“I just don’t get it Rob, I don’t know what went wrong with our relationship. I loved her, I literally did everything for her, always went out of my way to make her happy, bought her whatever she wanted, emotionally supported her whenever she needed it, and the end of it all, it lead to a world full of heartbreak, distrust, and an utter resentment towards women.”– Former Student, Recovering Nice Guy
We’ve all seen that trope and character device used in thousands of films and TV shows: the nice guy protagonist who serves as the hero we can relate to in whatever story. In terms of characteristics, he’s a guy we can all relate to in some way, shape or form. He’s either very smart but physically weak, has low social status, low confidence, not blessed in the looks department, or a combination of all these traits.
Our protagonist goes through a crucible for the bulk of the story, where he fights the stronger and more dominant adversary, defeats him, and at the end of the story wins over his beautiful and high-status love interest and rides off into the sunset.
I’d hate to break it to you, but life doesn’t work this way. If it did, we’d all be riding off into the sunset with Olivia Culpo riding shotgun in a convertible with piles of cash in the trunk.
As I’ve already mentioned many times before, in my line of work, I’ve worked with and coached men from various walks of life. One of the most common types that I’ve come across were men that we refer to as “recovering nice guys.”
That doesn’t mean we train men with Nice Guy Syndrome to become the polar opposite. What a lot of people don’t understand is that Nice Guy Syndrome stems from deep-seated emotional baggage and traumas that we’re not going to get into in this article. For more information, listen to our podcast with Dr. Robert Glover, a world renowned expert who specializes in effectively dealing with this phenomenon.
What is Nice Guy Syndrome?
“Nice Guy” is a term used to describe a man ranging from the ages of adolescence, young adulthood, to occasionally middle age, where he feels entitled to date a girl simply because he has been her best friend, constantly goes out of his way for her, and in some cases lets her cry on his shoulder about another guy she’s frustrated about.
When the nice guy’s love interest rejects his advances, whether it be emotionally or romantically, he chooses to blame it on her and guilt her into some kind of relationship with him because of the fact that he’s such a nice guy and that she’s only attracted to jerks.
While this definition only scratches the surface of this phenomenon, it doesn’t cover all the bases. Let’s look into the motivations of a guy afflicted with “Nice Guy Syndrome.”
A nice guy’s primary goal is to make other people happy (not to be confused with genuine compassion and kindness). Men afflicted with “Nice Guy Syndrome” are motivated and specifically dependent upon external validation and avoid conflicts or any type of confrontation like the plague. They are guided by three covert contracts that they’re not consciously aware of:
- “If I’m a good guy, then everyone will love me, like me, and people I’m sexually attracted to will desire me.”
- “If I take care of other people’s needs without them having to ask, then they will meet my needs without me having to ask for anything in return.”
- “If I do everything right, then I will have a smooth and problem-free life.”
While these three statements sound completely asinine and unrealistic, on an unconscious level, nice guys actually believe in some variation or form of these covert contracts. Because most nice guys believe they have kept their end of the bargain, they often feel resentful and helpless when other people don’t fulfill their end of the contract.
Characteristics & Traits of Nice Guys
- Has a significant other or dominant female figure in his life who will lead, dictate, and scrutinize his every action and run the show.
- Often goes out of his way, even if it’s incredibly inconvenient and completely illogical, while his own life seems to be completely out of order.
- Often agrees with everyone and changes his viewpoints to appease, make the other person happy, and avoid conflict.
- Will let anyone walk completely over him because he doesn’t want to rock the boat. (Think of Marty McFly’s dad from Back to the Future.)
- Is completely dependable and will never say no to anything, but will never assert himself or let people know they’re imposing on him.
- Often seeks the validation and approval of others.
- Tries to hide his perceived flaws and mistakes.
- Always puts other people’s wants and needs before his own. (There is nothing wrong with putting other people you care about before yourself, but nice guys take this to the extreme.)
- Sacrifices his personal power, space, and boundaries and often reverts to playing the victim role.
- Is often disconnected from other men and his own masculinity.
- Often engages in self-loathing.
- Idealizes women and becomes passive aggressively manipulative and resentful towards women who have rejected him romantically or sexually.
