Being Nice Isn’t Enough

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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.

129 thoughts on “Being Nice Isn’t Enough”

    1. Of course. Life is NOT fair. Never will be.

      But we can still make the best-possible choices every chance we get.

      When the stakes are really high? With marriage? With children?

      It doesn’t seem like that much to ask someone to really put in the effort.

      The alternative is to be where I am. And it’s just not very fun.

      And maybe that will happen no matter what, but I still sleep better at night when I gave something my best.

  1. Thank you Matt, Here F’ing Here, and cheers to that, and chicks are just as stupid, and need to open their eyes to what they’ve done or not done to contribute to the destruction of the most precious of things, aren’t we all! And my god man, you’re nailing it! Us humans need a good dose of this thinking, thank you ever so much for doing your part, dosing yourself as much as you can and trying to offer it to others.

    1. Thank you, Dorothy.

      These are the things I think about every single day now. It’s because I live alone and it’s sad and pathetic.

      I miss my son when he’s not there. I’m sad thinking about how wasteful it all is.

      And how if I’d only made better choices, things might be different today.

      No matter how angry I am about her departure last spring, I’m NEVER going to stop reminding myself and others that I could have avoided all of it by being the best I could be leading up to that point.

      We must own our mistakes. Otherwise we’ll just keep making them over and over and over again.

      1. I’ve been thinking about your reply all day. And thank you for the replies, you are very generous (kind) to your readers. It’s inspirational to see you write and write more, makes “blocked” seem like a pathetic excuse.

        It is sad and alone and we (singles co-parenting) miss our kids so much. Makes the regret and ruminations bite more.

        That these are your thoughts in the middle of the struggle, is good. You’re striving to be a better person, which will be what you do. I’m sure you know (but just so you or anyone who reads it can see and it’ll be more real than just a thought, I’ll write it) this is more than you being a better man and better prepared to make your second chance work, it will make your son a better man.

        1. Thanks. 🙂

          I really enjoy the writing process. It feels more selfish than unselfish. Thank you for looking at it from another perspective.

          This personal journey is very real. And I hope, as you say, my son and I can come out of this as better people.

  2. Wow! That’s a truly inspirational piece for anyone in a committed relationship. I think complacency is the biggest destroyer of relationships…the idea that there is no need to make every day important.

    Thanks for the read!

  3. I would love to find a nice guy. There doesn’t seem to be any left in the world, or perhaps they are nicely married and home with their respective families. Dating after a divorce is a lot trickier.

    You’re right a lot of people “show up” in marriages, but they aren’t really there. Thanks for my thought for the day! 🙂

  4. Great post – good to point out that there IS a difference between being nice and being kind. I’m not a nice person, I’m an acquired taste, like caviar. But, I am kind. I do have a heart… even if you have to dig down a bit to find it! 😉 I just loved this! Nice is good, kind is better.

  5. Great post. Nothing in life is guaranteed – especially not relationships. If you put off making every moment count pretty soon there could be no moments left.

  6. Terrific insights, Matt. Particularly about how being “nice” isn’t nearly as important as being engaged. It’s ironic that the meaning behind the word we use to describe our intent to marry someone often gets lost in translation after time. The best marriages are the ones that remember to remain “engaged” long after the wedding bells have faded.

    1. Thank you, Ned.

      You’re ridiculously funny with your stories. I’m curious: Do you ever take time to tell some of these more-serious stories?

      Have you ever written about your previous marriage versus your current one and the lessons you garnered from those experiences?

      I’ll be more than okay with you saying “No.” And then writing something hilarious.

      1. I really appreciate that, Matt. And yes, I’ve written some serious pieces, usually for other blogs, but generally about things other than my past marriage (although I’m beginning a weekly feature next week called Post Traumatic Sundays, which will be columns I wrote about marriage during my first marriage. It was actually my wife’s idea — haha!)

        Anyway, if you care to read it, here’s a piece I wrote after taking some time away from column after my divorce

        http://nedhickson.com/2013/01/08/self-aware-leftovers-the-forgotten-victims-of-divorce/

        Regardless, keep doing what you’re doing, Matt. For yourself and others. Your insights are as important to those who are married as they are to those who are going to be.

