Liskula Cohen and Matthew Rozsa discuss the difference between being a nice guy and being a good one.
There is a difference between being a nice guy and being a good guy.
It’s easy to forget this, especially as the cliché that “nice guys finish last” is reaching a fever pitch among Men’s Rights Activists and self-proclaimed dating gurus. While usually intended as a complaint, however, critics often forget that there is a big difference between being “nice” and being “good.” Many of the men we admire most—and who are found extremely attractive by their partners—were known for being brilliant, opinionated, eccentric, vulgar … and yet, in their romantic relationships, incredibly kind, supportive, and loving.
This is because while being “nice” merely involves knowing how to be polite (which people have a right to automatically expect from you), being “good” requires you to develop a genuine connection with the person you love. Similarly, while “nice” men are accommodating and pleasant, “good” men are interesting and bring something to the table that their partners can’t find anywhere else. Finally, these men didn’t view their significant others as rewards to be collected in return for following “nice guy” rules, but as true partners who shared and influenced their lives.
1. John Adams (and Abigail Adams; Politics)
The second president of the United States referred to his wife Abigail as his “ballast,” an allusion to a navigational tool that would help lost boats acquire stability and orient themselves. As their voluminous correspondence demonstrates, John and Abigail based their relationship on a deep mutual respect for each other’s intelligence, shared political ideals, and strength in enduring the hardships of the Revolutionary War. When John faced disloyalty and chicanery during his careers as a diplomat and president, his relationship with Abigail—the one person with brainpower who he could fully trust—became vital to the success of his political career.
There is a saying, “Behind every good man there is a good woman.” Every man should acknowledge and appreciate when he’s got a wife who is willing to take these risks with him and support him.
2. Francis Crick (with Odile Crick; Molecular Biology)
While the Adamses came from Puritan stock, the Cricks were on the opposite extreme: They were Bohemians, intellectuals, and free thinkers straight out of a countercultural stereotype. Francis Crick was a molecular biologist, his wife Odile an art student trained in Vienna—and fate conspired to make their relationship one of the most important in the history of human genetics. After a night of partying and dropping LSD, Francis stumbled home and began rambling to his wife about visions of two spirals spinning in opposite directions, twirling together like pasta around a fork. Her resulting sketch was the double helix. By being on the same wavelength, Francis the scientist and Odile the artist were able to give humanity our understanding of the structure of DNA (as did Crick’s assistant, James Watson).
Its part of the saying “opposites attract.” These were two people who came from different sides of the playing field in terms of their interests, but it didn’t stop them from having a successful relationship. They didn’t just look for what was wrong, but also for what was right. And in the process, Odile’s love of art wound up making Francis’s greatest scientific contribution possible.
3. Bill Gates (with Melinda Gates; Business/Philanthropy)
Bill Gates’s name may be synonymous with nerdiness, but his wife Melinda actually has the superior education—a fact that provides Bill with no shortage of amusement. That said, Melinda is more than just her husband’s intellectual equal; after years of incurring controversy with monopolistic business practices, Bill began to redeem his public image by pledging to give away all his wealth and in the process become one of history’s most generous philanthropists. By all accounts, the inspiration for that was Melinda’s influence on her husband. By bringing out the best in the man she loves, Melinda has managed to use that love to make the world a better place.
One would hope that within every relationship, the two partners are capable of bringing out the best in their spouse. In my personal experience, I’ve only seen that happen sometimes, but it’s incredibly important. Wouldn’t it be great if all the other billionaires found women like Melinda?
4. Harry Houdini (with Bess Rahner; Magician)
Some stories have bittersweet endings. Like the other couples profiled here, Harry Houdini and his wife Bess were in a loving and faithful lifelong relationship, with Bess working as his stage assistant the entire time. After Harry’s tragic death in 1926 (on Halloween no less), Bess began to hold séances to see if her spouse would attempt to contact her. As an outspoken skeptic of occultism and spiritualism in his later years, Harry had agreed to use a secret password to communicate with his wife should he encounter her on the other side. By 1936, after one last failed séance, Bess famously told her friends, “Ten years is long enough to wait for any man.” Though she wanted very badly to see her one true love again, she refused to delude herself in a way that would have insulted his memory and the principles for which he stood.
Men sometimes don’t realize how long women have the capacity to hold on and wait. It’s not uncommon for women—especially in literature—to wait for years and years, embracing the memory of the men who left them behind. It’s important for men to try to have these sentimental qualities just as much as women.
5. George Takei (with Brad Altman; Acting)
George Takei may be best known as Mr. Sulu on Star Trek, but he found his future partner Brad Altman after asking him for help—in this case, getting in shape with the eventual goal of competing in a marathon. Although they kept their relationship secret for many years, they remained faithful in both good times and bad, with George referring to Brad as a “saint” for helping care for his terminally ill mother. Eventually they were rewarded for their patience and loyalty by finally being allowed to legally wed in the state of California.
It doesn’t take a woman to notice what is a good man or how to be good in a relationship. Gender doesn’t determine these things; you don’t need a woman to know whether a man is good news or not. They also demonstrate that being faithful, even if it doesn’t lead to an immediate reward, can still be worth it.
That, really, is the bottom line. A nice guy may be polite, but a good guy seeks to share his life with you in a meaningful way and brings something wonderful of his own to the table.
1. Photo – Via Tsuji/Flickr
2. Photo – Cliff/Flickr
3. Photo – Ioppear/Flickr
4. Photo – World Economic Forum/Flickr
5. Photo – Battle Creek CVB/Flickr
6. Photo – Nathan Rupert/Flickr