5 Things I Had to Learn In Order to Love My Nice Guy

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What happens when a woman who loves so-called “Bad Boys” discovers that the man of her dreams is a total sweetheart? Joanna Schroeder found out the hard way. 

Real-life nice guys are the men you meet who aren’t looking for accolades for doing what’s right. They’ll slow down for a turtle crossing the road, even if nobody’s watching. They’ll ask the person serving their coffee how their day is going, and they’ll genuinely want to know. They won’t play games when you meet them, and they won’t put up with your crap or manufactured drama because they know nice when they see it, and picking fights isn’t nice.

Before I met my husband, I dated a bunch of not-nice guys. I peppered in a few nice guys here and there, but I think I was so insecure and unhappy at that time that I either drove those good guys away or grew bored of their niceness. I didn’t see the pattern then, but once I met Ivan and chose to prioritize this genuinely sweet, caring person in my life, there were a few things I had to learn:

1. You need to stop being a jerk, even when you’re in a bad mood.

I’m not a super warm and cuddly person in real life. In fact, people have said that it can be hard to get to know me. This aloofness isn’t something I work toward—in fact, I actively try not to have a cold exterior, but it’s a part of who I am.

Part of being with a nice guy is learning to soften for him, particularly when he needs you to be present for him. This was hard for me. In fact, it’s still hard for me sometimes. I can be a hard-ass, and I can be snappish and reactive and I take zero shit from anybody. When I was with guys who weren’t all that nice, this wasn’t a problem. In fact, I think they sort of liked it. A less-balanced guy might try to charm me into being sweeter, or might take advantage of the situation to create a fight and cause drama.

But a real-life nice guy probably isn’t going to do that. You need to take responsibility for your tone, and realize that you’re dealing with a loving, caring person who doesn’t deserve to be locked out of your proverbial ice castle. Even more, you don’t get to take your crappy mood out on him or you’ll end up hurting him. A nice guy doesn’t have a bad-boy exterior to hide behind when you’re being prickly, so do whatever you can to be kind and warm. This is your partner, who has earned your trust. He loves you. He deserves at least that.

2. Realize that a nice guy is not just nice to you, but to other people, too.

A nice guy who is nice to you but a jackass to everyone else isn’t really a nice guy. Real-life nice guys are kind to strangers, warm with friends and probably give a lot of their time and energy to many people. This can take some getting used to if you’re used to dysfunction and the insular world of the so-called Bad Boy.

My husband, most of the time, is incredibly nice to everybody. He knows the life story of the plumber, the ladies who work in the billing department at work, and will hug anybody, anytime, who wants to hug. He also helps little old ladies across the street, and I mean that literally.

What this means is that you’re going to have to get used to sharing him. He’s probably happy to help his dad fix the broken garbage disposal or let the neighbor use his pickup truck for a run to the dump. He’s probably going to run out to help his brother carry a couch, and he may answer endless text messages from his best friend when he’s going through a messy divorce.

He’s not yours, you know, he’s his own man and he is probably going to spread his love to people other than you. You can set boundaries of time that’s just for you two, and certainly it’s okay to set boundaries about how intimate his relationships are, but helping other people and spending time with them is part of who he is. You don’t get to squash that.

3. A nice guy wants to hear you and support you through hard times, but you need to solve your own problems.

Your genuinely nice guy is probably willing to stand by you through the worst of times, to be there the moment you’re hit with grief over a major loss, or to pick you up off the ground when you’re triggered from a past trauma. He wants to hold you when you need holding, and lift you up when you’re down… but he’s not going to be your crutch, and it’s unfair to try to make him into one. Beyond that, he knows you’re not a child, and refuses to treat you like one.

You will need to learn to solve your own problems if you want to have a happy life with a nice guy. Find a therapist if you need one, reach out for help from people other than him sometimes. What I learned over time with Ivan was that even though he was my favorite source of comfort and solace, he couldn’t be my only resource for support. Every human’s ability to hear grief, sadness, panic or whatever other big feelings are limited, and both you and your nice guy need boundaries so you don’t fall into a trap of one partner being broken and the other being the fixer.

4. You need to become comfortable with quiet, peace and regular old happiness.

If you’ve lived in chaos most of your life, or if you’ve had abuse or a lot of drama in past relationships, you’re probably going to be really uncomfortable with the sense of ease that comes from being in a healthy relationship with a nice guy.

I grew up among some emotional chaos myself, especially when I was young, and I’m also a very active and analytical person. I spent most of my life attracted to movement, change, noise, high emotionality, and people who needed me to fix them. But none of that was ever really good for me. When I would land in a quiet, stable situation I learned to kick up dust to make myself more comfortable, and that wasn’t a good thing for my husband’s emotional state. In fact, it was really bad for him.