        1. That was great, Ned.

          Perfect blend of heart and humor. I shouldn’t have expected otherwise. Really appreciate you taking the time to share that.

          I hope others will come over and read. You manufacture laughs and smiles by the truckload over there.

          If laughter is the best medicine, you’re doing God’s work.

          Thank you for that.

          1. Thanks, Matt. That’s one of the nicest compliments I’ve ever had. And while I’m sure God winces from time to time, I like to think he has a good enough sense of humor not to hold it against me. You know, later… 😉

            Again, thanks Matt

  7. Matt, thank you for writing this. It hit home to me. I have been called “nice” my whole life and friends tell me all the time to “Quit being so nice, Andi!”. I don’t know how to do it any other way. I would love to have a little “bitch” in my, but it’s not my nature.

    I guess nice guys have to stick together. Anyway, thank you again for the wonderful writing.

    1. Thank you so much for calling it “wonderful.”

      That means a lot.

      I hope no one interprets this as me bagging on being nice. Being nice is important.

      It’s just not enough to save a marriage. And it’s not enough to alleviate us of our responsibilities when we hurt people–even if it was accidental.

      1. I completely agree. I think I’m a pretty kind person as well. In my case, it was also not enough to save my marriage. However, I walked away from it, because I was tired of being nice and kind when it wasn’t being reciprocated.

        That’s why I try to find my inner bitch, once in a while. 🙂

  8. My mum always advises young men in the family and friends of mine and her friends’ kids –
    1.when you come home at night make your first port of call your wife. No matter what throws itself at you as you come through the door, dog, cat, kids, friends head for your wife, carry them with you if you have to but find her and go to her first. Kiss her and ask her how her day was and tell her you missed her or were thinking about her. Don’t go to the TV, the computer or even the toilet, your wife, first and foremost and if she is not there wait for her to come home and drop what you are doing to go to greet her. (I’m guessing this works both ways)
    2.If she says she’s not happy or looks unhappy stop everything and listen to why and if you can act on it and if you can’t act on it, then support her with it
    3.when you take care of the kids for an hour or put them to bed or watch them for an evening or afternoon she will thank you for it… make sure you thank her for it
    4. when you do something in the house (if it’s done well) she will thank you for it and she will tell people what a great job you did… make sure you do the same

    I’m sure there are more but I listen to these and even though I’m not a man I apply them to my own life and I hope to try to ensure that a future marriage is reciprocal..Guess I’m going to have to make sure my mum gets to have long chats with my future husband 😀

    I love your posts, even though this stuff is years ahead of me, I learn from it and it reinforces things I’ve been taught.

    1. Your mother sounds wise. Very wise.

      This is a great list.

      The little things matter so much, so long as their backed by sincerity.

      Appreciate you saying hi. Don’t say you’re too young.

      You can be one of the wise ones that gets all this stuff right the first time.

      And be a great example.

      That’s how you change the world.

      1. Yay! That sounds awesome to me. People find it amusing that I have a series of tests that prospective boyfriends have to pass, mental agility, physical, interview with the mother, future aspirations, music and travel preferences… but it works for me.

        If they can’t be bothered to go through it they’re not serious enough and don’t value me sufficiently, if they fail I saved us both a few tears and I proved that I’m not right for them either and if nothing else we both learn something about ourselves.

        I come from a divorced set of parents who loved each other but couldn’t get the little things right. Those things matter.

        Sometimes I feel sad reading your posts but I have a deep sense that one day I will read of your overwhelming happiness when it’s the right time for your second chance to come along 😀

        1. You’re sweet!

          I’ll take all of that I can get. Thank you so much.

          And yes. Play by your own rules. Respect yourself. And demand it from others.

          Not sure how old you are, but you’re wise beyond your years.

          1. 21 almost but I was raised by divorced mum with a dad who is absent more than he would like to be due to distance but I think mum just talked experience to me my whole life 🙂 She’s my best friend. My friends all treat me like their mother… one of my tests is that a prospective boyfriend doesn’t do that, sometimes I need to be taken care of, it’s my womanly right!

