Tag Archives: Nice

How to Avoid Spit in Your Food and Get Your Spouse to Work on Your Marriage

Always Be Kinder Than You Feel

(Image/notonthehighstreet.com)

I lose control sometimes.

I don’t know whether I’m in the minority, or whether most other people lose it, too. I don’t go off the deep end into full-fledged insanity. I can prove it by showing you all of the non-murder and non-arson I committed following my separation and divorce.

I do feel emotional swings that probably register on the upper-end of the Emoswingomometer I just invented, but I have no way of knowing how other people experience their feelings.

Sometimes I yell at my son. He’s 7 and my favorite thing on Earth. And, even though I know raising my voice doesn’t help him learn lessons, and almost certainly contributes to unhealthy emotional responses, I still do it when I’m super-stressed and he does something that’s really, just, seven. There tends to be something really messy or broken to clean up afterward.

I say and think this a lot: Will this matter in five years? No? Then how much does it REALLY matter now? It’s a way for me to deal with anxiety or simply to keep life in perspective because everyone has their own hourglass, and their story ends when that last bit of sand falls from the Life bulb to the Death bulb, and we tend to not know when that will happen. We always assume it’s some future day so far away that it doesn’t matter, so we just live life taking it for granted. Even the most grateful person in the world probably takes being alive for granted—what?—98-ish percent of every day?

And that’s good. We shouldn’t be obsessed with death and freaking out all the time. But I do believe in being mindful of the perfect amount of death.

One of my favorite writers reads New York Times obituaries every morning in order to be mindful of the opportunity he has been given to be alive. He does it to maintain gratitude and as motivation to not squander it. Another of my favorite writers sometimes walks around imagining that everyone he sees is going to die soon as a reminder to treat them with kindness.

Morbid? A little. Foolish? No way.

What if we treated everyone we encounter as if they were going to die tomorrow?

But I Forget

I forget every day to do all of the things I’m supposed to. It’s either because I haven’t formed good habits, or because it’s impossible.

Sometimes I say really mean things to the driver of the car in front of me because they’re driving the speed limit. They’re literally doing ZERO WRONG THINGS and I call them some creative combination of the worst words I know because I’m in a hurry for something that probably doesn’t matter.

Will this matter in five years? Will this matter next week? Will this matter in an hour?

I need to get a grip. But it’s hard. I know it’s hard for other people, too. Sometimes people lose their shit and murder their entire family, and then shoot themselves, which seems like an extreme reaction to every possible thing imaginable.

I’m not going to beat myself up about it. The smartest psychologists in the world can’t agree on what REALLY happens to our biochemistry regarding emotional reactivity.

Sometimes, I even self-sabotage a little bit, like when my mom would ask me how much I’d like being grounded for a week, and I’d respond with something like: “Probably not as much as I’d like two!”

And then I’d be grounded for two weeks like an asshole who deserved it.

It feels good, though, right? To scratch that Fuck You itch once in a while?

My favorite exchange in the movie Good Will Hunting goes like this:

Will (Matt Damon’s character) is attending therapy sessions with Sean (Robin Williams’ character). Will is telling Sean about how his alcoholic foster father used to come home drunk looking to beat on his wife and kids.

Will: “He used to just put a belt, a stick, and a wrench on the kitchen table and say, ‘Choose.’”

Sean: “Well, I gotta go with the belt there.”

Will: “I used to go with the wrench.”

Sean: “Why?”

Will: “Because fuck him. That’s why.”

Whether we’re mad at a co-worker, our children, a business we believe screwed us, or our romantic partners—I think once in a while, all of us choose the wrench.

The Thing About Being Nice

Sometimes, I’m an asshole.

But. And this isn’t fair for me to say because I can’t substantiate it, but I really do believe it: I’m mostly—like, very mostly—NOT an asshole.

I care about things. I care about people. It seems like many people go through life completely unconcerned with how their actions affect others. You see it every day. Maybe you’re even the person accidentally doing it. I am sometimes.

