You think you’re being nice. But you’re not.
You think you’re doing her a favor. But you’re not.
You think you’re just staying out of her way. But you’re turning yourself into a large obstacle. The one on her path to happiness.
You’re just another nice guy like me. Just another nice guy destroying your marriage without even realizing it.
I spent my entire life being told how nice and wonderful I am. That mostly still happens. That’s why it was always so surprising when my wife got upset with me and acted like I wasn’t.
But I’m so nice to her!
But I love her more than everyone else!
But I almost always let her have her way!
What’s her freaking problem?
Just another crazy, emotional, hormonal woman!
And I totally get it. I do. It’s often easier to just do what she wants (or what you think she wants) than it is to challenge her, argue with her, fight with her, whatever.
Maybe you really just believe it’s “nicer” to do things this way.
But it’s not nicer. And I don’t want you to learn the hard way like I did.
I don’t want your children to have two “nice” parents who can no longer live together because you spent so many years doing so many things you didn’t even know were wrong.
“Not all women in relationships with “nice” guys are drama queens who want to control, emasculate, or dominate their man. In my case, I was desperate for him to make a decision… have an opinion…contribute 50/50. Instead, he thought he was being “nice” by leaving all the decisions up to me… which ultimately led to me feeling more like his mother than his wife. It was exhausting and frustrating. Everyone thought he was so “nice” and the “perfect” husband. Far from it…he was avoiding responsibility and didn’t want to be blamed for any problems or mistakes. So I shouldered all the burden while we slowly began to resent each other and grow apart.” – @jessiesgirl
The Eye-Opening Moments
I had one yesterday.
I wrote a post which was mostly about two things:
1. Things “nice” men do that turn off women.
2. My general belief that “nice” guys are every bit as viable bedroom partners as “bad boys,” but I left out some details for decency reasons.
The results were fascinating. A bunch of comments similar to @jessiegirl’s.
And that’s when it hit me. Sonofabitch. That’s what I did.
And listen up, dicks. That’s what you’re doing, too.
I helped my wife with about 5 percent of planning our wedding.
I helped my wife with about 15 percent of potty training our son.
I helped my wife with about 25 percent of the housework.
But I want to be careful about confusing the messages here, because we’ve already established this: Yes, asshole. You have to help your wife around the house.
This isn’t about you not doing enough physical work.
This is more about you ACTIVELY PARTICIPATING in your relationship. The little things you don’t realize are huge.
“What do you want to have for dinner?”
“Do you want to go to the Smith’s housewarming party three weeks from now?”
“Can you send the RSVP?”
“Who is getting the gift?”
“Are we going to put little Johnny in baseball camp? Karate? Golf? Football?”
“How much do they cost? When do they start? How will he get to and from these activities?”
We can go all night with these conversations.
“I spent nine years with someone who never contributed, he let me organise everything, take the decisions, etc… and by the end of it there was nothing left but resentment… on both sides.” – @larebe
So, here I was taking a step back. Letting my wife control the action, make the decisions, do whatever was “easiest” for her.
Turns out, in many cases, what would be EASIEST is for us—you and me, guys—to make the decisions. To speak assertively and thoughtfully about what we want and why.
It’s not “nice” to leave all of the decision making for so many people to just one person. It’s hard enough for people to think for themselves without breaking something. And you want to ask your wife to think for both of you, all the kids you have, along with all of the other things that need managed?
Hope you like masturbating.
What Women Feel
Me: “Can I ask you for a favor?”
Friend I trust very much: “Of course.”
Me: “Can you write me an email articulating how it makes you feel when your husband doesn’t show assertiveness in making decisions? In taking care of things at home? In being part of the planning and decision making?”
Fifteen minutes later, I received the following.
How do I feel when my husband isn’t assertive in making decisions, in taking care of the home, in planning and decision making for our family??? Gosh—I feel like I do every day. Worthless… oh yeah… and tired… and alone.
I wonder things like:
“Does he even love me?”
“Why would he let someone he “loved” do all the work around here?”
“Does he think our family was a mistake?”
“Why doesn’t he want to help with work and decisions around here?”
“Aren’t we important enough for him to take an active role with us?”
“Are we not enough for him?”
“Are we too much for him?”
“I guess we just aren’t worth his time.”
My husband is a nice guy. The nicest of the nice guys. The give you his last dime-shirt off his back guy. He just doesn’t pull his fair share of the weight around here. And that is putting it nicely. If you ask him he would tell you that I’ve got the “good life”. (He’s actually said this to people.) I make all the decisions and run the show around here. What he would fail to mention is that I do everything else too: cooking, cleaning, laundry, scheduling, laundry, doctor’s appointments for the children, pick up and drop off for school, bill paying, grocery shopping, laundry, vacation planning, homework help, reading books, school shopping, laundry, saying prayers, working full time, and oh yeah… carrying and giving birth to the children!
So somewhere in his mind he thinks he’s doing me a favor by letting me “hold down the fort” or “sail the ship” or whatever. But in all actuality I’d just like him to take control of a little bit of the “good life” that I have. Perhaps 50% of the responsibilities would be a nice place to start. If you look at the list above there are A LOT of freaking decisions that have to be made to run this family. It’s hard on one person when they have to make them all. It’s even harder when there is another capable adult who can’t/won’t step up and do their part to lead a family.
