One of the many blessings we have here in northeast Wisconsin is winter snow. I say it is a blessing because snow, unlike other weather elements, has a tendency to make us stop and slow down a bit. It gives us a chance to be together more in our homes. Recently, in a snowbound moment, where my schedule had to temporarily come to a halt, I came across an article that cited the common phrase “happy wife, happy life.”
This is a saying that can often be heard at family gatherings and parties with friends. The article, titled, “Study suggests happy wife, happy life maxim is true,” was published on medical newstoday.com. It cites research from two professors who surveyed over 394 couples and found out essentially that if the wife reported being happy in the marriage, the husband reported high levels of satisfaction overall. But in the converse, if the woman was dissatisfied, both husband and wife reported much lower levels of contentment with their life. Because happiness in a relationship has been linked with many benefits, such as reduction of stress, longer life and better overall health, it was important for me to look up this topic some more. That is, what makes for a happy home?
Psychologytoday.com defines happiness in a relationship as “a state of well-being that encompasses living a good life, one with a sense of meaning and deep contentment.” It goes on to say that happiness, or lack thereof, is not something that we can hide from others. What this means is that our attitudes have a ripple effect on others. What we say and do has an effect on all those around us, especially those we are the closest to, including our spouses and families.
How, then, does one have a happy home? The answer rightly starts with rooting our homes in Christ. Romans 15:13 states: “I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.” Christ doesn’t promise to give us fleeting happiness in moments, but rather a deep joy that comes from the source of happiness and love itself.
The beginning of the year is a great time to find a new way to pray with your spouse or children. Make it your resolution this year to take a few minutes each night to pray together. A simple way to pray, or begin to pray with each other, is to hold hands, take a minute to thank God for the day, another minute to ask for any needs, and finally finish with a moment of silence where you invite God into the relationship. After the moment of silence you can share whatever may have come to your hearts and open yourselves up to learning how to hear the Holy Spirit.
Practically speaking, there are other ways of fostering happiness in our homes, such as simplifying. Too many things can steal our attention away from our loved ones. Who wouldn’t want to spend less time cleaning and more time being with each other? The winter months are notorious for being great opportunities to rid our homes of unnecessary things. Sometimes it isn’t physical items we need to simplify, but rather too many other distractions such as electronics, social media, etc. Ask yourselves, what would give us more time together.
Ironically, some of the things that can lead to the greatest happiness don’t actually cost anything at all. What attitudes are we bringing home each day? Are there ways you can incorporate more quality time with each other? Do something that you need to do together, such as cooking or even shoveling snow. Ask yourselves, “Do we have a happy home?” If you hesitate with that answer, write down a list of what brings joy to you, or your spouse and start working on those things together.
You will find in this New Year that the happiness level in your home is something that is not stagnant, it can change and can easily be altered by even the simplest of things. Winter in northeast Wisconsin provides us some time to make this assessment. Snow slows us down a bit and helps us to find more quality ways to spend time with each other. An alternate version of the happy wife, happy life maxim is also very true — do your best this year to have a happy spouse and you will surely get a happy house.
Tremblay is Marriage and Life Ministries director for the Diocese of Green Bay.