I wanted to tell you about choosing the wrench and about me sometimes being a dick because, A. It’s true, but also B. I was hoping it would allow me a little leeway to also talk about me being nice without you thinking I was a totally hypocritical, holier-than-thou douchebag.

I think being nice is important. I think not being nice causes a high percentage of life’s problems, and exacerbates them close to 100-percent of the time.

Words Matter. Choose Wisely

Actions speak louder than words. What we do matters more than what we say. Kindness lives in our deeds, not our platitudes.

It’s why someone can punch his friend in the arm yelling: “You are the biggest dickhead I know!” and it’s fun and hilarious because of context, facial expression, and tone of voice; but the EXACT same thing can happen with it being the opposite of fun and hilarious.

But words matter, too. What we say, and HOW we say it.

Every conversation is a transaction. What do you want to accomplish?

When the restaurant server or kitchen messes up your order, what is it that you really want to happen next?

The waiter or waitress almost certainly didn’t intentionally bring you the wrong food. A member of the kitchen staff almost certainly didn’t read the order ticket and think: “I know!  Let’s give this person the wrong meal, so that maybe they’ll get mad, want free stuff, yell at us, complain about us on Facebook, and force us to throw food away.”

If the restaurant is conspiring against you, you should stop eating there and choose a different dining location. I think it makes sense to get mad at the front-of-the-house workers or kitchen staff if you can prove they brought you the wrong thing on purpose.

But restaurants only conspire against you when you’re an unreasonable prick.

So, they brought you the wrong thing and now you have choices:

  1. Try to get the meal you ordered and actually want by being nice.
  2. Try to get the meal you ordered and actually want by being shitty.
  3. Verbally abuse the server or restaurant manager because someone made an honest mistake, and you don’t care what happens with your food.

This is just one guy’s opinion, but if you verbally abuse people for one mistake when it’s illogical to believe they were trying hurt you, you’re a huge asshole. You are my least-favorite kind of person. You spend your life purposefully causing conflict and stress and making life harder and shittier for everyone around you. I try hard to figure out what motivates people to do things. It’s always helpful to understand what drives people. Sometimes when you figure it out, it makes sense, and you learn how to see things from a more balanced perspective, and then grow as a person. Sometimes people, with regularity, verbally abuse others when things don’t go their way. I understand that they have some kind of unmet psychological need to lash out. But to the rest of the world, it is merely being shitty for shittiness’ sake. It borders on inexcusable.

If you want to get the meal you ordered, but you want to be a dick about it in an effort to let them know you mean business, I submit you’re making a poor choice.

“Excuse me, waiter. I know you have the hardest job in the world and everything, but I clearly said I wanted this steak well-done. You see that? Does that look well-done to you?”

“I’m really sorry about that, sir. We’ll get that taken care of right away.”

“I’ve got an idea. Don’t be sorry. Just listen to what people are saying to you, so that maybe you can get a real adult job someday. Also, when you’re finished not screwing up my order, maybe you could bring us another round of drinks.”

That’s kind of a ridiculous example, but you get it. More often than not, people who witness it will think less of you, you’ll feel worse about yourself, and someone in the kitchen will spit in your food or “accidentally” drop it on the floor and laugh about it. And it’s a little bit hard to feel sorry for you because you were shitty.

If you want to get the meal you ordered, respect yourself, earn the respect of others, and become one of the staff’s favorite people who they want to do favors for, give free drinks to, and try hard to deliver your meal fast and spit-free, you should be nice. Smiling helps.

“Hey. I know you’re incredibly busy and have too many things to do, and I’m sorry to ask you this, but I ordered the pork shoulder, and this appears to be a fish of some kind. And, listen, I’m sure the fish is great, but I love that pork dish more than my family. Will you please help?”

“I am really sorry about, sir.”

“I promise I’m not mad at you. I understand that neither you nor the kitchen did it on purpose, and I appreciate your time and help. I probably should have told you about the pork obsession ahead of time.”

