If You Would Have a Good Wife, Be a Good Husband
I. The Problem
A 34-year-old engineer from India asks about a marital problem. I will call him Aastik, a name that means “who has faith in God.” Aastik writes,
“I have been married for nine years, have a son, and live with my wife and parents. My younger sisters got married about the same time as me. Despite my parent’s disapproval, they chose their own husbands.
“I, on the other hand, was more or less forced to marry a girl of my parent’s choice. I now feel that if I had waited longer, I might have been introduced to a better spouse.
“I am unhappy that my wife no longer warmly responds to my feelings as she did when we first got engaged. She always seems to be too busy taking care of our son.”
When I asked Aastik what he admires about his wife, he replied, “I admire her honesty and the fact that she is a terrific mother.”
Aastik’s unhappy home life is causing problems. He finds it hard to concentrate on his job or focus on his wife. To release the frustration and stress he feels, he sometimes flirts with another woman on the Internet. He has asked me for my opinion of his situation.
II. The Opinion
Before I share my ideas with you, Aastik, please understand that what I have to say is based on what I learned from you. I haven’t spoken to your wife or visited you in India, so my knowledge is incomplete. Therefore, I cannot give you the best answer or advice. But perhaps you may find my brief comments helpful.
As I see it, you are hurt by your wife’s lack of enthusiasm toward you. It troubles you that she no longer responds to you as she did when you first got engaged.
But I am happy that you are hurt because your pain will give you a small idea of the pain your wife feels. Her pain is ten times greater.
You see, Aastik, it is impossible to hide your thoughts and feelings from your wife. Even though you may never tell her what is on your mind, your body language, the tone of your voice, and your behavior tells her what you are feeling.
And what are you feeling? You are feeling regret that you married her because you think if you waited longer, you may have gotten a ‘better’ partner. What you do not realize is that if you had waited longer, you could have lost the opportunity to marry your wife (who is honest and a terrific mother) and ended up with a less suitable mate.
You also regret that you could not choose your own wife the way your sisters chose their own mates.
You resent being forced into marriage, just as children resent being forced to take medicine, even though it is for their own good and given to them by loving parents.
Perhaps you are familiar with the saying, “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.”
That is, we tend to believe that what we don’t have is better than what we already have. But the grass always appears greener on the other side, regardless of which side we are on.
Since your sisters have a ‘love marriage’ and you don’t, you think their way of getting married is better. But if you had a love marriage, and it didn’t work out, you would believe arranged marriages are better.
What makes marriages work? It is YOU, not the system. Love or arranged marriages work, if the couples do. In other words, marriage isn’t something you get; it’s something you do.
The vast majority of marriages in your country are arranged, and the fact that India has the lowest divorce rate in the world attests to their value. There is also truth in the saying, “A love marriage is like a pot of hot water on a cold stove; an arranged marriage is like a pot of cold water on a hot stove.”
The most important point for you to understand is that the reason your wife isn’t treating you as warmly as you wish is not because she is busy looking after your son, but because she is terribly hurt by the regret and doubt that you have about the marriage. She can see it in your eyes. Now that she doesn’t receive unconditional admiration, respect, and love from you, she receives it from her son.
Your problem is not hopeless. Rather, it is relatively easy to turn around. . Mahatma Gandhi explained how to do so when he said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” That is, you have to become the change you want to see in your wife.
How do you want your wife to respond to you? Do you want her to admire you, appreciate you, love you, want to spend time with you, take care of you when you’re not feeling well, encourage you, treat you kindly, speak well of you to others? Make a list of everything you wish to receive from her and give it to her.
When we give pain to others, we receive pain back. When we make others happy, we experience happiness. It’s very simple isn’t it?
Beware of flirting on the Internet or elsewhere because it is a dangerous pastime. It may seem to be a small matter, but it can result in serious unintended consequences. Remember, it is no longer just about you and your wife, for it is also about your son. And the most important thing you can do for him is to love his mother.
Because of your guilt, you may be tempted to confess to your wife about your feelings of doubt and regret and your Internet flirting. Resist that temptation, for although a confession may bring you some relief, it will only hurt her more.
Once you start giving your wife everything you wish to receive from her, she may find your sudden change of heart suspicious, hesitating to return warm feelings. That is understandable, so just be patient. But after she finds herself receiving the same degree of attention from you daily, she will finally accept the new behavior as a change of heart and begin to respond with warmth.
She may even ask you what brought about your change of heart. You can reply by saying something like, “I was hurt because of receiving less attention from you. Then I realized I was giving you less attention, so now I am trying to bring our lives back into balance.” Confessing that you were hurt by her lack of attention is exposing your vulnerability. Most men try to hide their fears, but by admitting it you demonstrate that you place your trust in your wife. This will also offer her the opportunity to calm your fears. The result is both of you will grow in intimacy, mutual respect, and love.
Keep in mind that when we always think about what we want from life, we create friction, but when we think about what we can do for others, we create harmony. Life is not for taking what we want, but for giving others what they need.
IV. A Final Question
When I asked Aastik if he had any other questions, he told me the following:
“I believe whatever happens in my life is God’s will. For example, I did not choose my parents, relatives, or wife, but it must be God’s will. Yet, if what God gives me makes me unhappy, I can’t understand why He would give it to me.”
Aastik, nothing, including God, can make you unhappy. Only you can make yourself unhappy. Here is an outline of how life works:
1. Stuff happens.
2. We respond to what happens in a positive way or react to it in a negative way.
3. We then experience the consequences of our positive or negative behavior.
So, what is the role of God/Fate/Destiny?
1. It creates or allows the events that we have no control over to enter our lives.
2. It grants us the power to embrace or resist what happens to us.
3. It created the laws of life, such as “We reap what we sow.”
So, ultimately, we create our own fate or destiny by the choices we make.
V. Final Suggestions
1. Stop the “What if… thoughts. “What if I had waited longer to find a spouse?” “What if I had the opportunity to pick my own wife?” Such thoughts prevent you from enjoying what you already have.
Rather, ask yourself empowering questions, such as, “What do I have to be grateful for?” “What do I admire in my wife?” “What steps can I take to strengthen my family life?” “What activities can me, my wife, and son enjoy doing together? “When can I begin?” When will I begin?”
2. Your marriage is an opportunity to enjoy an exciting and rewarding life. You can share dreams and goals while supporting, encouraging, and inspiring each another. Commit to becoming the best husband, father, son, and engineer that you can. How can we become successful unless we first commit to it?
3. Always look for the good in every situation. We always find what we look for, so if you make looking for the good a habit, you will assure yourself of a happy life.
4. Examine your faults. Aren’t you lucky that your wife accepts you despite your many faults? Count your blessings.