I just finished dating a nice guy. Hallelujah! I found one! Right? Nope. Surprisingly, it was a disaster.
I’ve always wanted to date a good guy. After a string of horrible relationships, I finally wanted to date someone who was just… nice. You know? Like, literally that was it. The long list of demands I used to have for a partner (Brunette! Funny! Emotionally vulnerable but also mysterious! Tattoos but has a good job and is out of the partying phase and doesn’t have roommates and would get along with my parents. No Geminis!) had slowly been whittled down to just one thing: he needs to be kind.
And that’s when I met a boy, who we will call Bartholomew (I’m sorry, but if I’m going to choose a fake name, go big or go home.) Bartholomew was kind. Bartholomew was always nervous before dates and told me he consulted his older, married friends as to where to take me out to dinner. He only wanted to take me to the nicest places.
Bartholomew brought me a different present every time we saw one another and was constantly saying: “whatever you want to do!”
Bartholomew started sleeping over after almost the very first date and the next morning he’d linger around for coffee a little too long. I hated that. I always woke up early and valued the routine of quiet mornings to myself.
He would spoon me all night without ever letting go. He would hold my hand in public and kiss me on the cheek and one time during sex he stopped, looked me dead in the eye, and told me I was so beautiful. *shudders*
We hardly knew each other. That was the problem. Jumping into intimacy when you’ve only just begun dating feels inauthentic. You know what it’s like? Like someone watched an ‘80s rom com or Nancy Meyers movie and is just mimicking the motions of what love should feel like. Bartholomew, on paper, was perfect.
But, funny thing—being nice looked a lot like trying too hard. It looked a lot like someone who was just desperate for love and not at all interested in me. I had to end things. The relationship wasn’t helping either of us grow as people.
Here is the bad thing about nice guys.
There’s a misconception that nice guys may be perceived as weak. That’s not exactly the case—but men, I get it. It’s not weakness we fear, it’s lack of self-worth we think we’re spotting. We want a pillar to lean against, not a doormat to walk on. (Side note: If you’ve chosen a nice girl, she won’t walk on you period, regardless of your behaviors.)
It’s really not being kind that’s the problem. We want nice! But we also need independence. We need you to have a voice. An opinion. Your entire world can’t revolve around making us happy. You need to be happy too. And making you happy makes us happy. Get it? There’s a great scene in the new Netflix show Love when the main character, Gus, is being broken up with for essentially being too nice. He’s confused (understandably) and asks his girlfriend what it is she wants. She screams: “I just want you to be true to yourself!”
We don’t want you to be bad. We just want you to have a backbone.
I heard someone say once “if you spot it, you got it.” That someone was my therapist and she was so expensive I had to stop going to her. But I held on to that wisdom. Essentially, Bartholomew’s behaviors bothered me because I used to be that person in relationships with men. I was the girl who dyed her hair brown because her crush said he liked brunettes. I once bought an entirely new wardrobe because my boyfriend said he liked girls who dressed super feminine, and I wore all black. I’d spent years being a people pleaser, a doormat, wandering around like an identity-less chameleon and seeing those behaviors in someone else were painful.
It took a string of failed relationships and a slew of men taking advantage of my kindness to realize that the problem was with me. I needed to find myself, and I couldn’t do that while I was with someone else. I think Bartholomew needed some time alone too.
Moral of the story is: fall in love. Fall in love hard. Enjoy romance and crushes and butterflies and courtship and all the wonderful feelings that maybe we resist feeling these days because we’re too busy swiping on dating apps. Be nice. Be kind to one another. But whatever you do—don’t lose yourself in the process. Sometimes, it’s okay if you come first.