I’ve resisted posting things based on my personal life mostly because I don’t know who reads this site. (Or paradoxically, because I know exactly who reads this site). However, I think the following observations might be useful to enough loyal readers to warrant revealing part of my personal life to the public.
Skipping most of the back-story, I recently went out with someone. We had a total of two dates in the span of roughly three weeks1 and things were going relatively smoothly.2 This past Friday, I called her up to wish her a “Shabbat Shalom” and to shmooze for a bit. Long story short, after telling me how nice I am, what a great guy I am, and what a great time she had, she said she didn”t want to continue dating because she couldn”t see it going anywhere, or in her words, “I can”t see us raising grandchildren together.” 3
This is hardly the first time this has happened to me, and I think it”s happened to several other guys as well. We”re nice, considerate, otherwise great guys and perhaps what a person is looking for, but for some reason this isn’t enough.
This used to frustrate me greatly. Honestly, I don’t hold a grudge against anyone – everyone is entitled to make decisions which they feel will gring them the greatest happiness. However, being at U of C pretending to be an academic, I decided to analyze this phenomenon. And like all good pseudo-academics, we have to first define our terms. What makes a guy a “nice” guy” My experience is that generally they will have several of – but not limited to – the following characteristics: kind, polite, sensitive, considerate of others feelings and emotions, often funny, often intelligent, good sense of the world, and will treat someone with respect. Sounds like a “nice guy,” no? If you’re female, it might sound like a typical shidduch offer, and odds are you’d be turned off immediately. If you meet someone like this in a normal setting, you might like him, but only as a friend – even though he might be a perfect match for you.4
Why then is it that the nice guys so often finish last? How can being nice actually be a turn off and harm someone”s chances for a meaningful relationship? I think the answer can be found in an old adage which usually has a different connotation:
“Why buy the cow, when you can get the milk for free?”
The usual interpretation is that since men are only interested in one thing. Once they get it, they would see no need for a commitment i.e. marriage. I think the same logic holds true for women. Assume the popular myth that women want an emotional connection of some sort. If there is a “nice guy” around, she can the emotional support she needs from someone without having to commit. She may be able to confide in him, have him work around her apartment, help her with just about any crisis, and she doesn”t have to make any sort of commitment back to him. The guy will obviously put up with it, because after all, he’s “nice” and this is what nice people do.
So if there’s a person who is willing to do all this for you – with nothing in return, why would you consider a serious relationship with this person” You can go find someone else who is cooler, richer, better looking, or anything else and still have that “nice” person around when you need him or if nothing else works out.
Cow, Milk, Free.
I should note that there can be exceptions – in my case roughly 1.5 exceptions.5 But overall, I see that there can be a few options and I”m opening this up to discussion. What should people like me – us “nice guys” – do to get out of this?
The poll is open and will be for about two weeks. Comment as necessary below.
Poll Has Been Closed
See the followup post: Waiting On A Friend
The poll has now been closed, You may still view the results or if you’re too lazy to click the link:
43% – Stay nice – Something good will turn up eventually (29 votes)
3% – Stay nice – might not work for you, but why should everyone else lose out” (2 votes)
49% – Stay nice – just stop being such a wimp (33 votes)
6% – Get a complete attitude adjustment – might require mental reprogramming and/or labotomy (4 votes)
1. We were supposed to have had a third date sometime in there, but I got stood up.
2. Intentionally omitting details.
3. Which reminded me of the most comical breakup line I once got from someone in Israel: “I can”t go out with you anymore, because if I keep speaking to you, it would be bad.” How true. How very true.
4. I’m not talking about guys who come on too strong. I can understand how guys who throw themselves at women aren’t terribly attractive, and could probably use the system
5. No, I will not elaborate.
Good post, and I think the theory holds water, to a degree.
If possible, you should add a “gender” input to the poll; interesting to see the difference in responses.
You’re right about the gender-poll thing, but it’s a free poll and I’m not about to start coding anything fancy right now.
So she ditched you after telling you how nice you are? And you think the problem is that you’re nice?
Now, nice can be a problem. Been there, done that. But when it’s time to tell someone that it’s not working out, you can either be nice about it, or rotten. Most people opt for nice. And part of the nice goodbye is rehearsing just what a great guy you are…. except that it’s not working out.
My standard break-up line, if I have a sense (or know) that the girl might be interested, is “I had a great time, and I really enjoyed meeting you, but I don’t think that it’s going to work out”, even if I had a horrible time. So I don’t think you can read too much into the break-up reasons during the first few dates, since they’re usually just standard at that stage, when you don’t really know the other person that well.