            Keep on keeping on 😀

  9. completelyinthedark

    This was fantastic, Matt. Been sharing far and wide. My ex and I WERE too nice to one another. It was Mutual Destruction of Relationship By Being Nice. And the examples you used were important distinctions. “I’m just sitting over here doing my thing! How can that offend you?” (Cognitive bias.)

    Keep up the great work. Always read your posts and walk away with info I can use in life. Wish I could say that about more things on the Internet.

    Cheers, Mike

    1. Thank you so much, Mike. That means an enormous amount that you think this is relevant and credible.

      I really believe this stuff. And I really believe these subtle differences can save marriages, and families, and lots and lots of heartache for kids and friends and extended family.

      There doesn’t have to be so much brokenness.

      I can’t thank you enough for saying such kind things. I appreciate it very, very much.

  10. Beautifully observed and written Matt.

    Actually I find that everything your are pointing out here, applies to any kind of relationship. I mean, how often do we immerse in dutifully fulfilling all the “official” duties while a good friend may be waiting for our support? “But it is a good friend so he or she will understand that” we may say.
    At some point I realized: Exactly for that reason, for this person ALWAYS being understanding, they deserve that I am answering that e-mail right away, that I take the time on the phone for them right now or that I sit down for that talk with them rather sooner than later.

    And it’s always great to see there are likeminded people aiming into a similar direction!

    Much love,
    Steffi

    1. I hurt a friend recently by not being a good communicator. And I was also thinking about that while writing this.

      And I got on my high horse about how nice I am and got offended by them being offended.

      It was nonsense. Just as you pointed out.

      People who are our friends deserve the extra effort.

      You nailed it, I think.

      1. It’s not exactly that we are always taught being kind. Often we rather are expected to be nice. It’s good to have friends who let us know when they are hurt – and the other way round. This gives both sides the chance to learn and grow together. And that is something very precious, although the instant trigger may be painful in some cases.

        Thank you for sharing all those experiences! 🙂

  11. Nice (Kind) Guys (and Girls) don’t Finish Last, (or first) but they do finish more fulfilled. In their soul.

    But there will still be those nagging regrets. We all have ’em.

    Having been married and divorced twice now, (both unions lasting exactly the same duration of time) I think that selfless or selfish, someone inevitably reaches that point in their own psyche thinking, “Is this all there is? There MUST be something more??” And then somewhere between You Can’t Miss What You Never Had and The Grass is Always Greener, a wild WILD goose chase ensues. Always leading around and around to the Circle of Life.

    If that wasn’t enough platitudes for a Monday morning, I don’t know what is! Just really wanted to say that your post totally resonated with me. And the rest just kinda snuck out. You’re not alone but you ARE totally singular and unique in your expression. I really admire that.

    1. You say awesomely nice things and I appreciate your perspective very, very much.

      There are a LOT of deeper questions to be asked. About why we sometimes feel so unfulfilled and dissatisfied.

      That exploration is all part of this, too. And I appreciate you bringing them up.

      The Verve said it already.

      Bittersweet symphony, this life.

  12. Well done. I am your story, now I am part two of your story. I loved, lost and loved again. This time it is different because I accept who I am and work to be a better me for him. We are committed. And I tell you, be the best dad you can because you will always be a dad and when she comes you will know and have no fear to love again. I didn’t and my life is better for it.
    KarRee

    1. Thank you for your kind words and encouragement.

      I’m still very afraid. To open up again. To risk the burn.

      But I know I won’t always be. That’s going to be a beautiful day.

      In the meantime, I’ll settle for coffee or a cocktail. 🙂

  13. Nice is unimportant is true…being engaged will have the same disappointments……I could bend over to every woman I’ve ever been with, and out of my ass I could show a full color Disney movie on the wall, and those females would still holler….”Focus….Focus ! “

    1. 🙂

      “That sonofabitchin’ elbrookman! Worst. Projector ass. Ever. Monsters, Inc. has never looked crappier.”

  14. Funny, a co-worker and I were just having a discusion about Nice verses Good.
    I used to think of myself as a “nice” person, turns out I am more good (maybe kind by your definition) than nice. I believe that all human beings deserve and should be treated with a certain level of respect (created in God’s image and all that Catholic school stuff) and act as such, but I tend to have an opinion that I will express if you ask me (and maybe if you don’t) which tends to skew perception towards not that nice soemtimes.
    In my experience nice isn’t always sincere. At least if someone is cynical you know straight up what they think and where they really stand.

    1. You’re right.

      Sometimes people are a little less “nice” than I might be in a particular situation. But in the final analysis, their way was INFINITELY better.

      I’m glad other people are thinking about these things!

  15. I am a “nice” person, too. “Nice” is a good starting point, but it isn’t enough to sustain a meaningful relationship of significant duration. Niceness is something for which I’ve gotten gold stars, certainly, and I’ve coasted on those stars to avoid deeper levels of commitment and/or intimacy. Thank you for the wonderful post.

    1. I didn’t reply to you earlier. That was an accident.

      Yeah. You get it

      I used being nice as an excuse to not validate accusations of being mean and/or thoughtless.

      It was, looking back, the single most-stubborn, most irresponsible thing I have ever done.

  16. I really like the distinction you make between “nice” and “kind”. I was raised to make “nice” my priority, but I learned the hard way that there is an inherent dysfunctionality built into “nice.” “Nice is not very good at boundaries. I “niced” myself into an unhealthy co-dependent state because I didn’t know how to speak up and call another person on their bad behaviour. “Kind” allow that, and also gives you the ability to do it in such a way that is constructive rather than mean.

    1. I still have a problem with not always speaking up. In the interest of “politeness.” But people can cause some damage just being “polite.” I’m getting better every day.

  17. Good on you for taking responsibility. I’m sure your wife can take similar responsibility, but you owning up and thinking about this stuff (I am confident there are many people who would not be so reflective) means your future relationships will be better because of it. Lucky girl who gets you next!

  18. i have a thought.. just my opinion.. that maybe one of the reasons why some relationships fail is because couples stop ‘dating’ each other. What is dating? getting to know the person you are interested in, letting them in, doing special things for each other to show that person that you like them. People grow and change all the time and i think couples should always be dating and getting to learn about each other and putting their best food forward (without being fake of course). It’s just a thought, as its been ages since i have been in a long term relationship and i have never been married.

    1. There’s no doubt that as time marches on, the fire fades.

      That’s when it’s time to CHOOSE love. And not let our “feelings” dictate each and every move.

      Two people making the choice to love can manufacture passion. I believe it strongly.

  19. I have an “adviser” (let’s call her), and she is a woman who has led meditation classes that I’ve attended, and she had given me an hour-long reading/insight into my life that is paralleling but some aspects are not adding up as she told me through the reading.

    Life has been interesting since, and I’ve been more positive.

    I’ve started out with that since you and I seem similar despite not knowing each other. As my adviser told me, there are us out there who are “light walkers” and it doesn’t matter how nice or kind we try to be.

    I thought the whole “light walker” was a bit on the theatrical side, but then she told me a few things that were a redeeming slap in the face. No offence to my not disclosing specifics to you, but I’ve haven’t really talked about this but only to a select few, and no one has heard the recording. One of the down sides: we’re overly critical of ourselves, and that aspect is tough to get over.

    We’re the types, honest and true, who will create tension when we don’t intend on doing so. It’s picked up by others plagued with an insecurity or inherent jealousy. It doesn’t matter that we purposely make it a point to go out of our way when becoming upstanding citizens of society. When it comes down to the basics: we are either kind or we are not, and our generosity to society (whether it’s giving to the homeless person or sticking up for a random stranger if they’re being berated) is natural and never second-guessed.

    Stay true to who you are, and it comes out in your writing. We, your followers, got your back.

    1. Thank you so much, Chris. I really appreciate the encouragement. And I’m happy to have found another kindred spirit. Thank you for being here.

