“Getting along” wasn’t helping them get along.
For years, I wouldn’t hear it.
The complaining. Some men call it “nagging.” Or “bitching.” Or “PMS-ing.”
She must be crazy.
“How is it that I get along with every person I’ve ever met, but the one person I love above all else is the only one complaining about me?” I’d say. “Why am I never good enough for you?”
And it’s that easy.
You use cognitive bias to alleviate yourself of all responsibility and put the onus on the other person to shape up like the rest of the world.
That’s how you spend years never taking responsibility for your own actions.
That’s how you stunt your own growth.
That’s how you destroy families.
By being nice.
That’s the problem. I’m a nice guy. Legit.
And I always thought that was enough.
What do I mean by “nice”? I’m well-mannered. Polite. I hold doors open for people. Say “please” and “thank you.” I treat strangers well. I’m very friendly. I tend to make good first impressions in social situations.
I’m not for everyone, I’m sure. But the vast majority of the time, people just like me. Or at least act like they do.
And I figured it out young. If I act like this and use good manners and be generous and say funny things and don’t be mean then people will like me!!!
So, that’s what I did. From whatever point in grade school I figured it out, until now.
I can work a room.
It works against me sometimes. If you meet people who have been burned by “nice guys” in the past, they sometimes react negatively. Others probably think I’m too obnoxious. Or that I’m fake. Insincere. Putting on a show.
But usually it just works. Being me yields positive results. So, I never change. And I’m not sure I could if I tried.
The only way to know whether I am who I say I am is to really get to know me. To see how I treat people when no one’s watching. To see how I behave during conflict or in the face of inconvenience.
I fall short. I can raise my voice. Morally outraged. How DARE you say I’m not nice!!!
But it’s all bullshit.
Not the me-being-nice part. That’s true.
But the part where acting like being nice gives me some kind of Get Out of Jail Free card anytime someone has a problem with my behavior or the way I made them feel. Most specifically, my wife during our marriage.
Being nice? It’s not enough. Not even close.
Nice – adj. – good and enjoyable; exacting in requirements or standards; socially acceptable.
Kind – adj. – having or showing a gentle nature and a desire to help others; wanting and liking to do good things and to bring happiness to others.
I try to use that word now. Over and over again. Kindness.
Being kind is different than being nice.
Axe murderers can be nice.
Rapists can be nice.
Child abusers can be nice.
But only truly decent people can be kind.
It’s a critical distinction. And I’m trying so hard to choose kindness. Because sometimes nice doesn’t cut it.
Sometimes nice will leave you sad, angry and alone.
She Must be Something More
Your spouse. Or partner. It really applies to everyone. All genders and sexual preferences. I just view it through the prism of husband-wife stuff.
But she can’t just be another person. Every single day, she must be treated like the most important thing in your life.
We get so frustrated with one another. We take each other for granted. We use unkind language. Because: “She’s not leaving!”
A. Don’t bet on it.
B. Don’t you want to treat your spouse like the most important person in the world? Why on Earth would you have married her otherwise? (And to be clear, the partners need to give back in return. THAT’s how you make it work. Choosing love, and out-unselfishing one another.) Please lead by example.
C. Even if you’re selfish and only care about yourself, I have a secret for you. *lowers voice to whisper* Your life will be infinitely more pleasant if your wife and the mother of your children is madly in love with you, wants to treat you well, wants to pleasure you physically, wants to make you happy. EVEN IF you don’t want to do it for the right reasons, why not try to do it just to make things better for yourself?
You can be nice and hurt her with words.
You can be nice and hurt her with inaction.
You can be nice and hurt her with self-centeredness.
You can be nice and hurt her when you politely decline an invitation to join her in bed.
You can be nice and hurt her when you leave her alone to watch a Reese Witherspoon movie while you’re off doing your own thing.
You can be nice and hurt her by dumping the lion’s share of child-raising duties, housework, errands, and other responsibilities on her lap while you sit well-mannered, watching football, playing video games, sitting at the computer, or doing whatever else you like to do.
You can hurt her accidentally.
You can be physically present but not really be there.
You can love her on the inside, and she can still feel unloved and abandoned.
That’s what leaving your wife alone in your marriage looks like. No matter how nice you are, that’s a one-way ticket to divorce. Or her having an affair. Or both.
Goodbye normal life. Goodbye kids. Goodbye everything.
“Hey Matt! I just don’t understand how a woman could ever leave such a nice guy like you!”
Well, thanks. But I do.
It’s because just being nice isn’t enough.
And it never will be.
Photo: Ashley Webb/Flickr
This piece originally appeared on Must Be This Tall To Ride.