Be Nice

February 29, 2016 4 min read

THE VAST MAJORITY OF MARRIAGES COULD BE GREATLY IMPROVED IF COUPLES WOULD FOLLOW THIS SIMPLE ADVICE: BE NICE. Oddly enough, many people believe that because they are married, they do not have to be nice. It is as if they think that their marriage license is a license to be mean and nasty. Oh, they would never say that, but that is certainly how they act.

Some of the nicest people in the world – people who would not hurt a fly, those who would brake and swerve for squirrels in the road, guys who would help an old lady cross the road, women who would be thankful and considerate to the pimply-faced kid that bags their groceries, couples who sit together in church smiling, singing and gently nodding their heads to the encouragement of the pastor—these same sweet people...get them home and watch the fireworks as they bark, yell, and throw insults at each other. Again, it is as if they believe a marriage license grants them permission to be however mean they deem necessary; to be as short and impatient as the moment calls for. They think that somehow a marriage license allows them not to live out their Christian faith. “I don’t have to be nice—I’m married!!”

Much of this is rooted in the six most poisonous words of bad advice ever given to a generation of married couples: BE HONEST WITH HOW YOU FEEL. Of all the ignorant, moronic and misguided pieces of advice ever given to couples, this ranks right at the top. Be honest with how you feel. Good grief!! No wonder they feel they have the right—no, the moral imperative— to emotionally vomit all over each other. They have been deceived into thinking that, not only do they have the right to spew their venom, but that somehow this is good for their marriage. No wonder so many people end up in divorce...Look, your mama was right: If you don’t have something good to say, DON’T SAY IT!!

My wife and I have been married for over 40 years. People always ask, “How have you been married for so long?” My answer: Because we are NOT honest with HOW WE FEEL!! “Be honest with how you feel.” Uuuuugh. Of all the stupid, ignorant and destructive pieces of advice that some idiot with a PhD came up with. Oh, I know, I know...there are times you need to share things that are uncomfortable and there are issues you need to visit and even fight through as a couple, but that it not what I am talking about here. I’m talking about people who just act as if it is their God-given right to be as mean and insulting as they please—just because they are married!

Only in marriage are we so incomprehensibly and immeasurably stupid. In no other area of life would you apply such foolishness. Can you imagine people deciding tomorrow morning on whether or not to go to work based on how they feel? Calling their boss and saying, “Look boss, I’d really love to come to work today, I really would. But I have to be honest with how I feel, and quite frankly...I’m not feeling it. And while we are at it, I feel I really must share that I feel you are an idiot.” They’d get fired.

Can you imagine soldiers at the front line when the sergeant yells “Charge!” and one of the soldiers stands up and says, “Um...look guys…I really would love to charge with you, I really would... Many of you know I have been very pro-charging for some time now and have been one of the better chargers during drills. But...I don’t feel it would be fair to you if I charged at this time, because...well...quite frankly, I’m not feeling it.” They’d take a gun out and shoot him in the head.

Truth is, your ability to succeed in life will be in direct proportion to how little you listen to your feelings. Ever feel like studying? Ever feel like working 18-hour days? Ever feel like practicing piano scales for eight hours a day? Truly successful people do NOT listen to how they feel. Great academics study, successful business people put in whatever hours are necessary, and the greatest concert pianists practice until their minds grow numb. You know who does listen to their feelings? The people who drop out of school, stop when work gets too hard and those who quit taking piano lessons because they feel like they would rather go out and play with their friends. Listening to your feelings is the ultimate separation in life between winners and losers. Those who listen to their feelings fail, and those who don’t succeed—period. And the same is true for couples who stay married and those who end up in divorce.

For the love of God—just BE NICE! It is the ultimate guide to all your relational dilemmas. “Do I have to visit my irritating in-laws?” Yes, be nice. “What if my wife is grumpy?” Be nice. “Don’t I have the right to criticize my husband when he doesn’t fold the clothes the way I told him to?” No, be nice. “Do I have to help my wife around the house even when I come home tired?” Yes, be nice. “What do I do if my mother-in-law insults me?” Be nice. “What if my husband always forgets to take out the garbage, leaves the toilet lid up or fails to pick up his underwear that he left in the middle of the living room just before diner guests arrive!?!” Check your medication and just BE NICE!!

Marriage is hard, but it is not complicated. Want to have a meaningful and successful marriage that will last the rest of your life? Two words: Be Nice.

*From my book “Be-Attitudes of Marriage: 9 Simple Steps to a Healthier and Happier Marriage” available at: