure it happens with both men and women, but I know I was raised as a female to be exactly that kind of spouse. I was taught it was my job to keep everyone in the family happy. Not once was I taught to take time to fill my own cup.
When one of my children feel deeply in love and was ready to build a life with another, I remember talking with them about this. There were several ideas I threw out to consider. What they chose to do with these ideas was up to them. Their life to live - their relationship to build.
- First was if they found something increasingly bothering them, they should start to talk about it with their partner while it was still a small thing, not wait until they had reached the breaking point and were angry. Holding onto our feelings until they explode doesn't give the other person a chance to have the time to explore the problem, or even see the tidal wave coming. So when we explode out of the blue,they are lost as to what we are talking about and can often become defensive.
- Another was to always find a way to make some time for self care. Whoever in a relationship that takes a larger role in caregiving can spend all their time making sure everyone in the family is heard and getting the self-care time they need, while forgetting to - without apology - make sure they are getting the same in return. Those in a relationship who take a larger role in creating income don't have it easy either. They can get so immersed in trying to create financial security, they don't make time to just be there with the family enjoying life.