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Nice Guys vs. Good Men: What's the Difference?

I enjoy helping people figure out how to maintain healthy relationships, with others and with themselves.

What exactly does it mean to be a nice guy? A good man? Which is better?

What exactly does it mean to be a nice guy? A good man? Which is better?

Codependency and Nice Guy Syndrome

So you're a nice guy. Whoop-de-do. Where has it gotten you?

If this sounds like a conversation you've had with yourself, you've come to the right place. You're about to learn how codependency can make a nice guy lose out on relationships and what to do about it. Be warned: I'm not a nice girl. If anything, I'm quite the opposite. Don't expect diplomacy and tact, because that's not what I'm good at providing. What you will get is a no-holds-barred, honest reality check about whether the problem is them. . . or you.

Are you ready for a potentially rough ride? Then strap in and let's go.

Do Nice Guys Finish Last?

Yes. And no.

The traits that make for a successful relationship aren't always the ones you might expect. While buying your girlfriend nice presents is a nice gesture, it won't make her believe you're a nice guy. Nice men do nice things, but doing nice things doesn't automatically turn a dude into a nice man.

Confused? Don't be. It'll become clear soon enough, but first, I have to muddy things up a little more. You see, nice men often aren't appreciated until they're older—sometimes much older. To help make things clearer, I'll start differentiating between the man who is often disappointed in love and the one who finds success by calling them a "nice guy" or a "good man." Good men are in high demand. Nice guys aren't.

So the three things you'll want to consider before your next date are:

  • "Am I a nice guy, or a good man?"
  • "How do I appear to women?"
  • "Am I choosing the kind of woman who can appreciate me?"
  • "Do I have expectations of her because I've been a nice guy?"

Nice Guy vs. Good Man: What's the Difference?

I love a good man, but nice guys make me gag. Not literally. Unless you count that little bit of puke in the throat when I think of experiences I've had with men who blatantly insisted they were "nice guys" as I was trying to extract myself from their lives.

The differences are so big, and yet so small, but it boils down to this: Good men are comfortable in their skin and want me to be just as comfy in mine. Nice guys, on the other hand, have ulterior motives. Their motives are often fueled by emotional problems like codependency, addiction, and anger, which will eventually cause problems in the relationship. In order to meet their own shortcomings, they resort to manipulative tactics that they may or may not recognize for what they are.

Smart women kick nice guys to the curb as soon as they can! "Nice" women play endless mind games back and forth with them and make life hell.

I'll tell you more about the women in a bit, but first, take a look at these signs of a nice guy and see if any of them fit you. Don't worry, nobody knows what you answer if you don't tell them!

Questionnaire: Are You a "Good Man" or a "Nice Guy"?

  1. Do you get annoyed if you pay for something expensive and she doesn't reciprocate how or when you think she should?
  2. Do you avoid talking or thinking about any evidence that you may not be compatible with her?
  3. Did you fall in love (and tell her so) within your first three dates?
  4. Did you place her on a pedestal? Do you think she's perfect?
  5. Do you often give up things that mean a lot to you in order to make her happy?
  6. To make her happy, do you often do things you don't want to do?
  7. Do you feel personally responsible if she's upset about anything, even if you didn't trigger it?
  8. Do you ignore her flaws or believe she'll change eventually?
  9. Do you want to spend almost all of your free time with her?
  10. Do you feel like you're changing because of her? You might or might not like it.
  11. Do you go to extremes for her, like driving an hour for a goodnight kiss before going home?
  12. Do you feel dejected if she doesn't like the way you did something?
  13. Are you always a gentleman, even if she doesn't seem to appreciate it?
  14. Would you risk your job, health, financial security, or other relationships for her because she's that important to you?

How to Interpret the Results:

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  • 1 Yes: Even saying "yes" to one of these things is a pretty strong indicator that you may have Mr. Nice Guy Syndrome. (Sorry, I just gagged a little again).
  • 2 Yesses: More than two affirmative answers is likely to be a big problem for your relationships.
  • 3 or More Yesses: If you recognized yourself in three or more of these statements, you probably already know how restraining orders work.

Manipulation, Codependency, and Idealization

Manipulation. Affirmative responses to most of these questions is a signal that you are likely to become manipulative. After all, you "do everything to make her happy," so you expect her to make you happy, too. This usually means you expect her to give you what you want. A woman who gives you what you want as a quid pro quo—just because you did something nice for her—isn't going to feel appreciated for very long. Instead of feeling loved for who she is, she'll feel like you only value her for what she can do for your selfish ass! She wants to be your partner, not your puppet.

Codependency. Answering yes to most of these questions also reveals codependency traits. Codependent men and women don't feel very good about themselves most of the time, but feel great when others boost their egos. This is a very simplified explanation of a complex issue, but codependency is nearly always present in people who grew up in homes where alcohol, addiction, or abuse took place. These characteristics prove troublesome because you make your own needs, beliefs, and values less important than hers. . . until you start feeling insignificant. Then you resort to arguments, passive-aggression, manipulation, control, or other unhealthy responses in an attempt to feel worthy again. You're unable to fulfill those needs for yourself, and your partner may not recognize how important they are because you've never shown her.

Notice that some answers fall into both categories, both manipulation and codependency? Codependency often produces power struggles and control issues that may involve manipulative tactics.

