From time to time people ask me how I keep my marriage together.
The rule I follow is actually simple: I try not to say anything mean to my spouse. I do express my honest opinion but always in a calm and gentle way. This sounds easy in theory but is actually very difficult in practice.
The philosopher Epictetus used to say that you should know when to avoid a battle when you are too weak. Sun Tzu advised that, too. Well, that’s the same advice I would give to any man who wants to keep his relationship with his woman: know when you are too weak and not go there.
So you don’t try to pick a fight when you know you are too weak to remain calm. Words are so harmful. They really are. If you don’t believe that then you are just the person who needs to understand that. Sometimes in the effort to be right you end up doing all the wrong things.
I find it odd when I see men who describe themselves as “nice guys” who can’t seem to stay in relationships long. Often those who self-describe themselves as “nice guys” aren’t really nice at all when you get to know them more. Most of the time I see them as rather selfish, always wanting something in return for their fake kindness. When they don’t get what they want, their true selves appear. Their nice guy act is merely an act.
A good word for your target behavior is sweetness. You are sweet in how you treat your spouse or significant other, and sweet in your words to her as well.
You only control your own actions, not hers. You can tell her gently how you feel but it is ultimately her choice on what she wants to do. Give her space and time. If you are indeed the man you strive to be, then she will go back to you.
If you are in a current marriage or relationship, your advantage is your spouse or significant other has chosen you over all others. You may be jealous but you need not be because of that one fact.
But you can do better. Be the type of person who she would choose anew each and every day. One way you can do that is not to say an unkind word. And if possible, be sweet in every way — not because you want something in return but because that’s who you are as a person regardless of the circumstances.
So be sweet. It’s an attractive behavior.