For me—it gives me a feeling of worthlessness. I’m not worth his time. I’m not worth his effort. The decisions I have to make to run this home and take care of this family aren’t even important enough to him to matter.
For me—that leads to questions about his character and his integrity and his ability to be a partner in this life. Which then leads me to questions about my choice in a spouse… It’s all downhill from there!
Shameless Book Plug: Order My New Book “This is How Your Marriage Ends” Today
My new book released on March 22, 2022. It is, aside from becoming a father, the highlight of my life. I don’t think it sucks. Hopefully you won’t think so either. I took the lessons of my divorce shared throughout this blog, combined it with some new stories, some coaching client stories, and the ideas I try to share in my coaching calls, and tried to make the book I would have needed to understand how my behavior was inadvertently destroying my marriage and to develop meaningful relationship skills. If you believe in what I’m doing here and want to support the mission, you ordering this book would be the best thing I could ever ask for. And someday, if you like it, maybe tell a friend. Thank you so much. Order “This is How Your Marriage Ends: A Hopeful Approach to Saving Relationships”.
You’re Not a Bad Guy. Don’t Act Like One.
One of the most-valuable lessons of writing personal stories has been learning how alike so many of us are. How similarly we experience life in our various human relationships, and how our hearts and minds respond to these things.
If I could get back into Doc Brown’s time machine and tell myself 13 years ago the things I needed to know to avoid my life turning shitty, I would have started with all of my marital screw-ups.
Just in case anyone invents time travel AND reads this, would you please print out the following and give it to me in 2001? Thanks!
Dear 21-year-old Matt,
You’ve spent your entire life telling people your biggest fear was getting a divorce.
I have bad news.
You’re going to get one. You’re going to marry your girlfriend. You’re going to have a beautiful son. And then when he’s the EXACT same age you were when your parents split? You’re going to get divorced.
It’s going to tear your entire world apart.
You’re going to cry infinitely more than you ever have before.
You’ll miss your wife and son WAY more than you used to miss whatever parent you weren’t with when you were a little kid. Read that last sentence again. Let it soak in.
You’ve spent your entire life being coddled by your mom.
You’ve spent your entire life being spoiled by your dad.
You’ve spent your entire life being loved and supported by people who felt sorry for you because your mom and dad lived so far apart.
You’ve spent your entire life being told how nice and smart and funny you are.
These things are going to ruin your marriage. And this beautiful girl you’re madly in love with right now? You won’t even remember what she’s like because everything will be broken and shitty.
Every bad thing you have ever experienced is going to seem like an amazing vacation compared to how you’re going to feel from about ages 32-35.
But you can avoid it. You can choose a better life. One with a happy ending.
Marriage is harder than you think it’s going to be. It’s NOT like having a permanent girlfriend. Wives and mothers are something more.
Choose to be a better you. Choose to be great at the only two things that really matter once you’ve made the choice to marry: being a husband and father.
Don’t just give the bare minimum. Don’t just obliviously walk through the world doing whatever you want and wondering why your wife is getting upset with you.
Be engaged. Every day.
1. Give more than you take. Of your time. Of your energy. Of your love.
2. Choose to love even in the moments that are really difficult. Your feelings are fickle. If every couple ended their relationship during the tough times, no one would ever survive.
3. Love and respect yourself. You’re worth it. You’re a good guy. Be a leader. A kind one.
4. When your son is born, don’t even think about leaving your wife’s side. Stay awake for 72 hours straight if you must. Hold your child so your wife can sleep. Hold her hand when she’s holding him. And assure her every single second that she’ll always be able to count on you. Then prove it every day after that.
5. Start writing soon. More than news stories. Stories about your life. It will help you make sense of things.
6. Have crazier, more-frequent sex with your wife. She’ll like it.
7. Just because you say and feel “I love you” DOES NOT adequately convey the message. It doesn’t matter that it’s true. She doesn’t know. You don’t know how she can get upset with you. You think she’s a crazy, emotional girl. You don’t understand. The same is true in reverse. SHE DOESN’T KNOW if you don’t show her you love her. And all the ways you think you show someone you love them? Only some of it is true. Don’t dismiss her when she asks you what you want to do Friday night. Have an opinion. Don’t wait for her to suggest something then shoot it down because it’s not what you would choose.
Pick something. Have a reason. Care about it. Challenge her, if you must. Just do it with kindness and respect. Compromise.
You will have a MILLION of those little moments throughout your marriage.
Every time you say or act like you don’t care?
You’re telling your wife she’s not important enough to care about. To think about. To put effort into.
It’s going to kill her.
And then she’s going to leave you.
And you’re going to miss your son.
And it doesn’t have to be that way.
You get to write your own story. And I want you to listen to me. Because I’m you. Because I already did all the stupid shit you’re about to do.
If you make the same choices, everything breaks.
As both of us like to say: I hate being right all the time.
So don’t. Make better choices.
Then someday when you get a few minutes, maybe you can write Future You and tell me how great you’re doing. Thanks!