Idealization. Positive answers to 2, 3, 4, 8, and 13 are signs that you can't—and don't—see or respect her for who she is. Instead, you see an idealized version that will never measure up once reality sets in.

Nice Guys Are Creeps

Nice guys aren't all that nice once the luster wears off a new relationship. They're a bit creepy, actually. You might be wishing you could tell me how wrong I am and why these things are truly gentlemanly rather than ghastly, but I've heard your arguments before and they're still wrong. I have no reason to lie about what turns women off. I'm happily married. Go ahead and keep your beliefs if you want to, they're not hurting me and you have a right to them.

On the other hand, if you found yourself in those traits above and want to put an end to your less-than-satisfactory love life, do whatever it takes to build your inner confidence and let yourself be imperfect. It'll help all of your relationships, not just the romantic ones.

Some people need professional counseling to achieve lasting change, while sometimes therapists prove to be no help at all. If you're not ready to see a mental health professional or haven't found success in working with one so far, I personally recommend reading No More Mr. Nice Guy by Robert A. Glover because I've known so many guys who say it has changed their lives for the better.

What Makes a Guy "Nice?"

What Women See and What They Miss

I feel a little sad for young men today. Having grown up through the feminist era, I've seen a transition that has taught young women to think of themselves as being "special" without having to invest in others, while men have lost their guidance on what it takes to be a good man. There haven't been many great role models for today's twenty-somethings.

However, people are still people. They have the same basic needs today that our ancestors had. We need to feel capable, competent, accepted, and have our physical needs met. Even without those role models, men and women feel discomfort, anger, joy, pleasure, and pain, and can recognize whether they like or dislike what they feel. Unfortunately, because of those missing role models (or worse, distorted versions that saturate popular media), it may take them much longer to interpret those sensations in a meaningful way.

This means that a good man - one who doesn't look like a young Brad Pitt, who pays his bills on time, who lets his partner be who she is without trying to change her and yet remains true to himself- seems boring to many young women. Those "nice guys" who I just described as creepy actually stand a chance (a small one, but hey!) when they're still young, too.

A woman who hasn't yet experienced a good man might be fooled by a nice guy for a while. Eventually, she'll catch on that deep down he thinks she's inferior. When that happens, she'll fight back or dump him.

Once a good man has shown her what it's like to be appreciated and respected, she'll never see the world in quite the same way. She might fall for a nice guy briefly, but she won't stick around for long. And when she finds a good man, even one who isn't compatible with her, she will always remember him.

She'll feel like he not only listened to her words, but he understood the meaning behind them. She's going to remember how it felt to be trusted, to be able to influence him when it mattered, but to not have so much influence that she felt alone in the relationship. She's going to remember the way he asked, "What do you think?" and the way he said, "That's okay," and meant it - without resentful glances at her from the corner of her eye.

It might not have worked out with him. Perhaps he wasn't as into her as she was him. Maybe she screwed it up by not appreciating just how much better her life was when he was in it, but she won't forget again.

What all this means is that a truly good man might attach himself to a young woman who won't know until she's older just how special he is, and a "nice guy" will only last so long with her in the first place.

If you didn't see yourself in those questions earlier, an unhappy love life means you are on the right track at the wrong time and with the wrong women.

Get on Track by Choosing the Right Woman

If you have nice guy syndrome, the best you can do is find yourself a "nice girl" and endure months or years of power struggles until you make those changes to eliminate your control issues. Sorry, but that's the way it is!

If you've determined that you honestly didn't find yourself in that list, then learning how to spot a woman who is ready for a committed relationship but only with the right man is your key to romantic bliss.

You can't tell if she's a good candidate based on her hotness factor. There are some seriously crazy hotties and NOT!ies out there at both ends of the attractiveness scale. Here are some things that hint that she can recognize (and keep) a good man:

  • Though she may not have hopped into bed after you've paid for dinner, she does find a way to reciprocate the gesture, because she honors her values as well as recognizes others' efforts.
  • She at least offered to pay half because she sees herself as half of the date.
  • When she invites you, she is fully prepared to foot the entire bill. If you insist on paying, she lets you, perhaps, but again finds a way to reciprocate with a thoughtful gift or a nice gesture because she treats others the way she wants to be treated.
  • She is clear about her priorities and can tell you how a relationship stands in comparison to her work, friends, and family. Bonus hint: her relationship's not automatically at the top of her list because she values herself, her time, and her obligations.
  • When you ask, she can give a brief description of why her last relationship didn't work but doesn't go on for hours about it because she is considerate of others' feelings.
  • She might dish about her past relationships if you're open to it, but she doesn't slam her exes with insults because she is mature enough to recognize both the good and bad.

Now Hiring: Good Men (Nice Guys Need Not Apply)

Nice guys are like any of us - struggling to do the best they can with the tools we have. That's fine, but it's just like women who have loads of emotional baggage - some change needs to take place to produce the best results. In the meantime, those misguided traits can wreak a lot of havoc for them and for the women they date.

Good guys struggle too. Like women, they can fall into the trap of looking for passion and excitement rather than compatibility.

Whichever camp you fall into, I hope you find success at your own pace and time. While you're at it, please check out some of these related articles (above) and let me know what you think of what you've seen here.

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