A wife can fall into the marital trap of being “nice” to her husband. Being “nice” is a way of acting out our society’s instruction that women should be “nurturing” and “caring” to others. Being “nice” gets translated into making unsolicited accommodations to your husband. This “nice girl” approach is implicitly saying:
“I will make sure you get what you want, even without your having to ask me for it. However, you owe me to be accommodating and/or nice to me in return.”
This kind of “niceness” or “accommodation” is based on a mistaken or dated understanding of how marriage works. Marriage is not rooted in the idea of “tit for tat”, particularly when the “tit for tat” arrangement is covert, i.e. not ever openly stated.
Accommodating to your husband without first negotiating your individual wants and desires, is misleading to him. He does not know that you are being “nice” in exchange for him being nice in return. He may come to think, “This is great! I have a wife who loves everything I do!” As a result, overtime, your husband may come to expect you to accommodate to the things he wants without having to take into account what is important to you. You are likely to become increasingly unhappy, thinking he is very selfish, overbearing, self-centered, etc.
Your partner may very well be selfish, overbearing, self-centered, etc. but, you cannot make that judgment based on your being “nice”, i.e. he should be nice because you are nice. Once you learn to be more respectful of your own wishes and wants, and are capable of putting these “on the table” for discussion, you are in a better position to make an accurate judgment about the acceptability of your husband’s actions to you.
For a marriage to work, you have to invest yourself in it. To be invested in the relationships is not about being “nice.” It is about “being” something. Being something means you have wishes and wants, things you desire to flourish in the world.
A 21st century marriage is about negotiating the individual things you and your husband desire to flourish. Negotiating is not about being nice. Accommodating to what you “know” your husband wants without negotiation undermines the very idea of a collaborative relationship.
Millennial couples have the opportunity to have a collaborative partnership in which each of you is able to identify and put out “on the table” the things that are important to you. Each of you specifies why these things are important to you as individuals. The two of you together jointly devise a way for both to flourish together. This process is called collaborative negotiation.
Negotiating collaboratively is the ultimate form of working together in marriage. True collaborators are always equals. Both wife and husband accept full responsibility for her and his part in the process of negotiation. It is in the context of this negotiation process that you and your husband come to see what each wants and desires in order to flourish. You are both willing to make accommodations to each other in finding a win-win outcome.
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