Her Happiness is Her Responsibility

Yesterday one of the blog posts I linked to was Holy or Happy? What’s the Purpose of Marriage? by J of Hot, Holy and Humorous.

Put on a happy face  © Ryan Jorgensen | Dreamstime.com

I have ranted about this in the past, most recently in Marriage Lie: God didn’t create marriage to make us happy, but I have a new thought I would like to pass on related to this. Perhaps one reason some want to make marriage about something other than happiness is to avoid feeling any responsibility for their spouse’s happiness. You’ve no doubt heard most of the following:

  • We are responsible for our own happiness.
  • You can’t make another feel anything.
  • You’re only responsible for yourself.
  • You’re not responsible for bad feelings resulting from others misunderstanding what you say or do.

Aside from some of those being factually incorrect, I don’t see them as consistent with the Bible. In Deut 24:5 we’re told a man is to make his new bride happy. The passage is clear; it shows us God thinks we can influence how others feel, and He expects us to make an effort to influence others to feel good. I think Matt 5:24 (…leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.) and Rom 12:18 (If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.) both show we have a reproducibility to try to make things right even when we did not make the mess. A few other scriptures I think are relevant here are Matt 22:39 (You shall love your neighbor as yourself.), Rom 12:15 (Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.), 1 Peter 3:8&9 (Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.), and 1 Peter 4:8 (Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins).

However, this can be taken too far! I suspect the comments I listed above are often a reaction to people who feel responsible beyond what is possible and beyond what God commands or expects. I can do a great deal to cheer my wife up, but I can’t always make her feel happy. I can help her see lies she believes which make her feel bad about herself, but I can’t force her to change her mind. I can help her, especially when she lets me, but I can’t do it for her and I can’t do much at all if she fights me. It seems to me God expects me to make a serious effort, but doesn’t hold me responsible for the outcome if my wife is unwilling or just in a bad place. I also think God expects me to keep trying, rather than give up when it doesn’t work.  

What do you think? I’d love to see some discussion of this in the comments! BTW, you do have to login to comment. You can login with Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, or OpenID OR you can make a Livefyre account. I know this is a pain, but it keeps spam under control (I used to get massive amounts of spam, including a great many for UK payday loans for some reason). The system will also allow you to port your comment to your social media account if you so choose (it defaults to not posting).

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16 Comments on “Her Happiness is Her Responsibility

  1. I experienced a lot of that in my prior marriage.  Before we divorced due to her affair, my ex-wife was very withdrawn(at least to me) and would not respond to any of my attempts to cheer her up/love her.  I did make the unfortunate mistake of giving up, but that was right before the end.  I’m still dealing with that, and it’s almost 4 years later.

  2. I experienced a lot of that in my prior marriage.  Before we divorced due to her affair, my ex-wife was very withdrawn(at least to me) and would not respond to any of my attempts to cheer her up/love her.  I did make the unfortunate mistake of giving up, but that was right before the end.  I’m still dealing with that, and it’s almost 4 years later.

    • JSYantiss Total withdrawal is very difficult to deal with. Often it is a sigh the person has already given up on the marriage – closed the door and unwilling to think about any change. It is always a signal to get help ASAP!
      Praying for your ongoing healing.

  3. I wonder if our culture of self-help and self-actualization has brought us to that belief of being responsible only for ourselves. I agree that we cannot change others, but we are far too interwoven with people around us to believe that our actions have no effect on those around us. God made us for companionship and community, and you have done a great job of pointing to scriptures indicating His desire for us to do what’s in our power to positively impact others.
    By the way, I’m planning to say a little more about holy/happy this week. :)
    (Oh, and why do I get constant spam about Christian Louboutin knock-off shoes?)

    • HotHolyHumorous Interwoven – yes and amen. We are supposed to be interwoven, and probably far more so than most of us are living. We are supposed to be so close that our actions do affect others!
      (No idea on the spam. At least I stopped getting ads for Jesus Jeans Company!)

  4. I wonder if our culture of self-help and self-actualization has brought us to that belief of being responsible only for ourselves. I agree that we cannot change others, but we are far too interwoven with people around us to believe that our actions have no effect on those around us. God made us for companionship and community, and you have done a great job of pointing to scriptures indicating His desire for us to do what’s in our power to positively impact others.
    By the way, I’m planning to say a little more about holy/happy this week. :)
    (Oh, and why do I get constant spam about Christian Louboutin knock-off shoes?)

  5. As a person who seems to lack tact, I have to constantly be aware of how I say things.  I do take others feelings too far by saying yes to stuff I do not want to do so that it won’t hurt their feelings.  I think that is inappropriate sometimes, but I also believe that doing things for other even when you don’t feel like it (as long as it is done kindly and graciously) blesses the other person.  This is a selfish culture where only my feelings matter, and I don’t want to be like that.

    • The whole saying yes and no thing is an issue I have been reexamining in my life recently. Certainly there are times we should say yes when we do not want to, but it is easy to say yes when we should not say yes. Aside from the importance of our time and the other things we can do with our time, it may be that someone else should do that thing, and by saying yes we prevent that.

  6. As a person who seems to lack tact, I have to constantly be aware of how I say things.  I do take others feelings too far by saying yes to stuff I do not want to do so that it won’t hurt their feelings.  I think that is inappropriate sometimes, but I also believe that doing things for other even when you don’t feel like it (as long as it is done kindly and graciously) blesses the other person.  This is a selfish culture where only my feelings matter, and I don’t want to be like that.

  7. I also think of the command given to not just “tell” our neighbor to “be blessed”. We must help where we can and when we are called (in a marriage, we are always called!). Ignoring your spouse’s pains/issues/problems is like walking past the man beaten in the side of the road…perhaps you didn’t cause that, but you might can help and you should if you can. And if you can’t, maybe you can find someone who can.

  8. I have long believed we are responsible for how we react to our feeling/emotions yet others can effect our emotions/feelings. I’ve often wondered were the thought of “don’t let others effect you” has come from. For my own life I liken it to a surfer in the ocean. Our emotions/feeling are like waves, they are going to come in. But just as a surfer can choose which wave to ride, we can choose which emotion to ride. If a surfer picks the wrong wave it can make him/her wreck and cause lots of damage. Same with us, if we choose the wrong emotional wave it can wreck us and cause lots of damage, to us and those around us.

  9. I have long believed we are responsible for how we react to our feeling/emotions yet others can effect our emotions/feelings. I’ve often wondered were the thought of “don’t let others effect you” has come from. For my own life I liken it to a surfer in the ocean. Our emotions/feeling are like waves, they are going to come in. But just as a surfer can choose which wave to ride, we can choose which emotion to ride. If a surfer picks the wrong wave it can make him/her wreck and cause lots of damage. Same with us, if we choose the wrong emotional wave it can wreck us and cause lots of damage, to us and those around us.

    • russellm74 I agree, we do choose how we react. The idea that others should not effect us seem so wrong to me. If I am to cry with those who cry, am I not letting their feeling effect me?

      • TheGenerousHusband I read your comment right before I went to bed last night and had a vivid dream about the power of forgiveness and how forgiving others and receiving forgiveness is a very freeing emotional experience. There was a lot of crying in that dream, great point!

  10. Pingback: So What Should We Aim for in Marriage? | Hot, Holy & Humorous

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