As much as I think my husband is the greatest, he’s also not perfect, and it took a long time for us to learn how to sit together in calmness, to smile and relax into happiness, and to cultivate quiet.

If you’re like me, you may need to approach happiness almost as a meditation. Breathe into it, feel that it’s around you and also notice the discomfort you have with it. Notice the anxiety that starts to come up when you feel peace, or when you feel vulnerable, and just recognize that it’s there. Keep in mind that the goal is to appreciate the good stuff that’s right in front of you, instead of planning for the bad that might happen.

5. Finally, you need to stop being afraid you’re going to hurt the nice guy you love.

This seems like a weird thing to say, but one thing you may have learned in your life is that you are dangerous. Maybe you learned as a little kid that part of you was wrong—too spirited, too fiery, too emotional, too strident, too sexual, too loud, maybe too gay. Too something. You were shamed into believing that part of you was made wrong and because of that, you are just going to hurt people around you.

Well, that’s bullshit.

Why? Because you’re an adult now, and you have control over your choices. Yeah, we’re all going to screw up sometimes and make mistakes. We’re going to hurt each other’s feelings. Nobody is immune to that—not you and not him. But those things you think are so bad inside? You can either fix them so you don’t hurt him with careless words, or infidelity, or creating drama, or whatever you tend toward, or you can live in fear. I wouldn’t suggest the latter. It’s lonely.

You get to choose whether you hurt him. So you don’t need to be afraid of that. You aren’t special in your ability to hurt others—we all have that. And we all need to make the choices, every day, that show love and not selfishness or harm.

These dynamics exist among a lot of couples, not just with men. There are women who are genuinely nice, and sometimes their partners aren’t used to that and cause all sorts of problems, too. This is about healthy relationships, regardless of gender or sexuality, and we can all work toward being the type of people who are happy when we’re healthy.

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With thanks to Alyssa Royse, for her help with this post. 

Also read: 6 Things I Wish I’d Known About Marriage When I Was 26

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Photo: Flickr/Nadine Heidrich

 

 

About Joanna Schroeder

Joanna Schroeder is a feminist writer and editor with a special focus in issues facing raising boys and gender in the media. Her work has appeared on Redbook, Yahoo!, xoJane, MariaShriver.com, TIME.com, and more. She and her husband are outdoor sports enthusiasts raising very active sons. She is currently co-editing a book of essays for boys and young men with author and advocate Jeff Perera. Follow her shenanigans on Twitter.

Comments

  1. A very beautiful article… thank u

  2. Can we have more articles like this please?

    The other day, i read a very ridiculous article about keeping a nice guy in the friendzone. WHY? Because they seem like wolf in sheep’s clothing. Why would you even keep such people in your friendzone either? Two-faced people are to be kept at bay!!

  3. What a great damn article!! I swear I needed to read this at this moment. ♥

  4. Danielle says:

    I stumbled upon this article, and wow. I feel like it was written just for me. This really hits home for me.
    Thank you for this amazing write up.

  5. As a “nice guy” thank you for writing this. Especially #3.

    Women seem to get mad when I tell them I cant help them deal with their issues anymore. Almost as if I am some sort of “ass-hole” now because I want days to solely focus on what I need to do.

    Even if you set the boundary, some women think “ohh he’s just going through something else, its not me”. I’ve had to hurt some people in the past because they didnt understand that boundary and refused to honor it after its stated. Then all that is left is to force them away.

  6. J.R. Suarez says:

    Wow! This is an excellent article. I’m married to a nice guy now and have had a couple of these realizations myself. #s 2&3 don’t speak to me as much since I’m an introvert and crave time alone, but 1,2, & 5, I TOTALLY relate to. Thanks for articulating this so well!

  7. This article has made my week, i will share this with my soon to be dating age daughters!

  8. Great message. I have been a rather independent and ‘cold’ person now with a warm and kind partner. How lovely it is to be with someone like this and truly appreciate them and the partnership you create together….

  9. Wonderful and precisely very meaningful chain of thoughts.

  10. Great article Joanna, I can very much relate to this, as there certainly was a ‘settling in’ period when I first met my nice guy. So glad I pushed through that transition and challenged myself, and very lucky he was so understanding too. I’m much happier with him and more in love than with any of the other drama boys

  11. This is right on for me and my husband. He’s my nice guy and it took me a long time to truly appreciate his virtuous heart.

  12. i am now 94, waiting to leave u all, ur article was right on after 4 marrages, enjoy

  13. “These dynamics exist among a lot of couples, not just with men.”

