Nice to a fault: How understanding the difference between kind and nice could save your marriage

Nice to a fault

New book: Nice to a fault. As hard as discussing challenging topics can be, it's not as hard as the death of a relationship

One of our guilty pleasures as a family is the television show, Survivor. It’s still early in this latest season. We got caught up on the weekend…the first person voted off the island on Survivor Edge of Extinction was Reem, a middle aged woman.

Reem lasted just 3 days on the island with her team. She was shocked that she was so disliked by the team they picked her to leave.

When she asked them at tribal council why they were all against her, they said things like:

  • “You keep moving our stuff,”
  • “You check to make sure we are drinking enough water,” or
  • “You fuss over us like you are our mother”

They hated it. And they couldn’t live with it.

She looked gobsmacked when they told her.

She had been moving their clothes around so they would have a chance to dry in the sun. She wanted to make sure her new friends were hydrated. She is a mom and as everyone was bringing who they were to the team to help, she did what she felt was helpful.

Only it wasn’t.

Her hovering helpfulness was driving them crazy.

After they complained about her–just before they voted her off the island, she asked a powerful question:

Why didn’t anyone tell me that you didn’t like it?

One guy shrugged. Another guy suggested that she should’ve known.

Reem was voted off the island for behaviors that didn’t work for the others.

The others never told her. She couldn’t read their minds. She couldn’t self correct.

It would have been an awkward conversation to have with another, to be sure. How do you tell another person you don’t like it when she fusses over you, when she touches your stuff? It’s not easy to give feedback to others.

Letting know someone is doing something uncomfortable isn’t easy:

  • It’s awkward to say something that is likely to upset someone you know.
  • They might not like what you say and become defensive. It may even get ugly.
  • You might hurt their feelings. They might look wounded and cry.
  • You might come across as stumbling and goofy. To tell someone you don’t like what they say or do is hard and getting tongue tied is quite common

So, rather than have her intrusive actions continue, and have her ask questions that felt disrespectful, they just voted her off the island to be done with her and her mannerisms that they weren’t willing to live with.

That worked for the contestants on Survivor. They had known Reem for 3 days. No big deal to vote someone off the island–in fact, it was easier than one or more of them letting her know that her behaviors were unacceptable.

But what happens if the person who is doing the unacceptable thing is not a fellow contestant?

What happens if the person who is living with you in a painful way is your partner?

It is an important mission in my life to encourage people to have difficult conversations–because as hard as discussing a challenging topics can be, those exchanges are not nearly as hard as the death of a relationship.

And in my experience, we all have difficulty talking about hard things.

And there are gender differences on this…men and women are raised differently in our world. Often, women are aware of something that is wrong in the relationship, recognizing something isn’t going well, but they don’t give themselves permission to say it.

They cheat their husband of knowing something is wrong.

It’s not working, and he doesn’t even know it.

His relationship isn’t good, and he doesn’t even get to find out that something isn’t working for her.

Sometimes, she tries to tell him, but her words are crafted so gently so as not to hurt him, that he doesn’t actually get how serious it is.

She lets him know, but not in a way he hears.

She blows up in the moment, and then backs off, so he doesn’t understand that it’s a serious ongoing issue.

She makes him aware of changes that need to be made for them to work well together…and he makes them. For a few weeks. And then he slides back into the old behaviours.

She is disappointed. And defeated. And it matters, but he will never know because she doesn’t say anything.

This is the second edition of an important book that I have written, Nice to a Fault: Redefining Kindess in Marriage:

Buy it here…or drop by our office to purchase a copy. They are available for $12.00 at the office (tax included).

Sometimes women are so busy being “nice”, that they don’t realize how unkind they are being.

If he doesn’t know she has a problem with him because she doesn’t say anything clearly enough to let him know when something really isn’t working for her, then he can’t learn how to become a better husband to her.

We all need to learn how to be better spouses to our loves. Everyone of us. All the time. We grow and learn together.

But only if we are talking with each other even:

  • when the conversations are awkward and uncomfortable.
  • if it will be hard to hear.
  • when the other gets defensive and disagrees.

It might not be nice, but I assure you letting the other one know what’s going on in a way that has them be able to know, is very, very kind.

Nice to a fault: How understanding the difference between kind and nice could save your marriage

The book explains, in detail, the difference between kind and nice. Knowing the difference could make a huge difference in your marriage.

This is the hardest of all: to close the open hand out of love. Nietzche on blog about kind vs nice. CArolyn's new book: Nice to a fault

It’s not easy to be kind.

It’s brutally challenging to courageously speak out in a loving and clear way how it’s going for you. It’s hard to speak unmistakably and plainly how you are feeling in a manner that truly and compassionately leaves no doubt about the issues. It can sometimes feel impossible to unambiguously state what’s ok and what’s not ok for you for the good of your marriage:

  • I’m not OK with us getting another credit card and incurring further debt so you can go on the fishing trip. I care about us and our future too much to silently let our debt level rise.
  • The amount and volume of your yelling at the kids is getting worse and it’s destructive. I see that they pull back from you a little even during happy times. You are too important to them for them to be scared of you.
  • The way you approach me for intimacy isn’t funny or cute to me the way you think it is. It actually has me pull away from you in a way that isn’t good for us.

It’s so much easier to be nice.

Nice is to smile, to be giving and generous on the outside, even when the inside is resentful and bitter. To let one more credit card hold a balance, to reassure your kids behind his back, and to steel your body to look like you’re close, even though inside you’re farther away than ever.

Please,  know that kind conversations that give each other the real deal. That gives the other person the information they need to engage with you in meaningful ways. Give your spouse what they need to know how to make your life better. Bless your partner with clear information to articulately disagree with you…to allow for respectful discourse over the real issues.

Get your copy of Nice to a Fault: Redefining Kindness in Marriage

Be kind so as not to cheat your partner out of an opportunity for a great relationship!




  • Geraldine Westervelt

    I would like to purchase the book Nice to a Fault – can I buy this online or where do I pick it up?


    • Carolyn Klassen

      Hi Geraldine…The book can be purchased at our office at 1483 Pembina highways during business hours or online at Amazon: Let me know if you need more information!

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