“Thank you so much for your patience and understanding. Can I bring you some drinks on the house while you wait?”

Pretty much everyone has experienced a restaurant messing up their order. We had a choice to make about how we were going to handle it.

I can’t figure out what the good reason would be to respond with unpleasant words or tones. EVEN IF you have to fake it because you’re secretly super-pissed, how does speaking and acting confrontationally improve the situation? How does it get you what you want?

This blog’s most frequently-asked-question is: “How do I get my husband to read these letters?”

Having never met any of these people, it’s really hard to answer that. I’m sure some of those guys are awesome and willing to make their wives feel secure and loved in their marriages. I’m sure there are others who are not.

In either case, how can “Ask him very nicely” not be the best answer?

“Hey Manfred. (Because all of them are obviously married to guys named Manfred.) I have a favor to ask you, but I want to explain a little bit. First of all, I love you. I love you and appreciate you for all that you do for me and for all the good things that you are.

“Secondly, I want to apologize to you. I’m sorry for anything I’ve done that might have made you feel unappreciated, or as if I was pushing you away. Because this favor I’m going to ask you might come off like I think you’re some horrible person, and like I think I’m perfect and amazing. Which of course isn’t true. I also want to apologize for not talking about this with you before. I just didn’t know how to bring it up.

“But listen, this is really important to me. This is our lives. We are not like we used to be. And I know it’s easy to shrug our shoulders and think this is just what happens to all married couples. All around us, people are falling apart because they ignore these changes. It seems like no one sees the end coming. It can’t happen to us, Manfred.

“Sometimes you hurt me. Badly. Sometimes I tell you about it, and we have a fight, and afterward I usually hurt more. But many times—and maybe you do this, too—I don’t say anything because I don’t want to fight with you, but then it just keeps hurting.

“I don’t believe you would ever intentionally hurt me. So it’s my job to help you understand what causes the pain, and up until now, I’ve failed to do that. You don’t hurt me on purpose, so some of this is on me.

“I read something that made sense to me. I don’t want to be like: ‘Hey, read this thing on the internet and then feel bad about it because you’re treating me like crap!’ I’m begging you to not take it that way. What I hope you will do is read this stuff in an attempt to understand why I sometimes get upset and you can’t figure out why. I know it’s frustrating for you when that happens.

“Please read this for me, and when you’re ready, we can talk about it, because I want to be married to you until we’re the oldest, gnarliest couple in the world.”

Again. Every conversation is a transaction. What is it that you really want to accomplish?

There’s a time for choosing the wrench.

And the other 99-plus percent of the time, there’s a time to be nice.

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An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 8

couple fighting

Boys and girls grow up pretending to not like each other while playing together on schoolyard playgrounds.

The Boys vs. Girls theme runs strongly through the elementary school social culture.

Boys like blue.

Girls like pink.

Boys like Army guys.

Girls like Barbies.

Boys like playing sports.

Girls like playing dress-up.

When we’re children, we seem to confuse common interest with friendship. Boys are mean! Girls are silly!

We wanted to be accepted by our peers, so most of us tucked ourselves neatly into these stereotypical gender roles. As we aged, we watched what the older kids were doing and we paid attention to the boy-girl relationships playing out on television which helped us morph into whatever we are today.

In many cases, despite our obvious differences, men and women tend to like one another. Many of the decisions we make are centered around the idea of partnering up with, and having sex with, those we find most attractive.

A conversation that has happened on every park or playground in the history of mankind:

Male Friend 1: “Ooooooooohhhh! You like her!” *sings mocking song*

Male Friend 2: “No, I don’t!!! Girls are stupid!!!” (Even though he totally likes her.)

Then, the next time Male Friends 1 and 2 are with the girl, Male Friend 2 will make fun of her and be kind of mean to her to show off to his friend and demonstrate that he doesn’t “like” her. Also, because first and second graders don’t understand gallantry or charm, boys often resort to playful mocking as a means of flirting with the girls they do like.

