The Secret to a Better Relationship: Just Be Nice
BY DR. KRISTIN KEOUGH
Many couples wonder what the secret is to a happy lasting relationship. One very simple solution that improves a relationship is to just be nice. So I know it sounds like a simple solution and sometimes not an easy thing to do, especially when you are mad at or have been hurt by your partner. There are a lot of complicated things that impact a relationship, which include how you were brought up, bringing your own issues and stresses into the relationship, and communication problems. However, if people made an extra effort to treat their partner nicely, no matter how they were feeling, communication would improve and actual solutions could be reached. Niceness comes in the form of compliments, positive statements, encouragement, support, and appreciation. It doesn’t take anything away from us to be nice and it can fill up our hearts and our minds.
Why haven’t you been nicer in your communication? Often when we are hurt we go into the flight or fight response. When someone hurts us it can feel like an attack so we attack in response. We often think we are justified in our anger so we may not really care about how our message comes across to our partner. Attacking however doesn’t work in a relationship because the partner will have a similar response. The discussion becomes an argument where each partner is attacking the other and trying to get their point across. No one really listens and both walk away not feeling validated and maybe even more resentful than when the conversation started. Another reason is that sometimes when we feel hurt, we want to punish the other person for hurting our feelings. We want to make them feel as bad as we think they have made us feel. This however doesn’t really make us feel better and doesn’t address the problem. Two quotes that speak to this are “resentment is like taking poison hoping it will kill the other person,” and “when you seek revenge, dig two graves.“ No one really wins when the direction of the communication focuses on anger, insults, put downs, name calling, and yelling.
How can you be nicer in your communication? Changing communication doesn’t start in the context of the fight. If we don’t feel connected to our partner it is easier to be hurtful when we are angry. Prevention is the first key to treating our partner with kindness. Compliment your partner on a regular basis. When couples have been together for a period of time, they stop complimenting each other and sometimes start looking for the flaws. You were happiest in the beginning or honeymoon phase of your relationship because you noticed the best and often pointed it out. Start paying attention to things you like about your partner, or things they do for you, and tell them. It’s harder to be mean to someone who is nice to us. If you are nice to them they are more likely to be nice to you.
There’s a new wave of parenting where you focus on catching your child being good. This type of communication however can also be used in your relationship by catching your partner being good. You point out the things you want rather than what you don’t want such as instead of saying, “I hate when you don’t clean up after yourself” you say “I would appreciate it if you would pick up your clothes off the floor so I don’t accidentally trip over them.” This type of communication lets the other person know what it is that you don’t want rather than making them feel like they are doing something wrong, which often leads to defensiveness.
This communication style also focuses on pointing out the specific things you like about your child, or in this case your partner, such as thanking them for specific tasks they helped with such as “thank you for doing the dishes.” It doesn’t hurt you to be nice and it makes you and the other person feel good. Start showing your appreciation to your partner and don’t take them or their actions for granted. Don’t wait until you separate or your partner leaves to recognize their value and everything they do for you.
If you are reading this and thinking to yourself, “Yeah, but my partner isn’t nice back” or “They don’t do anything to make me feel good,” then you have to question why are you in a relationship with someone who doesn’t love and support you. Change has to start somewhere and if you wait for your partner to make changes, it may never happen.
Change your behavior and if your partner doesn’t follow then it might be time to move on or set better boundaries. Sometimes however when one person starts acting differently so does the other. I’ve seen one partner in the relationship start to be nicer and the other is able to recognize it and improves as well. Start being nice now. Be nice to yourself, your partner, and to others.
We gain more with love and positivity and lose more with negativity and hate. Lastly, if you are struggling to do this or your partner is not willing to change, you may have to consider relationship or individual therapy to address what is holding you or your partner back. Change can be hard and it can take time, but with the right motivation and caring, you can make your relationship work.
AUTHOR'S WEBSITE: http://transformationalgrowth.net/
Image credit Anita Martin. Copyright 2016: All rights reserved.