  20. You nailed it.
    My ex-husband was nice. He is still nice but he was also lazy, entitled, emotionally unavailable, complacent and shirked his responsibility in our marriage.

    I am not saying he was responsible for all that went wrong. We were each 50% to blame for the marriage failing and that’s how it is with all relationships. 50% no more, no less.

    Your ability to reflect and use what happened is exactly what I’m trying to do and you are inspirational.

    Thanks for your post!

    1. Thank you for reading it. I really appreciate it. I think there are a LOT of really nice guys out there who think being nice is enough to make marriage work.

      And it just isn’t. And I hope they can grow even more. Because no one decent person who values their marriage deserves to experience it all fall apart.

      This is beatable. I know it.

      1. The mere fact that you are on this path attests to the fact you have gone 80% of the way there already.
        The rest is fine tuning! 🙂

          1. Yeah. I said “No way in hell will I get married again”. Four years later, that’s exactly what’s going to happen.
            Against all my well laid plans. Haha.
            Good things come to those who wait (or those who go out and get them) but great things happen in an instant.

  21. Great post! I appreciate the clarification between “nice” and “kind”. One thing I find interesting is how many guys define themselves as “nice” and how liberal their definition. I married a man who used that line on me in the beginning, “I’m just a nice guy who hasn’t found ‘the one’.” That nice guy was a serial cheater, lol. (Laughing now at the thought, didn’t laugh 6 years ago.) This is a situation where actions speak volumes over words. I now could care less how a man “describes” himself; I watch with eyes wide open instead and stay true to my gut before opening up my heart. Just curious, Matt, do you feel a bit like a bartender with all these comments? LOL. Nah, I bet you’re loving it! XOXO-SWM

    1. It’s a little overwhelming… all the feedback. Still adjusting.

      But if the choice is between a lot of awesome people caring, and no one caring, I know which one I’m going to choose.

      Thanks for the note!

      1. Most definitely! The blogging world is an amazing community, and I think the friends we make here are about as real and true as anywhere else, well, and EVERYwhere else! And, I think you’re doing grrrrrreat! XO

  22. Being self centred or martyring yourself and secretly resenting it isn’t being nice. Lots of “I’m being nice” folks are not actually nice.

    I think being nice is actually enough. And being nice requires kindness. And loving ness if you’re married to them. But being nice isn’t just thinking you’re nice. It’s actually being it. My husband thought he was nice. His self image was that he was a really nice person. And he went out of his way to show it. He did a lot around the house. He took just as much of a hit to his career as I did for him. He spent time with the kids. But it was all chalk marks on the ledger so he could feel how nice he was. And ultimately, that’s not what *being* nice means.

  23. Damn! That one hit home. I would consider myself more kind than nice, and am a few months into a relationship with someone who’s more nice than kind. It sounds nitpicky to make the distinction between the two, but I think you’re absolutely spot on. I’ve been starting to feel hurt in some of the very ways you mentioned being nice can hurt.

    Any thoughts on how to make someone aware of this without hurting or offending them in the process? How did you learn?

    1. I kept staying alive. And I kept hurting people accidentally. And finally, I lost my wife.

      Conclusion: Being nice isn’t enough.

      Many, many men will think so.

      I don’t hit! I don’t do drugs! I don’t cheat! I don’t verbally abuse!

      And so on.

      They’ll be in denial. Just like me.

      They won’t understand. Not until they do a bunch of self reflection and work REALLY hard to learn about gender differences and how we all hurt and feel in different ways for different reasons.

      A bunch of well-meaning people will lose one another and their children.

      It’s tragic. Really tragic.

      You can’t afford to not be honest with your partner.

      There’s a nice way to say: “I am not trying to make you feel bad. I care about you. I care about us. And I’d like to give us the best possible chance to be whatever we can be. So I have to tell you how some of these things you do make me feel.”

      I’d like to think if approached with kindness, he will want to oblige.

      I hope so, anyway. 🙂

      1. Heartfelt advice, Matt. Thank you. I hope so, too. 🙂

        Btw, how on earth do you find the time to write these posts AND respond to everyone’s comments? (And yes, I realize my question just added to your to-do list. Sorry!)

