Don’t be a jerk, just learn to be yourself
She Said, He Said
Dear Lori and Jeff,
I don’t understand women. I’m in my late 30s, have a stable job and have great friends. I think I’m decent looking, am active, and take care of myself. I don’t understand why I’m still single. I’ve met a few really great women over the past year, but haven’t been able to keep a relationship with any of them. I feel like I try to be a really great partner. I’m always thinking about what my girlfriend might need and putting in the effort to let them know I care. But inevitably, after a few months, they say they think we should just be friends. Do I have to start being more of a jerk to keep a girlfriend?
Nice Guy Finishing Last
Lori and Jeff: Every relationship, even the short ones, can give us valuable insight into the blind spots we have about ourselves. This is even more true when patterns show up across multiple relationships. Instead of focusing on trying to understand women, take a minute to explore what these “just friends” experiences might be reflecting about you.
Lori: The unfortunate truth is that there are a number of females who are attracted to the thrill of capturing a bad boy. But most of them are in high school or college, and haven’t quite grown into themselves as women just yet. If these are the girls you’re chasing, it’s time to update your picker. If, on the other hand, you’re pursuing women who want a mature relationship, then we have to look at how you’re coming across to the opposite sex. The challenge for most men who self-describe as the “nice guy” is that they tend to use this label to distract from other uncomfortable truths. To women’s ears, it sounds as if you (and other guys in your position) think your niceness should make us overlook other significant things that aren’t so great — things like insecurity, codependence or lack of motivation in life. Don’t get me wrong; we all have our faults and flaws. But if you stick your head in the sand to them, and hope being the nice guy will be enough, you’re going to be disappointed. It’s like draping a cashmere throw over a steaming pile of dog doo. Even though it looks “nice,” sensible women can smell it from a mile away. In reality, healthy women want a relationship with a guy who is loving, thoughtful, kind and caring. But he also needs to feel good about who he is as a person, and know internally that he’s lovable. He doesn’t have to label or advertise himself as a nice guy, he’s just him.
Jeff: Early in my dating life, I remember being very disappointed in women who would fall for the “bad boys” and seemed less interested in more available and attentive guys like me. Not wanting to believe that this was what women really wanted, I doubled down on being the antithesis of the bad boy by becoming even more adaptable and accommodating, putting the needs of the women I dated ahead of my own. I did end up attracting more women, but it was the kind of women who wanted relationships that required me to give up a significant part of my own identity in order to play the role of “super nice guy.” Needless to say, that didn’t work out so well for anyone involved.
What I recommend for you is to do what I eventually did: get to know yourself really well. What do you believe in? What are your values? How do you like to spend your time? What are you interested in and passionate about? As you build your stronger identity and become more introspective about who you are as a man, women will become more interested in the real you — the interesting, dynamic, authentic person who will be an asset to a woman’s life, not a liability. If you are too compliant, accommodating, adaptable and flexible (too nice), you will seem too dependent and needy for a woman to want you in her life.
Lori and Jeff: Don’t be a jerk — just make it a priority to be the best version of yourself so can you attract the best version of a partner.
Lori and Jeff are married, licensed psychotherapists and couple-to-couple coaches at Aspen Relationship Institute. Submit your relationship questions to info@AspenRelationshipCoaching.com and your query may be selected for a future column.