Being yourself is definitely the way to go – what else are you going to do, put on an act for the next 60 years?
All people relish a challenge. You are making yourself too available. Play hard to get. Like you said, ‘cow, milk, free.’
A few clarifications:
Reb Yudel and Dater — I know that the “you’re really nice but…” lines might just be a cop out and a way to avoid insulting someone. E.g. Saying “I don’t like the way you look” won’t go over so well. I would condend that it might be possible to confirm if someone would ask a mutual friend what she really thought bec she might tell someone else something she wouldn’t tell you directly.
However, I think the “nice” phenomenon extends beyond the typical shidduch dating, and certainly beyond the anectode which I described. I’ve noticed it happens even when women meet someone “normally” and just aren’t interested at all, and perhaps bec of the niceness.
Diana — I also acknowledged the challenge aspect. However, I think there is a big difference between treating someone well, and throwing yourself at someone.
To future commenters – the specific example was only the impetus for writing this, but it was not determined by this one instance. This is why I didn’t need to elaborate on many of the details which would have also addressed several of the comments.
As a girl who truly is looking for a nice guy, I feel like if a girl will use the fact that you are “too nice” as a reason for breaking up with you, then she is not very mature or ready to face what it really takes to be married. She is looking for the storybook romance and passion which are fun for a while but ultimately you end up looking and seeing that you don’t have much in common with the person and there are probably going to be major issues to work out. My issue with “nice” guys is the ones I have met have often lacked a personality or intelligence.
OK. I presented thsi theory to Josh personally and he said that he didn’t want to stir up too much controversy (what a nice guy! [sic]).
I however, have no such concerns and I will accept your flamings gracefully. So here’s the theory:
The cow-milk theory presented by Josh has a cardinal flaw in that in only explains one side of a two sided coin. While some women may take for granted a happy, friendly guy, not all women have this. And yet, for some reason, many of these women are attracted to the rebel, the rule breaker, the guys who are so self-centered and only look into a woman’s eyes to see their own reflections. Dating these people often lead to an uneven relationship where the woman is forced into a submissive role, and in the worst cases abused verbally or physically.
So why go there? One need not be a Tennessee Williams to see that women are often attracted to “the wrong guy” and often cannot bring themselves to escape an abusive relationship.
Is it possible that there is anthropological reasons behind this behaviour?
Perhaps, in the collective-conscience, women WANT to be dominated and want a man who can be worshipped. Someone they need more than he needs them. Obviously, this could be related to Genesis 3:16, from a religious perspective or the Woman’s primordial dependence on her husband for food and shelter in the more Jungian, anthropologist perspective. Comments, criticisms and death threats are welcome at email@example.com but be aware that I will be heavily armed this month.
Women want to be made to feel special. If a guy is nice to everyone, then when he is nice towards that woman he is dating, she does not feel he is doing it out of affection for her; it merely reflects his general predisposition. However, if the guy is not particularly nice, but is nice towards her, it makes a woman feel loved.
In response to Anon (a clever pseudonym): a wise man (Dave Barry) once said, “A person who is nice to you, but rude to the waiter, is not a nice person.”
I just wanted to add that this is not something that exclusively happens to men. I have also heard more times than I care to remember, “You seem really nice, but just not for me.” It is just as annoying for a girl to hear as it is for a guy.
I tell men they are nice when they are, in fact, nice. I break up with men if/when I decide that a permanent relationship with them is not in the cards. These two statements are entirely unrelated, except that — as others have pointed out — I am usually at pains to assure the man in question that we are breaking up because of a flaw in our relationship, not in his personality. (And I don’t bother dating anyone I wouldn’t consider nice.)
I think the subsequent comments validate my earlier point. Reasons given for a breakup during the first few dates, when the parties don’t know each other that well, are just boilerplate, and shouldn’t be over-analyzed.
Since this stuff is scripted during the early stages of a set-up relationship anyways, the question arises – why not adopt the more yeshivish custom of communicating through an intermediary at that stage?
Dater — Word.
The last time I dated a boy, when he was ready to drop the shadkhan I pleaded with him not to.
“Do we have to drop him? Do we really have to?”
Oh, how I love my little security blankets.
Good post wish I read it years ago could have saved me some grief. The reality of it is this the term nice is B.S. its a generic word that gets thrown around way too much and it means nothing. Its basically at least in my opinion one step up above saying well at least hes able to groom himself without help. Anyone can be nice, you can be a nice a-hole. I’m at the point where I almost wish a girl would just say you know your real blankety blank at least it would be a change of pace.
Glad to know your still referencing one of the best dating sites for guys that i know.
