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An old friend of mine is the most whipped guy I know.
He’s afraid to say anything confrontational to his wife, for fear of her “emotional response.”
She rarely “allows” him to see his friends.
He loves to drink an occasional beer, and has no addiction to it, but he hides it from her because she doesn’t like alcohol and expects him to never ever drink.
He goes along with all of this because, as he says, “Happy Wife, Happy Life.” It’s a nice-sounding catchphrase that really means “I’ll compromise my values, hide parts of who I am, and be on my best behavior to avoid my wife’s emotions.”
Living by the “Happy Wife Happy Life” motto is a recipe for unhappiness.
I’m not saying that we shouldn’t strive to please our wives. I’m saying that we should NEVER deny our core needs and desires to appease them. And we should NEVER censor our truth to avoid conflict.
Core needs and desires
When you sacrifice something that really matters to you, over time, you’ll become resentful and regretful. It will also reduce your self-esteem.
One of my favorite things in life is playing music. Right now, my only opportunity to play is at night. My wife, Adee, could probably hang out with me every single night—sometimes when I say I want some time alone to practice guitar, she gets a little sad and pouty. But if I give in to that and don’t play enough times in a given week, I become unhappy and resent her. And that’s bad for both of us. I have to be willing to face her disappointment and occasional subtle guilting in the individual moment, in favor of overall harmony.
As author Glennon Doyle puts it, “Every time you're given a choice between disappointing someone else and disappointing yourself, your duty is to disappoint that someone else.”
Here’s another example: I once had a client who really loved his wife, and they had a great relationship. They were best friends. They had novel experiences together, etc.
But there was one problem.
He’s a titty guy, and she didn’t have big tits.
This was one of his only gripes in their entire relationship. And it was a very big gripe. He was deeply affected by it. If nothing changed, he feared he would cheat on her or want to divorce her. For years, he asked if she would be willing to get implants. She wasn’t into it because she didn’t want foreign material in her body.
I imagine that this must have been extremely painful for his wife. I wouldn’t be surprised if she had thoughts like “I’m not enough for him.” When faced with this level of pain, most people would try to coerce or guilt their partner into collapsing and dropping the whole subject. But this “compromise” of something he valued—sexual attraction—would lead to disconnection, resentment, and possibly even cheating or divorce.
Annie Lalla taught me to choose collaboration over compromise. Compromise is giving up something you value. Collaboration is taking what both people value and finding a transcendent value that includes both people’s values. A third option that is often better than anything either of the two individuals could have come up with for themselves.
The value he stood for was sexual attraction. She stood for health.
The third option that they came up with is that he has permission to go strip clubs whenever he wants. He gets to see and touch big tits from time to time, and she doesn’t feel any pressure to change her body in that way. Today they still run into speed bumps like all couples do, but they are deeply in love and intend to be together forever.
For most people, this will seem like a radical solution. But it’s a solution that works for them and helps them maintain the most important thing in their lives: their continued commitment to each other.
When you censor yourself, you create dissonance between what you think and believe and what you say. You’re being inauthentic, which creates tension between you and your partner and leads to lower self-esteem.
I was working with a guy recently who said there are often important things that he wants to discuss with his wife, but he rarely brings it up because he doesn’t want to ‘ruin a relaxing moment.’”
He said he imagines himself chillin’ on a Saturday morning with his wife and daughter, and he’s having all of these thoughts about what he wants to say, but he doesn’t say them because he knows it could be an uncomfortable conversation and could upset her.
This habit contributed to a lack of intimacy in their relationship.
I suggested he start doing a version of our relationship check-in weekly. They started doing it immediately. The conversations haven’t always been comfortable, but he’s expressing himself, there’s less tension in their relationship, and they feel a lot closer.
I’ve done a lot of self-censoring too. I get pissed off or hurt by something Adee says, but I tell myself that potentially arguing about it is not worth me bringing it up. So I just try to “deal with it on my own” by breathing through it.
I grew up in a family that had what I believe is a pretty typical southern communication style. Don’t rock the boat. Avoid conflict. Sweep things under the rug and then be a little passive-aggressive. It’s been an uphill journey for me to learn to bring things up and have uncomfortable conversations. But today I can say what I think and feel no matter who I’m talking to.
When you censor yourself, you appear to be a flimsy pushover, and you feel like one too.
When you say what’s in your heart, even when it’s hard, you gain respect for yourself.
“Self-esteem is just the reputation that you have with yourself.” - AngelList founder Naval Ravikant
You also gain it from your wife.
Your wife wants a man who speaks his truth no matter who he’s talking to. A man whose principles and values matter more to him than what anyone thinks, including her. That’s the most courageous and sexiest version of you. You’re so comfortable in your own skin, and confident in your own direction, that you don’t need validation from anyone to speak your truth and be authentic.
When I come home and see Adee smiling at me and giggling or singing to one of our kids, it has a massive impact on my mood. When I see her lit up about her new DIY obsession, or when she randomly tells me “I just love my life,” I’m about the happiest I could possibly be.
But I no longer disappoint myself on things that really matter, and when I have something to say, I say it.
For myself and the health of my relationship.
This is an installment in an ongoing series called Relationship Myths Busted: Increase the Depth of Your Intimacy 🫀 and Improve Your Sex Life 🔥🍆🍑
See all the myths here.”
This series includes some counterintuitive ideas that you may or may not resonate with. I’d love to hear what’s coming up for you as you read this series and answer any questions you might have. Please comment in Substack or just reply to this email.
I love this!