Are We Responsible For Our Spouse’s Happiness?


Last week over at the Peacefulwife Blog, one person left the following comment:

I have found it ironic that husbands are not responsible for our happiness as wives (something I am learning) but they measure their success as husbands by our happiness. For a long time this trapped me. I felt like “If he wants to feel successful – he needs to learn how to love me (read: love me the way I like i.e. my selfish wants), then I will be happy and he will be happy.”

Now I am learning much of what you have said above and realize that my happiness affects his happiness (makes it harder or easier for him to focus on the happiness). I am learning to think of it more like I am a thermostat and set the emotional climate of the home and bring balance to it by my choice to focus on God and his ways rather than a thermometer, which depends completely on the set emotional climate at the time. I am seeing now how thermostats have powerful effects (through God’s ways)!

There were two really powerful things the commenter said here that I thought were really good that I think are worthy of some discussion. The first one is that as a husband I am not responsible for my wife’s happiness but I measure my success as a husband by her happiness. The second is the idea that my wife is like a thermostat that controls the emotional climate of the house. Her ability to focus her settings on God have huge effects on the marriage and the family.

As a husband, finding and keeping the proper priority structures in balance is a constant struggle. Our priority list in our marriage should go in the following order:

  1. God
  2. Wife
  3. Children
  4. Others
  5. Self

How often do we let our priorities for our marriage get out of order?  As soon as we lose sight of #1 on the list things start to go awry. Unfortunately, if we get to #5 and haven’t taken care of 1-4 then we are really setting ourselves up for problems. This is when a husband can rationalize infidelity, bad financial decisions, or fall victim to addictive behaviors.

When a husband puts himself at the top of the priority list he places his accountability and responsibility only to himself. If he chooses to live without responsibility to his wife, family, or marriage he loses his purpose. He has lost sight of the priorities that can actually fulfill him and give him happiness.

A wife can get her priorities out of order as well and she will have similar issues with finding fulfillment in her marriage and family. It is quite easy for a wife to try to define her happiness totally by her husband. I found this quote at kd316 to be a good description of this. She was having a discussion with her husband when he made the following statement to her that really woke her up.

“Don’t make my happiness an idol. Search for your own joy in your pursuit of God.”

She goes on to explain that when we look for happiness in our significant other we let “that person or relationship become an idol to us. Yes, we are supposed to do what we can do make our husbands happy, live with him in harmony, pursue peace and Christ together. But, in no way should we feel the blame for when we are doing our part and other situations in life are difficult – for a season. We can’t be mainly responsible for our husband’s happiness. He has to find his ultimate happiness in God and God alone – just like we do.”

I found another great description of this at

I don’t need my husband I want him. There’s a huge difference. Needing him led to bitterness and resentment. I could never be perfect no matter how hard I tried so my failures were ever before me. Wanting him creates a real love and respect between us. Now I am a woman set free by the grace of God. Knowing who I am in Christ Jesus gives me confidence to live life being myself, taking off the masks of pretending and letting my husband know the real me. Guess what? He loves the real me, the imperfect me, the me I was created to be.

Another commenter said that he found it was extremely freeing to realize that he was not responsible for his wife’s happiness. He went on to say that this realization made it easier for him to love and pursue his wife.

In a Godly marriage, a husband is accountable to God first and then to his wife. That means a husband has responsibilities to his wife to take care of her, and to love her, even when he doesn’t feel like it. This is a husband’s biggest purpose in life. When you take care of your responsibilities wisely, your marriage will be blessed. In a Godly marriage, a wife is accountable to God and her husband. She has the responsibility to support and respect her husband. Both the husband and wife have to perform their duties and responsibilities under accountability to God.

Are you responsible for your spouse’s happiness? No. You can, however, play a significant role in allowing them to feel fulfilled in their happiness. You can make it harder or easier for them to be able to benefit from the joy and peace that comes from their happiness. You are like the thermostat in that you can create the emotional climate where you can rejoice together in the good and the bad. Once we set our priorities in the right order we can set our thermostat on “Happiness” and find fulfillment in abundance.