I was talking to a friend recently about the whole Nice Guys phenomenon, as you do. The implicit assumption was that we both fall into that category, and the conclusion was that, despite the well-known negative aspects of trying to be that way, in the long run it’s probably better than the alternative. It was late one night in the lab; I’d left hours before, and was now returning to pick up some stuff I’d left behind. Not entirely unusually, a friend of mine was still there, working away, and we got talking. The first point we arrived at was that being that kind of person isn’t so much a choice as it is an artefact of your entire personality and psychology, such that trite advice about trying to be more “bad” is entirely useless.
You’re either one of the dreaded Nice Guys, who usually tries to treat women with respect, knows his own boundaries, and is generally pessimistic about his chances with said women, or you’re not. It’s tied into your personal moral compass, and can’t just be suddenly changed.
The classic problem with being a Nice Guy is of course that women aren’t usually attracted to that kind of guy, at least not before a certain age. Women see Nice Guys as friends, first and foremost. Nice Guys provide a useful male perspective on the issues going on in the girl’s life, and is someone with which to always be entirely platonic. The common situation is that a Nice Guy is attracted to a girl, they become friends and get along really well, the Nice Guy misinterprets the success of the friendship (perhaps through idealism, hope, desperation, or some combination thereof), he tries to take the relationship further, the girl is shocked/offended/whatever, and contact breaks off. I think we’ve all been there; god knows I have.
Preventing those situations isn’t complicated, at least in theory. What you have to do is:
- Accept that you're a Nice Guy, and thus not exactly first in line in terms of relationship prospects.
- Don't get into friendships with women purely because you're romantically interested in them. Not only is that rather dishonest and unhealthy, but it's a guaranteed path to rejection.
- If you really like the girl, and are willing to accept the situation of just being a friend, then realise that being there for her is probably the best way to do something for her. It's a bit of a sad existence for you, but most Nice Guys also have that strange mentality of noble and silent self-sacrifice, which makes such a situation more acceptable to them.
- Realise that when women settle down, they usually do so with a Nice Guy, since such guys are a much safer bet for the long term. That may be cold comfort right now, but it's still the truth.
- The most important one: try hard not to define your self-image and assess your self-respect based purely on whether or not you're in a relationship. It's a crazy attitude to have, and a great way to develop some real emotional problems. Also, the desperation inherent in it will make most women run a mile.
- A lot of Nice Guys spend the bulk of their time living in the future, or at least in possible versions of it; that's a road that leads to regret, almost regardless of the outcome. Focus on just having a good time at the moment, and what you're looking for will happen eventually.
Of course, that’s all very easy to say, and a lot harder to actually keep in mind and implement. It’s important to try, though, because otherwise the life of a Nice Guy tends to just be cycles of abject loneliness followed by dizzying highs of false hope, then agonising crashes into the ground upon yet another relationship not working out. And you really don’t need that.
One final point I like to keep in mind was the conclusion we reached just before we left for the night; namely that, even if there are actually no eventual rewards at all for being a Nice Guy, it’s still better to keep believing that it’ll work out in the end. Because then, when the end arrives, you may not have found what you’re looking for, but you’ll likely have lived a decent life and made a positive contribution to the lives of the people you care about. That’s got to be pretty damn ace.