        1. The posts are a breeze if I have a topic. I write them during my lunch at work.

          The comments are much trickier as of last Wednesday when there became a lot more of them.

          Maybe some day I can be REALLY cool like the big-kid bloggers and simply get so many comments it would be impossible to reply to all of them.

          In the meantime, I want people to know how incredibly grateful I am for their time and attention. Everyone is so busy. Tons to do. And people take time to read my writing AND leave a comment. It’s so beyond anything I ever thought might happened when I started doing this last summer.

          And now, here we are and it’s kind of turning into a little thing. And it brings me a little bit of joy.

          Thank you so much for contributing to that.

          1. Joy is the least you should feel for helping people understand that they’re not alone and that someone else feels the same pain they’re feeling. THAT is kindness, Matt. 🙂

  24. I should say I think I’m pretty nice but if he doesn’t think so he’s welcome to say it. We can all be nicer. But in the end being faithful is the bedrock of nice. If you’re faithful you can’t be *that* not nice.

  25. Another one spot-on, Matt. Isn’t it sad to have figured that out now and have to live with it all alone…? ;( But when that amazing person who appreciates it and reciprocates comes along, it’ll sure be wonderful to put the secret into action.

    1. I’m not Fate Guy. But I do believe things have a tendency to work out as they should. I’m hopeful this difficult period will be no different. 🙂

  26. This is such a great topic.

    I think it goes beyond nice OR kind, though. For men and women to really bond, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. Because we speak such different languages and feel/think so differently, it takes an enormous effort to really avoid hurting a person you truly love.

    Men need divine intervention to understand us -part altered shaman consciousness, part ninja stealth, part hopeful prayer. Every 28 days, it all goes to hell, anyway.

    And the woman needs to cut you a break when you get it all wrong, despite your best efforts.

    Before it was a crappy movie, it was a beautifully produced Broadway play – “Prelude to a Kiss.” One of my favorite lines about love:
    “Never to be squandered…..the miracle of another human being.”

    1. 🙂

      Thank you.

      I know you get it. Being nice, or rather just believing strongly that you’re nice, isn’t enough to avoid hurting people.

      We must be more than that. I must be, anyway.

      1. You’re on your way. We all are.

        I just commented because I love that quote. I can’t put that sappy stuff on my blog. It would ruin my reputation!!

        🙂

  27. This article really resonates with me also. As do some of the comments.

    It’s so easy to have 20/20 vision in hindsight isn’t it? I wish we were all blessed by it when we needed it most.

    Getting married and having children doesn’t come with a manual. The best we can do is learn from our mistakes, try not to repeat them and don’t beat yourself up for being human.

    I’m not sure I would have thought there was much difference between being nice and being kind if you hadn’t pointed it out, but maybe that’s because a lot of nice people are kind also. But you are right, they are definitely different things.

    Thank you for your insight, it really helps a lot!

    Take care 🙂

  28. Like someone said above, I’m not nice. I’m not KNOWN for being nice. I’m more known for being honest (sometimes to a fault, but in a way that tries very hard not to be cruel), and getting the job done, and being the person you can rely on when you need something and no one else steps up. (And for being kind of sarcastic. And maybe sometimes a little yelly.)

    But kind? That’s something I work very hard at, and pride myself on, when I get it right. I still slip up – sometimes it’s easier to take that time that someone else really needs and use it on yourself, or to not offer what’s needed (a word, a note, a phone call, a smile, a hug) because of the various reasons that get tangled up in our heads.

    When you do it right, though, when that clicks and you know you were the best you that you could be, and you made someone’s life better because of it? That’s some magic, right there. That’s what we’re here for, isn’t it?

    Loved this, Matt. Beautiful post.

  29. I’ve heard similar before, but I don’t know any that have put it better. Working on being more kind to my wife. Kids, too.

