Why I Find The Expression, “Happy Wife, Happy Life!” Patronising & Offensive

When we go as a couple to buy home decor items, shop assistants feel that pandering to the wife's ego will work. They just end up being patronising and offensive, in my case.

When we go as a couple to buy home decor items, shop assistants feel that pandering to the wife’s ego will work. They just end up being patronising and offensive, in my case.

In the spate of buying a new home in the US, and renovating and decorating it, I have heard one phrase all too often, quite consistently and without fail, over the course of the last five years.

Wherever we went as a couple and asked questions about a certain a product or plan, we were given detailed descriptions and instructions, which would all finally end in the expert saying: “let your wife choose.” “Go for what she likes.” “She is the better half.” “She knows all.” “happy wife, happy life!”

I would giggle or chuckle, my husband would laugh, and we would leave, only to meet another person concluding their enlightening remarks on home construction, decor, kitchen design, bathroom vanities and the like with, well, you know what.

I would giggle so as to not wholly embarrass the person who thought he was cracking a joke with some great truth in it. But I genuinely, honestly, always wish, I could engage them in a death stare, or equally jokingly say “Oh no no, I am just the cook!” Or “I earned my degrees for, like you know already, time-pass.”

Well, what? Where is the joke in that? And I am not sure the point would emerge anyways!

The idea underlying this wonderfully patronizing, rhyming and concise phrase (Happy Wife, Happy Life!) of course, is:

1. If you do not do as the wife says, you are going to be nagged forever. The wife naggeth!

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2. Your wife is the one mostly at home, so leave that space to her. You, the man, are the earner, you have an office to go off to, so chill. The wife=Home.


3. Women know design and decor better, men do not. Women’s brains=wired for art.


4. And only a few x thousand years of patriarchy. Women=Gathereth (Objects and art? Are possessive too)!


All the while being submissive to you, pretending to care for you etc.

No, I don’t want to be that happy wife, I say! I want us to choose everything together and I love to explain to my husband why choosing something is better in terms of decor, durability and other such reasonable criteria. Hmm, yes, reason.

Occasionally, if any one of us, or both of us become adamant about something beyond a reasonable limit, then we give each other the necessary space. And the person who was receptive to the partner’s choice despite not liking it, gets to choose another something for the house with no questions asked. And we live on happily or unhappily in our home (depending on the chores that remain by the evening), but always as equal partners.

A version of this was earlier published here.

Header image source: shutterstock


About the Author

Sushumna Kannan

Sushumna Kannan has a PhD in Cultural Studies and works on topics in feminism and religion, postcolonial studies and South Asian history among others. She received the Bourse Mira fellowship by the French government in read more...

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