As far as nice guys go… there’s a difference (which we’ve discussed) between being a nice guy and making yourself too available. Every girl learns not to do this (Thanks Cosmo… though unfortunately, it’s hard to internalize). Guys need to learn how to do this too, esp. at the beginning of the relationship.
Sometimes people *just don’t* want to be with us, and it’s not for any reason they can articulate even to themselves. They just don’t feel like it. It’s horrible to be on the receiving end–heaven knows I know. You want to be able to say, “geez, if I’d a gotten my hair to lie down, I’d a gotten him to lie down,” and in saying it feel like you have some understanding, if not control, of what happened. But mostly there’s no understanding. De gustibus.
This doesn’t mean that you should relinquish all responsibility, be a swine, not bathe, all that. Of course one should work on glaring problems. But even as little acquainted with you as I am, I wouldn’t say you have a glaring problem. (Gee, thanks, Sarah, you’re really too kind. ;-) So. Patience.
I juat want to let you know. it’s much better for a girl to say good bye to you…by telling you that u are nice and not a jerk! because it means that she think s that u really are a nice and good person. and that some lucky girl would really appreciate you and honor you in the right way that will lead towards the marrige. all she is saying , is that she doesn’t see the two of your personalities leading to a marrige. i think it’s very nice of her to let you know now , if she saw afte 2 dates and phone calls that it won’t work out. cause why waste the precious time of the two of your going on…if it won’t lead to anywhere. i on the fip side…said the same thing to a guy about 2 months ago. he took it hard…and didn’t understand what he did wrong to me. was it something he told me? something he said to me? how did he mess things up? well after i understood thats the way he took it. i told him i’d stay friends with him…but thats all i see, i don’t see any other potentiol since i think our ideals in life are diffrent and we aren’t exactly on the same page in life. he told me np….friends is all he wants (well stupid me…he just said that..because thats the only thing i offered)…just thispast sterday night when i went to meet him as a friend. i noticed him asking me “is this the way u would act with your other boyfriends”? meaning he still saw me as something more then a friend , which means he never really excepted in him to be just a friend of mine.
thats why i think it’s very nice of that girl tat u dated who told you flat out what she believed. i think it’s in your benefit. and hopefully the right girl will come.
if something dind’t make sense here…i would love to clarrify myself (and sorry about the spelling mistakes..it’s getting late here..and i’m tired).
Also, on the point of there being nothing majorly wrong with you. My girlfriends who are the most “mainstream” and “eligible” are the ones who often just can’t understand why someone wouldn’t want another date. “What could it be?” they ask.
I, however, being on the shidduch equivalent of the planet Mars, am perfectly accustomed to a guy just not feeling like it. If he’d thought I was just too weird, he wouldn’t have asked me out; if he hadn’t thought I looked pretty good in that dress, he wouldn’t have asked me out again. He knew from Convert! Texas! Prosthetic Leg! Possibly Smarter than Him! Kinda Weird! before he even called me, and he had me anyway, so it’s just the gestalt that he doesn’t want. No harm in that. I’ve felt the same way myself about guys, we all have.
Point being: if there’s something glaringly odd about you, in shidduch terms, then you learn early on that there will be people who truly *aren’t* bothered by whatever but STILL don’t want you. OK. But people without some major oddity, I find, have more trouble accepting that some people just don’t want. So I ask you–do you want a girl who can’t appreciate derech eretz and emotional availability? Do I want someone who could even tolerate living with a nice Brovender’s girl? Ah, I thought not.
Nice guys don’t finish last, that’s just what the mean guys say so you’d join them. I’ll take one of your poll answers and say, stay nice but don’t be a wimp. Girls want a nice, sensitive, caring guy, but other times they just need you to forget all that and take some action! You may really be a nice guy but it just doesn’t “click.” Would you rather they tell you the real reason they broke up with you? Some people can’t just handle the truth…
Just so Josh doesn’t bust a gasket on this, I will point out that the last six or seven posts, up till but not including the one by SIW, were completely off topic. Josh was not looking for a dating pep-talk he was testing a theory taht the comments didn’t address. It is possible that y’all side with Steven I that the “nice guys finish last” axiom is just wrong. If so, say so. I still think there is a lot of empirical proof to the contrary.
I was once told by a banker that the secret of getting a mortgage is proving you don’t need one. Is this true in the dating world, too? Do you have to be aloof and even bitter to your potential spouse in order to be taken seriously. Josh says “Yes!” and states that empirical proof exists, though he does not wish to reveal it for valid Lashon Haraa avoidance.
