Make Relationship Changes Now: (Pt 2) Be Nicer

Research shows that in courtship there are 20-50 positive interactions to every one negative interaction. That is a lot of nice behaviors! No wonder courtship is so enjoyable. In happy marriages there are 5 positive interactions to every one negative interaction. In unhappy relationships there are many more negative interactions to each positive interaction. When there are more positive interactions than negative interactions it is easier to over come or recover from difficulties in a relationship.

Relationships are interactive. You and your partner co-create the dynamics in your relationship. You cannot create what happens between you and your partner all by yourself. Believe this, even if your partner is constantly letting you know in various ways that “It’s all your fault.”

On the other hand, you can make changes all by yourself and those changes will impact upon your partner. Your partner usually, I repeat usually, responds to your changes with their changes. Maybe the change will be positive. Maybe the change will be negative. But be sure, that there will be some kind of change. Keep the behaviors that enhance the relationship and discard those that make it worse.

Begin with small positive interactions. Too much too soon can feel awkward and uncomfortable for each partner.

To be nice is to be kind, considerate, thoughtful, appreciative, helpful, affectionate, caring, thankful, tender and warm. It is also to acknowledge your partners efforts, abilities, talents, skills, sorrows, struggles and hardships.

When you start making changes be prepared for some resistance. Relationships develop repetitive patterns and each partner will have habitual ways of maintaining the status quo. Often when one person changes the other will respond with behaviors that attempt to get their partner to return to the old behaviors. That’s normal because we all like familiarity and find change unsettling. Don’t hold that against your spouse.

Don’t expect positive change from your partner any time soon. Once a partner realizes that the change is for real, he or she will adjust. So be patient. If, your true intent is to control or manipulate your partner, or to show you are better than your partner, then your relationship will become more troubled than it already is. If, in your heart, you are motivated by love for your partner and a genuine desire for a better connection, then the changes will most likely enhance your relationship. Only you can decide the quality of your intent.

Often one partner starts being nice (or nicer) again to their spouse only to find there is no reciprocation. Or worse, the reaction is sarcasm, as in, “Oh, you’re sooo sweet.”. Or just silence. Or skepticism, as in, “What do you want from me?” Or sabotage, as in “Cut the crap.” After a short while the one who initiated change gives up and goes back to the old ways, feeling powerless and even more discouraged.

When you want change, decide to be nicer to your partner without any demand or expectation that they respond in the same way. This is key! If they respond to niceness with niceness – Great! But if they don’t, it probably means they are wary of being taken in and afraid of being hurt (again). By continuing to behave according to your goal of enhancing your relationship, in spite of your partners negative reactions, you will be doing what you want to do. You will feel good about yourself. You will be able to look in the mirror and say to yourself, “I know I am trying by best”. Over time your partner experiences your efforts as genuine and enduring – i.e. believable, not just a flash in the pan. Over time, ongoing positive behaviors are likely to soften resentment, heal hurts and demonstrate genuine intent to improve the relationship.

Whether your relationship endures or not, you have nothing to lose by being nicer to your partner and a lot to gain.

With care and concern,

Dr. Bea Mackay

Do it Yourself Relationship Help at

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