- Often fails to live up to his full potential.
- Is often passive aggressive.
- Stays in one-sided and often toxic and abusive relationships.
- Is inherently deceptive and manipulative.
- Frequently gets friend-zoned.
- Often has ulterior motives.
- Is often indecisive.
- Is emotionally needy.
Disclaimer: For the sake of explaining this phenomenon, just take the next few paragraphs at face value, we don’t condone any sexism or sexist viewpoints.
There are many factors and variables that play into how men become afflicted with Nice Guy Syndrome. It all goes back to that argument of nature vs. nurture. Much of our personality is formed in childhood and into adolescence. With how western society has evolved in the last 100 years, a lot of variables factor into how boys are socialized as they grow up.
With the rise in divorces, a lot of boys don’t get a chance to grow up with a strong male figure in their household to model their behavior after, bond with, and establish their masculinity. Some mothers have also developed very skewed and unrealistic perceptions of how men should be, which they socialize into their boys from a young age. The education system is predominantly dominated by women, which further reinforces those previous points.
Between young boys growing up with no adult male role models, high divorce rates, and the rise of radical feminism that has demonized, emasculated, and shamed men for everything wrong with modern society and added to the confusing narrative of how men should behave, these macro viewpoints play into why Nice Guy Syndrome is so prevalent today. Hollywood also reinforces the “nice guys finish first” narrative with romantic comedies, which leads to more confusion among young males.
Upbringing plays a huge role in the development of these behaviors. The role model for a young boy is his father. Men who suffer with Nice Guy Syndrome often had weak or absent fathers during their upbringing. They never had a chance to bond or develop the framework for what it means to be a man or how a man should behave.
Even if a masculine adult male was present in their son’s upbringing, he might have also been physically or emotionally abusive. This causes young boys to internalize the belief that they want to be the extreme polar opposite of their father or stepfather, often leading to a flawed strategy. While it’s good that the nice guy will toss out the abusive traits and character flaws of his father or stepfather, he will also toss out the sensible and reasonable traits such as leading, being dominant, and being assertive.
Lastly, incredibly strict parents or dominant older siblings have the potential to make a young boy internalize beliefs that his needs are less important than the needs of others. Parents who are socially or culturally conservative or very religious may raise boys who end up confused about their sexuality, how their gender should behave, and be ashamed of their sexual desires.
5 Tips to Overcome Nice Guy Syndrome
1. Have boundaries; they are healthy & sexy.
For an in-depth guide on how to build strong boundaries, please check out this Guide to Strong Relationship Boundaries.
Nice guys don’t have clear limits for what they regard as acceptable behavior. Don’t compromise your values or what you believe in for short-term benefits. Understand that you can’t please everyone and that it’s okay.
Even if it’s a girl who’s beautiful and physically attractive, don’t tolerate her bad behavior, and don’t be afraid to walk away if she doesn’t respect you or your values. The same goes for other people in your life.
2. Hang out with ambitious people and men that you respect.
You are the average of the five people you choose to surround yourself with, whether you choose to believe it or not. Don’t surround yourself with people who aren’t going to help you grow, change, and evolve.
3. Understand that women are human too.
Whatever idealized vision or viewpoint you have about women, understand that like you, they are not perfect. You should neither idolize them and put them on a pedestal nor demonize them and look down upon them. Accept that fact and start treating women as your equal.
4. Embrace your masculinity; don’t be ashamed of it.
If there’s one reason why nice guys always deserve to finish last, it’s that they are inherently dishonest. Yes, I said it, nice guys are dishonest. You should never be afraid to go for what you want as a man, whether it’s a passion, hobby, career, and even women you’re attracted to.
Don’t lie or bullshit yourself about what you want as a man. Go out there and risk failure and embarrassment if you have to, because you’re only lying to yourself if you don’t go for what you want. Whether others think your dreams and goals are stupid or not, who cares? Only you should care about what you think at the end of the day.
5. Refer to the following two articles.
I’m not one for self-promotion, but for the sake of grabbing your life by the balls, please read, refer to, and implement the tips in these articles to overcome your “Nice Guy Syndrome” once and for all.
‘Til Next Time,