I hope you all enjoyed the short lesson in reading logic and reading comprehension. I think we all agree that Josh should not give up and cloister himself (would that involve moving back to the heights [sic]). The only Q is the one he positted and I would also like to hear a girl answer. Is it a big turn off for a guy to treat you with respect be gerally helpful and fling woo like nobody’s business (we’re talking romance not wimpiness)?
It’s not a turn off at all, ‘fling all the woo you want. (Little presents are just as much appreciated as big presents.) Just keep in mind that while you’re doing that, she’s not seeing the real you. All she sees is someone who knows how to pick out a nice bouquet of flowers, not someone on whom she can rely and depend for the rest of her life. [BTW, who’s SIW and where do you see his post?]
Well, I’m not a girl anymore, I’m a 37 year old married woman with a baby. Also not frum, so no experience of shidduch dates. But I have a comment.
Yes, it’s true that not feeling desperate is helpful when you are trying to attract a mate. It worked for me, in fact. I had a moment of clarity at Rosh HaShanah services one year, that while I did want to get married, I didn’t want to just get married to someone, anyone, hurry up already. I saw a former high school classmate, a very handsome, perfectly nice man with a wife and baby and thought: “I could have married someone like him” and then immediately thought “and I could have been lonely and bored for the rest of my life! I’d better continue to develop my inner resources, so that if I am stuck between someone who bores me and singleness, I will make the right choice.”
In the fall of that year, I met the man who would become my husband and we fell in love. I was relaxed, not desperate. it was fun!
On the other hand, the reason that your erstwhile girlfriends are turning you into “just a friend” is not a rejection of you because you are nice. It is a reflection of their esteem for you, that even though they don’t want to marry you, they really like you. Those are the people who could introduce your to your besherte. Don’t throw that opportunity out the window.
And whatever you do, don’t act like a jerk because you think women like that. We don’t like that, unless we are psychologically damaged. Since you want to marry someone with good mental health, don’t act like a jerk.
I’ll be checking this blog now so I get to see when you find your person and get married.
I see a lot of nice guys who are very nebbishy. They have no sparkle in their eye, no vitality, no individuality. Often they are also sartorial slobs or overweight or have poor posture, but often they are objectively good-looking and take care of themselves. They are just boring. Sometimes they come across as depressed.
I have met guys who are overweight slobs, and ugly to boot, who have some confidence and humor and sense of themselves that is very attractive. They are also polite, considerate, etc.
Nice is a must have quality in a boyfriend/husband, but so are many other things. Nice is being a mensch – we should all be that anyway. But then there’s personality.
I am not suggesting you are boring or any of the rest of it – I don’t know you. But guys seem to think that being nice should be enough and they get bitter when it isn’t. Well, do you want to marry every nice girl you date? No. You want other qualities in addition to nice. That doesn’t mean you only get attracted to “bad girls,” just like women don’t only get attracted to “bad boys.”
I have dated both mean and nice guys. Compatibility, to me, seems to have nothing to do with this quality, but rather, how I feel I click with the person. If someone is nice, but boring, I can’t be bothered. I’ve put up with someone that blows me off sometimes, because when we were together, the moon and stars revolved around me.
In defense of your theory, however, I have found that the meaner I am, the nicer the guys are to me. The nicer I am, the more I get stepped on. The irony is that I am only mean to the ones that I don’t really care about, thus the ones I don’t care about like me.
Life is hard then you die. What can I say?
Sorry to comment so late, but I just saw it now.
When they say “You’re a nice guy”, they mean “I am not attracted to you.” It’s a way of terminating the relationship with minimal perceived hurt feelings, and minimal use of difficult language. Understand it, accept it, and life will be better.
The same goes for “Let’s just be friends”, which was so common back when I was dating that we simply called it LJBF for short.
Menat to add “in 99.9% of the cases” to the above comment.
I agree with Mark, but I also want to tell you my POV on why men who are perceived as “nice guys” seem to attract fewer women.
It’s about the sex appeal. Women are attracted to men with a bit of a harder edge, men who exude a confident, masculine, comfort with themselves type of aura. They can be nice too.
I was attracted to my husband because he has a quiet strength about him. He is good looking without being vain or needing his ego stroked. He doesn’t allow people to step on him, knows his own mind and can be stubborn at times. I can’t push him around and I wouldn’t respect him if he did.
At the same time, he is very loving and nurturing. He is certainly “nice.”
Agree with Mark and especially TO. Nice is great, everyone likes a nice guy, but not always enough to attract a life long partner. Is nice going to keep the woman interested/excited for the rest of her life? If that is the guy’s foremost trait, maybe it would help to define what type of woman finds “nice” to be of utmost importance.