I recently had a wife say to me in a Marriage Mentoring session, “he just doesn’t make me happy anymore.” Happiness seems to be a common challenge for married couples, especially those several years into the marriage and with children. Most marriages seem to be stuck in unhappiness.
Having made the statement in her husband’s presence, I asked her, “what is it he could do the make you happy.” As she took a quick glance at her husband, I fully expected her to rattle off a list of household chores he could do for her. I think her response surprised her husband as much as it did me.
“Well, I really don’t know. He already does so much for us.” She isn’t married to a deadbeat husband that doesn’t care for her or their family. He is attentive to her needs in their marriage and even knows her love language. No matter how hard he tries though, he can’t make her happy. And no matter how hard she tries, she can’t tell him what to do that will make her happy.
As we drilled further into her unhappiness, it became clear she was struggling with an identity challenge rather than a happiness challenge. Over the years of their marriage and the birth of their children, she had shifted her own understanding of her identity to wife and mother.
The rigors of being a working mom of growing boys and wife were understandably wearing her down. The responsibilities of mom and wife were so pressure-filled they were no longer fun. Without any type of meaningful break from her family responsibilities, she grew tired, frustrated, and even resentful toward her identity as mom and wife.
Because she wasn’t willing to abandon her family and her identity was so tied up in being a mom and wife, she saw no hope of being happy any time soon. I commended her commitment to her family and then mentored them both with a little “here’s what I would do” advice.
Give her a break
I tried to make it real clear that he couldn’t make his wife happy. He seemed equally concerned and relieved. Relieved that her unhappiness wasn’t his fault and concerned that he could fix it as so many husbands want to do.
His only obligation to help his wife be happy was to afford her the time needed to find her own identity. I acknowledged the fact he works long hours but was firm that his commitment to his wife and marriage required he go the extra mile to give her time away from her family responsibilities. Without harboring any ill feelings or negative attitude, he was to give her the freedom to reflect on her identity.
Then I turned to her to express how important it is she find her real identity.
Finding true identity
I first explained that her roles as mom and wife were very important, but they couldn’t be her identity. I could see the realization dawn on her face when I said, “if your identity and happiness is so tied up in your family, what would happen if they all died in a car crash tomorrow? Does that mean you could never be happy again?”
Knowing this couple are both Christians and believers in Christ, I was able to point her in the right direction of finding her true identity. She will find her true identity and eternal happiness in being a child of God.
In all honesty, for those that don’t believe in the God of the Bible, I don’t really have an answer as to where to find your identity and happiness. Your identity can’t be tied to your career, because you may one day lose that career. It can’t be tied to your gender, because that is simply a random selection of biology. And so I ask…
If you can’t find your identity in God, where do you find your identity? I’m sincerely interested to know – no judgment, just curiosity. Let me know in the comments below.