Being “nice” (or being ingratiating which is intended to gain a favor), is a pattern in which you seek to anticipate and accommodate to your spouse’s perceived wishes without making know your own wants and wishes. It can be a way of:
- not asserting what you want to avoid being criticized
- avoiding being thought of as too aggressive
- not being a “good girl”
This kind of self-protective strategy, like most such defensive strategies, has really negative effects on your relationship. It tends to generate feelings of entitlement that get hidden behind the notion of fairness in your marriage.
Here are a few entitlements that are clues for you to examine whether or not you are feeling owed for “being nice”:
- “Because I have sacrificed.” “I gave up my career to raise the children, so you have to consent to my dream vacation.” Can be used over and over again.
- “Because I do more.” This entitlement is illustrated in the following dual-career marriagewhen they run out of milk, for example. The husband states, “Since I work longer hours than you do, you should go to the market to get it.” The wife believes, “Since I work and also do the cooking, you should go.” Each has his/her own arbitrary tally system.
- “Because I don’t ask for much.” This entitlement comes from seeing our self as the more generous and accommodating partner. “I go along with your way most of the time, so when I ask for something, you should grant it.”
- “Because I did something nice.” “I said ‘I love you’ twice this week. You have to do the same for me.”
These entitlements and others are very well described by Dr. Russell Lemle in the Psychology Today blog. (https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/me-first-we-first/201108/how-being-entitled-our-way-gets-in-the-way).
Dr. Lemle and I disagree about the source of such entitlements; he argues that such entitlements are a natural expression of fundamental drives. I believe they arise out of our effort to be “nice” as a self-protective strategy that doesn’t work because it is neither an assertive nor effective way of achieving our wants and wishes in marriage. That is achieved through negotiation of our wishes and wants, openly stated with confidence that they will be heard and honored, even if we do not always get what we want.