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Balancing Nice and Assertive Personalities in Marriage
Finding a balance between nice and assertive in your marriage is possible. Here’s how.

By John Dalog
Being assertive and/or nice come with balance…too much of either can be overwhelming.

Don't let your comfort zone rule your life. Take an objective look at yourself, and recognize which parts of you are underdeveloped.”
You’ve had it! You’re tired of your wishes always coming last. You’re fed up with bending over backwards to please your spouse when it seems you never get equal treatment in return. You declare to the heavens, "That's it, no more Mrs. Nice Gal for me! I'm not letting my spouse walk all over me anymore!" and off you go, riding roughshod over your mate’s desires, and chopping his head off whenever you’re displeased, until your mate is either cowering, fleeing or resenting the heck out of you.

"Well, that didn't work," you say to yourself, scratching your head. "My spouse isn’t walking all over me anymore, but he can't stand me either. Forget this."

Perhaps your fed-up-ness is the opposite, "OK, fine. My wife thinks I'm like a bull in the china shop and that I’m inconsiderate and rude much of the time, I'll be nice." Off you go, Mr. Nice Guy to the hilt, and then you're furious because nothing ever gets done, and your wife—incredibly relieved that you’re not barging through the house or arguing at every turn—isn't paying as much attention to you anymore. "Forget this," you say, "I'd rather be heard," and back you go to your bull-in-the-china-shop ways.

Somewhere in all of this, you've forgotten what a wonderfully complex individual you are. You've forgotten that you're not 100 percent of any one thing, but that you are made up of many different parts. There's a "nice guy/gal" part to all of us, an aggressive (the "bull-in-the-china-shop") part to all of us, and all sorts of parts in between. Some of those parts are underdeveloped, some over-developed, some we use appropriately, some we don't. So the problem isn't that your attempt to change your ways is faulty, you're probably on the right track—you just haven't quite figured out which part of you to use how or when.

For example, if you feel you've been "walked on" by too many people too often, including your spouse, you probably have an underdeveloped assertive side, which you don't use appropriately. You may think that being "strong" means being confrontational, yelling at people and insisting on getting your way. In fact, that kind of "strong" is just one facet of being assertive. Other facets of being assertive are standing your ground, using a firm, low voice and repetition to communicate to others your position, and learning to negotiate rather than to sacrifice.

If your new plan is to "be nice," having been forceful and demanding all of your life, your vision of what being "nice" is, is probably more a vision of being a doormat. That isn't nice, that's dead! Of course you're not getting what you want. Rather than reverting to your old ways, learn what genuine "niceness" is all about: listening to others, caring about others as much as you do about yourself (not instead of yourself), respecting both your and others’ needs.

If your primary approach to life and to your sweetheart isn't working the way you’d like, it's probably because you are relying too heavily on what feels comfortable and easy for you in situations where your comfort zone and the situation at hand don't mesh. For example, ordering people around may work when you're the football coach or the police officer, but it's not going to get you anywhere in your personal relationships. For that, you need the part of you that is willing to listen and care. You may have buried that part of you long ago, and now fear that listening and caring are part of being "weak."

Listening and caring are just as important as the ability to show leadership. Each has its importance. The art of living is in large part the art of knowing when to use which, i.e., when to listen and care versus when to lead firmly and directly, versus when to do something entirely different.

Don't let your comfort zone rule your life. Take an objective look at yourself and recognize which parts of you are underdeveloped. There is more to you than you realize! Develop those unfamiliar sides of yourself, which you recognize would be of benefit in your marriage and practice using them.

Pay attention to how couples you respect and admire balance the various facets of their personalities. How do other couples manage to be firm and assertive yet not terrorize their mate? How do other couples manage to be "nice" without getting walked on?

You are a valuable human being. Become more of the whole person you can be and watch your marriage expand into greater and richer happiness.

Noelle C. Nelson, Ph.D., is a relationship expert, popular speaker in the U.S. and abroad, and author of nine best-selling books, including her most recent, "Your Man is Wonderful" and "Dangerous Relationships." Dr. Nelson focuses on how we can all enjoy happy, fulfilling lives while accomplishing great things in love, at home and at work, as we appreciate ourselves, our world and all others. For more, visit www.drnoellenelson.com and www.yourmaniswonderful.com/blog.

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Over 1 million couples turn to Hitched for expert marital advice every year. Sign up now for our newsletter & get exclusive weekly content that will entertain, educate and inspire your marriage.

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