This often continues into adulthood forever.

Mars vs. Venus

Men and women are DIFFERENT. Totally not the same make up and inner workings. I’m absolutely convinced the reason we have a 50-percent divorce rate is because so many men and women don’t take the time to learn HOW they’re different and what they can do to bridge those differences and overcome them.

Male friends make fun of one another. Just for fun. Because we like each other. Why? I don’t know. We. Just. Do.

All the time. Almost daily. Even the nicest of us sit around playfully mocking one another.

Doesn’t that make you feel bad, Matt!?!?

No. It doesn’t. Because most guys seem to innately understand that it is being done BECAUSE we are accepted as part of our social group. It is not a display of hate or rejection.

Whatever it is chemically or genetically that makes men do this, we also take into our opposite-sex relationships. And sometimes we do it to our spouses. Sometimes we do it to our female friends. We think it’s the same as when we do it to our guy friends because we’re often dense and thoughtless.

When the females in our lives take our verbal jabs as personal attacks and react emotionally, we get confused and assume they must be hormonal, crazy and imbalanced since everyone else seems totally cool about it.

“How can you treat me that way in front of your friends? Don’t you love me?”

“It was a JOKE! Of course I love you! I married you and would do anything for you.”

“Then please don’t be mean to me.”

“You’re overreacting. Why can’t you take a joke like everyone else? We were all laughing!”

…..

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…..

I think I’ve had that conversation, or one just like it, dozens of times. You’ll notice there was no sincere and heartfelt apology in there to the offended party.

If I ever hurt the feelings of a stranger or one of my friends’ wives or girlfriends, I would have gone to great lengths to try to rectify the situation and make sure it never happened again.

I am guilty of thinking my wife was overly emotional. Of feeling like she misunderstood me and punished me based on false premises. I am guilty of not respecting the pain I caused. Of attempting to invalidate her feelings to avoid accepting responsibility. Of not sincerely apologizing for causing pain and never doing it again.

Most importantly?

Despite feeling like my wife was the most-important person in my life, I never demonstrated that in my day-to-day behavior.

I don’t think I can overstate the following: Many times, men have no idea they’re hurting and upsetting the women in their lives EVEN WHEN the women tell them so, because it makes absolutely no sense to the man that the thing that happened could have caused pain.

It makes men dense and stupid, sure.

BUT. It also oftentimes makes them innocent of INTENTIONALLY trying to inflict pain. I think shitty things done on accident should be handled differently than shitty things done on purpose.

However—how many times can she say it before it sinks in? How many times does she have to tell you before you’ll actually believe the words she’s saying?

At what point are you being willfully negligent?

One Wife’s Take

One of my female friends who is also going through separation and divorce married a shitty husband like me. Not a bad man. Just a guy who is bad at marriage.

Because I’ve heard so many stories about him, I knew he was the belitting-your-wife type.

The type of guy to not worry about facts in a debate. He’ll simply tear down and invalidate the person he’s debating in order to win. Even if it’s his wife and the mother of his children.

I asked her to give me some examples of things he would do to make her feel stupid and invalidated.

She wrote this:

My family is all sitting around the brunch table. We are talkers—philosophers and theologians and writers. We discuss politics, theories and ideas. My husband doesn’t like this. He finds our discussion annoying and refuses to enter in the conversation. The truth is—he probably isn’t capable intellectually but that’s okay. No one is pushing him. As the topic rolls around to the inevitable “Why are we here?”-type questions, he starts to roll his eyes. But I love this part of debate and get excited to speak. As I’m explaining my thoughts to my family, he cuts me off. “Isn’t she hilarious?” he mocks. (I’m instantly furious that he addresses me as “she” but let it slide.) He continues: “I try to tell her there isn’t some big, grand life to be lived… ha ha ha. She has so many ideas about fulfillment and striving for some greater good! Ha! This is it, hon. This is your life! There isn’t some great thing out there you’re missing out on! Ha ha ha!”