  30. Aaahhh…Mr Nice guy. I was married to him. Always there for everyone. Would drop anything and everything to go help the jerk neighbor finish his basement, or the needy co-worker who needed “help” fixing his car….or the in laws that only called when they needed him to do something. He’d drop everything, bitch to me, then go do the work.
    For everyone except me and his children.
    Funny thing is, people really like him. He’s quite the popular guy…what they don’t know, is he really does’t like people. Doesn’t like to go out, doesn’t like to talk to people, doesn’t like to do much of anything…but he does, after bitching to me about it. So he looks like Mr Great and Fabulous…and I’m the dumb bitch who left him.
    I remember early on one of my single friends saying to me “you have no idea what it’s like to be alone.” to which I replied, “you have no idea what it’s like to be married….and still be alone.”

    He’s not 100% to blame. I know for sure that he loved me…in his own way. I also know that if he could have gotten on board with “nothing will ever get better till something changes” I would still be married to him. He was never going to get it…he still doesn’t get it. That’s ok. He is a good man. He deserves to be happy…and with someone who doesn’t mind all the BS that goes along with it.

    If only everyone would get that it isn’t about what you are giving, it’s about what they need. If you can’t give them that, they won’t be happy. If you don’t WANT to give them what they need…then you shouldn’t be together.

    I feel like I’m ranting…Good post Matt. Another good post.

    1. Thank you. 🙂 it’s nice to see you.

      I’m sorry that you understand. But it is worth thinking about. The nicest person in the world can still destroy a marriage.

  31. I feel like I’ve been to all these places – so many, many times. I remember the heartache, the agony of schism, and I’ve seen the damage ‘relationship’ can do. Not only to the protagonists, but to everyone touched by their lives.

    When you view it from the outside – men who want monogamy so much, to keep their ‘pack’ together; women who, beyond a certain idealism, really don’t – its a miracle if any ‘relationship’ survives. In a world which offers so many opportunities for severance and so few incentives to stability its no surprise to me that the floor is littered with fragments from those who tried and failed.

    I guess my point, and the reason I use quotes, is that the ‘relationship’ is the artificial state. Now we no longer espouse the concept of the Alpha Male the foundations of pairing are ripped from beneath us, and there is a deep confusion surrounding our evolving roles in the mire it leaves behind. So we ‘date’ (more quotes) which is really a form of jousting, or worse, a kind of interview.

    Interesting how the meaning of the word nice has altered in time with these changes. To be nice with someone two hundred or so years ago was to be quite unpleasant: to use sarcasm, or its equivalent, to put someone down.

    Anyway, I wish you well with your struggle, and if I were closer to you I would probably advise you to forgive yourself the sins you almost certainly did not commit and to accept. The one thing that I believe must come before kindness (though only just before) is strength.

    1. Thoughtful writing, sir.

      There’s good stuff here. Thank you for thinking about this stuff. For taking time away from your busy life to read, and for imparting some knowledge and wisdom. Appreciate it very much.

  32. Pingback: Being Nice Isn’t Enough | As The Trade Winds Blow

  33. In my case, being nice and… kind is not enough.
    There’s always something more.
    The grass on the other side always greener.

    Yes, for me “She is indeed something more than anything.”
    If not, I can simply move on with other woman.
    But no.

    Now, it’s a sad thing to realise, but am I mean more than anything to her?
    You see here, only ONE SIDE trying hard to make things better.

    While her PUT CONDITION to stay in love with me.

    So it’s always more than being nice and kind… indeed.

  34. Good words Matt. Man, it sounds like we have a lot in common. I was raised in a conservative Christian home and learned to be nice. What wasn’t expressly taught, but transferred all the same, was being nice at all costs. Everything should be puppy dogs and rainbows… All… The… Time. That made it difficult for me to reconcile the horrible things that were happening to me in my life (some self inflicted, some not). I just knew if I did all the right things after my (then) wife asked me to leave that I would put my family back together… it didn’t work. It’s been four years that I’ve struggled with the “whys and what-ifs” and I couldn’t agree more that you can be nice and still be a horrible husband/father/friend (inject any role here) that no one wants to be around. Thanks for being courageous enough to be real, that’s rare enough… then you share it with whoever will read it. Kudos.

