Choose To Be Nice
Did you ever have those days or weeks with your spouse when you feel like you’re just nitpicking at each other for the sake of nitpicking? There’s really nothing wrong or going on in your marriage, but its part of being in a relationship. Sometimes you can get into the habit of acting a certain way or always looking at the negative when it comes to your spouse and you need to interrupt the pattern. You get to the point when you realize that you act nicer to other people than to your spouse.
There are circumstances where you might respond sarcastically to your spouse, but you know you would never say anything like that, in that way, to a co-worker or friend. When you are around other people you find it easy to be charming and yet you fail to share that charisma when you are at home with your spouse. When a friend or co-worker asks you about a certain situation, you respond nicely, but when your spouse inquires about it, you respond with irritation.
In the spirit of the season, consider making a pact to be nicer to each other. It sounds ridiculous because you should just act that way naturally, but there are periods of time after years together where you have to readjust and make an effort to be nice.
To make this work, you need to outline your expectations. Give each other examples of what it means to display nice behavior. One of you might be thinking that you have been nice and so you don’t understand why there is even an issue. The other person has a million examples of how you could be nicer, but the focus should not be on what someone did in the past but on how you will both be nice going forward. It can be a little tricky, so think about how to present your requests.
For example, if one spouse says that it would be nice if the other spouse came to the table as soon as dinner is ready, the other spouse might react defensively because they think they do that already. The ground rules have to start with each spouse being reassured that their past behavior will stay in the past and nobody will be brought to trial.
It doesn’t mean that this approach won’t spark a firestorm, but I think if both parties agree to the rules of the game, it doesn’t have to burn out of control. A healthy discussion would certainly not hurt as long as everybody is allowed to speak their piece and no one is shot down for their comments.
Even if the real feelings aren’t there, I believe if you just start acting nice to each other they will eventually make an appearance. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: you need to love people even when you don’t feel like it. Once you begin to act in a certain way, there’s a better chance the feelings you desire will follow.
There certainly could also be something deeper going on if a couple is struggling to be nice to each other. If that’s the case, I encourage couples to seek professional help. In many situations, however, I have found that spouses have just fallen into a bad habit and they’ve each allowed it to grow into something more.
During this season of naughty and nice behavior, I’m promoting that we just be nice—all year!