My whole family stares at him… Did he really just belittle me like that in front of everyone? Yes. Yes he did. No one knew what to say. He’d done it so many times before but never this blatantly.

Some men think it’s a joke. To tease, mock, belittle, make fun of their wives in front of others. It’s not funny. In fact… it makes women feel so so so worthless and lonely and stupid. It made me feel like that, anyway.

To feed into stereotypes that women nag, are bossy, spend money irresponsibly, are sex objects, are only good for cooking/cleaning, etc… to feed into that is to erode the heart of who a woman truly is.

Things that can be said include:

“Well, I’ll have to check with the boss before I can let you know.” (Meaning the wife is in charge of him and all he does… probably somewhat true because she has to be his mother.)

“Did you spend all my money at the store today?” (All his friends laugh like I’m some bimbo-shopping wife. WTF? It’s our money and I am the only financially responsible person here!)

“I don’t have to worry about forgetting anything. She wouldn’t let me! Ha ha.” (Nag implications)

“Why would I pay for her to go to law school? She already has her hands full with the house and the kids! How on earth do you think you could pull all that off, honey?? She gets too ambitious. Ha ha!!” (Implying that 1, the money is all his again, and 2, I’m stupid for even thinking I could accomplish such a thing.)

I really think men who get their kicks from saying these types of things actually aren’t joking all that much. I think, to a certain extent, they truly believe this. And I think that is why it takes away from who their wife or girlfriend really is. If one is so wrapped up in thoughts like this… are they even thinking about the real, live woman in front of them? Who is she really? Do they even know? Chances are she doesn’t think it’s funny to joke like this. BUT, then again, chances are he doesn’t even know that.

What If?

What would it look and feel like if every single day you treated your wife like you did when you first met her and you might not have tomorrow together? What would it look and feel like if someone bad was going to come hurt her or take her away—UNLESS you treat her with the deepest respect and kindness and thoughtfulness possible?

Would she ever nag you?

Bitch about you to her friends?

Make you feel ashamed or disrespected?

Would she ever tell you you’re not good enough? If you gave it your actual best effort?

We spend so much time reacting and responding to others rather than going first. Rather than being the example.

I think maybe if everyone treated their partners (and maybe others) with love and kindness without the expectation of receiving it return, that the world would change overnight.

There are a bunch of us out here who already learned things the hard way or figured it out on our own: Don’t act like a bag of dicks.

And if you, Shitty Husband, figure it out soon enough, she won’t leave you to be with one of us.

You’re a man. Strong. Logical. A skilled problem solver.

So I know you can do it.

And I’ll continue to root for you.

You May Also Want to Read:

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 1

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 2

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 3

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 4

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 5

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 6

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 7

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 9

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 10

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 11

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 12

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 13

…..

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To Dust We Shall Return

We're the same. And would do well to treat one another accordingly.

We’re the same. And would do well to treat one another accordingly.

Same old song, just a drop of water in an endless sea

All we do, crumbles to the ground, though we refuse to see

“Dust in the Wind” – Kansas

The vanity license plate on the little red two-door read: “KRISTI.”

I glanced over to check out Kristi as I passed the car on my morning commute. Instead of Kristi, I saw an older guy driving what presumably is his wife or girlfriend or daughter’s car.

Something about it struck me as funny. I laughed out loud. I laughed out loud a lot.

That guy. Driving around. In that car. With that license plate. Kristi.

Hahahahahaha!

It’s because I’m an asshole and think things like that are hilarious.

When I was in first grade—the grade my son will be in next year, Oh, man—I walked in the bathroom this one time and there were two second graders in there.

“Hey! Will you pick up these paper towels for us and throw them away?”

Always eager to please: “Sure!”

And I picked up the wet paper towels and threw them away.

The two boys laughed and laughed and laughed.

“Hahaha! We peed on those! You just touched our pee!”

Then they left the bathroom.