    1. Thank you for this.

      I’m sorry. I am. That you get it. But it’s always nice to find people who do.

      Lot in common, indeed.

      Now that a lot of bad things have happened, much of the wool that had been pulled over my eyes (not intentionally, I don’t think) has been stripped away.

      I see things more clearly now. And am in a better position to succeed in my relationships because of it.

  35. I read this and had a feeling of uncomfortable recognition that I am the “nice one” in my marriage. My “niceness” is my defense mechanism. It keeps everyone at a “nice” comfortable distance, even my husband- the one person who supposedly knows me the best. Just please don’t ask me to tell you what I really think or feel. Then you might not like me. Let’s just keep things civil, shall we? And shallow. And meaningless. =(

    1. Aww, K.

      Don’t say that.

      But I know what you mean. I do.

      Just don’t say meaningless. Our relationships are anything but.

  36. As always your blogs are very thought provoking. Thanks for sharing again chuck. I agree, like anything you are passionate about, you need to out the effort in. I do think though, that to a certain extent if you feel that trying to make a relationship work is a constant uphill struggle, then it might be time to have a serious talk about whether the relationship is really working. Yes you need to make the effort but some things should just flow and come naturally too.

    1. Sure. Things should flow and come naturally. I do agree with you there.

      But I’ll promise you this. EVERY SINGLE MARRIAGE is going to have some hard days. And if everyone just does what they “feel” like all the time, exactly zero marriages will last.

      So, we choose to love. Even when it’s hard. Even when it’s inconvenient.

      That’s how we heal the broken, chickpea. 😉

      1. I like how you are using my language hun. I was married and tried everything I could to make it work until I realised he was never going to make the same commitment so I left him.

        I refuse however to let this one bad experience shape my future, when I meet the right guy I know that I will put my heart and soul into the relationship because that person will be worth it and it is unfair to burden something fresh and new with old feelings that are in the past.

        If you do it is like hanging on to a big bag of negativity, until you put it down, you can’t move on sweetpea.

  37. This is amazing, your blog is very touching. It sounds like you learned a most critical life lesson. Keep growing and writing..your future will thank you.

  38. Matt– I’m sorry I can’t figure out how to email you offline. Can you take my comment off your site? I didn’t think that it would post under my full name but under my wordpress avatar– not sure why that didn’t happen. Not crazy about having my story out there w/name attached. thanks.

  39. Saw your interview on WordPress today and I started reading your blog. Being someone who walked similar lanes as you (single, divorced, dumped and left alone, but without a child) for a few years, I can connect to the feelings you feel, the thoughts that go through your head. I too was (still try to be) a nice guy – friendly, available to help for anyone on the way – liked by bosses, friends and customers alike. Well, I was kind too. But yes, you are right – there are many ways the ‘just being nice’ can hurt your better half. In my case, I moved on and got into a better life later. Even now I keep thinking sometimes – Am I being helpful, or am I just trying to be nice?

    1. I appreciate this note. I get the impression from people that most believe I’m thinking about the right things.

      I’m so glad to read you’re in a better life situation now.

      Thank you for taking the time to say hi. That you understand. It means a lot.

      Please have a good day and weekend! Really appreciate your time.

  40. This is good advice for anyone in a relationship, not just a husband. I am going through a bumpy time with my fiancé right now and am feeing very “alone” in the relationship. We are both nice people but somehow have not mastered the be kind to each other part, here’s hoping that we can before its too late. Thank you for sharing your story.

    1. Always ups and downs. Always.

      It’s just a human thing.

      So we must choose love. And we must choose kindness. Because it’s not always convenient. Things don’t always “feel” good. And if we succumb to those feelings, everything breaks.

      And it doesn’t have to.

      Thank you so much for reading. 🙂

  41. Pingback: Mr. Nice Guy | Must Be This Tall To Ride

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  44. I too am a recovering Nice Guy. Shitty husband. Divorced. Alone. Coincidentally, I have also chosen a path of kindness over niceness. Curious to see where it takes me but confident it will be better than where I am.

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