    I think this is the clincher, Joanna. I’m sure you’re aware that there are many, many articles calling out so-called “nice” men who show passive-aggression instead of assertiveness, and/or are denying some social problems. But there are very few that acknowledge that women might truly be passing over genuinely nice guys, and so your statements here are sorely needed in the discussion. Also… wasn’t there an article here about a woman writing about her own “nice girl” dilemma, in a very similar way?

    The conclusion seems to be that people should account for what they bring to a relationship, and to not allow their expectations to void taking that responsibility.

  14. This article is spot on and describes my relationship with my fiance. I was in an emotionally and physically abusive relationship in high school and left that relationship with quite the chip on my shoulder. I was angry and volatile for years after that, until my fiance came along. He is kind and respectful and does not engage in the drama that I’ve experienced in the past. To be honest, in the beginning I did not feel that our relationship was “exciting” enough, it just wasn’t what I was used to. I admit that I picked fights and hurt him in the beginning of our relationship, but I have made a conscious effort to deal with my own issues without taking it out on him. He balances me out and is the calm steady voice when I am feeling anxious or angry. He is a genuinely nice person and I want to enjoy him every day that we have each other. I never wanted children before I was with him and now my feelings have changed because he makes me feel so safe. He is amazing; loving, collected, gentle, a great listener, and has a fun, spontaneous, goofy side, the “good guy” – he is what every woman wants for a husband and the father of her children. He has changed me in many ways and I will forever be grateful to him for taking away the pain I have felt for years. So thank you for writing this article! It has put into words exactly what I have been feeling; to cherish that special guy in your life that has changed you for the better.

  15. I would posit that a lot of nice guys are no longer willing to wait for women to become emotionally mature people who want a good partner.

    The marriage rate for under 30’s is at it’s lowest rate in 60 years. I have a hypothesis that this is being driven largely by men who are putting their wants and needs first instead of discharging their “male duty”.

    It’s unfortunate that it takes so long for so many women to believe they deserve happiness. Just remember, unlike Joanna’s situation–many of these men are snapped up by women who wise up in their younger years.

    • Actually, the marriage rate has changed so dramatically because women are obtaining more financial freedom. The financial plan does not have to be “get a husband” anymore.
      What was the “male duty” exactly? I was under the impression that since the men always proposed, always initiated that next step, the decision to get married was basically theirs.
      Everyone makes stupid mistakes when they’re younger. You don’t just automatically go from crawling to running flawlessly. You stumble and fall your way to it.
      As someone who did the “right” thing, I can tell you- people need that experience. I waited until 18 to date (house rules), married my first boyfriend (smart, nice, good education. a great catch overall), and had to deal with uncertainties about us as a result. When you only date the “nice guy” and make the “smart choice” off the bat, you don’t appreciate what you have and they’re is always a nagging doubt in the back of both your minds. So experiment. Date the bad boy, or girl. Or both. Figure out what you want, and then settle down.

  16. Really well written and inclusive to boot. Great work!

  17. The truth is very powerful. Thank you Joanna. You have helped me.

  18. This is EXCELLENT! Thanks, Joanna!

  19. I’d been dating boy toys for several years, and bad boys before that. I’d stopped even looking until one wonderful conversation. When we first hit it off, the guy who introduced us took me aside and told me, “Look, he’s a nice guy, ok? He has a bunch of female friends who don’t sleep with him because he’s too nice. He’s looking for a serious relationship. He talks a lot and he gets all political. I really don’t think he’s your type.”

    We’ve been married for 20 years. Your article is spot on.

    I’d like to add this: Even nice men get mad, get grumpy, screw up once in a while, etc. So do nice women. Being realistic and accepting, giving the benefit of the doubt, and apologizing when we do screw up… they are all very helpful.

    My very nice man has helped me become a much nicer woman, just by the sheer example of his generosity and integrity.

  20. Sadly I know of many men like this who remain single. I think women need to step it up and start asking men out more as well, some of these guys are shy and don’t stand out.

  21. I LOVE THIS SO MUCH. I really don’t have anything salient to add, except that I love this. These were hard lessons to learn about myself, but easily the best ones.

  22. I loved every word, Joanna. Beautifully written.

    “You get to choose whether you hurt him. So you don’t need to be afraid of that. You aren’t special in your ability to hurt others—we all have that. And we all need to make the choices, every day, that show love and not selfishness or harm.”

    This is great. The hardest part is choosing to love on the bad days when choosing to hurt comes so easily. Tit for tat is so much more fun when one partner starts if off with love instead of hurt.

  23. BRILLIANT. Thanks Joanna.

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