If I had been cooler and less of a chicken-shit, I would have picked up the pee towels and cleaned both of their faces with them. But I don’t really do bad-ass things like that. And I certainly didn’t when I was 6.

That incident represents one of the only times in my entire life I can remember anyone being “mean” to me.

While totally disgusting, it is kind of hilarious.

“Wait. You peed on those towels and convinced another little kid to touch them!?!?”

Heck, I’m not even mad. That’s amazing.

Everyone has moments where their friends or family members or total strangers make them feel bad. I’ve been very blessed to not have very many of those.

It’s in large part due to the fact that I work very hard not to hurt people’s feelings, myself. I would NEVER make fun of someone to their face, unless we were very close and I was confident they knew it was in jest and understood they were among my favorite people. Guys who are friends do this with one another a lot.

But behind someone’s back? I seriously do make fun of people all the time. For cheap laughs.

It’s kind of sick, I guess.

Like the guy in the “Kristi” car.

Like wannabe professional wrestlers.

Like other kids in school.

Two eighth-grade classes from two different Catholic schools in neighboring towns combined to make up my freshman high school class.

Our class doubled in size from junior high to high school.

That meant there were a bunch of new people I’d never met before. It was still a small class relative to what most American students are accustomed to (I graduated with about 75 kids), so it didn’t take long to get to know everyone.

One of the girls in our class (who was very nice and liked by pretty much everyone) had a large mole on one of her eyebrows near where her forehead met the bridge of her nose.

Because we were Catholic—and total dicks—a bunch of boys in our class nicknamed her “Ash Wednesday.” I thought it was hilarious because I’m not a very nice person.

She eventually had the mole removed. I hope that made her feel better and less self-conscious. She eventually won a large lottery jackpot with her husband, and I hope she is living happily ever after with him and her children.

We called her “Ash Wednesday.”

*shakes head*

There was another girl in school, too.

We called her Unga Bunga. Like the words a caveman might say: “Unga Bunga!”

It wasn’t very nice, either. But it was very funny.

Her last name had the prefix “Unga-” and combined with Crood-ish looks, it made the Unga-Bunga nickname an absolute winner.

I think about those little moments sometimes.

I wonder whether those people think about them, too. Whether they feel bad when they do think about them. Like how I feel when I think about picking up peed-on paper towels. Except maybe a lot worse. 

“Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.”

Today is Ash Wednesday on the Christian calendar. Traditionally, Catholics attend mass and a priest or someone else will use ashes to draw a cross (which generally looks like a huge black smudge) on our foreheads and says: “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.”

It’s a good reminder.

That we’re all made from the same stuff.

The same stuff that makes up that tree over there.

The same stuff that makes up the fish in the ocean.

The same stuff that makes up the stones on the ground.

And all those plants.

And all those animals.

And all those people.

Connected. Built by the same materials. Powered by the same fuel regardless of what we choose to believe—both physically and spiritually.

There’s something beautiful about identifying those connections. Those commonalities.

It breaks down the barriers in our lives.

All the bullshit we use to divide us. To fuel the senseless hatred and bigotry.

Social cliques.

Politics.

Religion.

Race.

Sexual orientation.

Geography.

Class warfare.

Sometimes I laugh at people. Like the guy in the “Kristi” car. Or “Ash Wednesday.” Or “Unga Bunga.”

I hope I can still be a kind person even though I do that.

And even if I can’t be, I hope I can instill thoughtfulness and kindness into my son. And perhaps the grace to handle any unkindness eventually directed his way.

We’re the same. You and me. And that person over there. And that other person over there. And that person on TV. And that TV. And the furniture you’re sitting on while watching that TV.

We’re all built from the same stuff.

How much better would we all treat one another if we never forgot that?

Don’t hang on, nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky
It slips away, all your money won’t another minute buy

Dust in the wind, All we are is dust in the wind

Everything is dust in the wind

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Being Nice Isn’t Enough

Kindness. That's where peace lives.

Kindness. That’s where peace lives.

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.

Kindness.

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

She must.

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.

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