Dear Sara: My therapist was telling me that there is a certain pattern in my relationships and that I should rather go for the nice guy to become happy with a man. She tells me that my loving feelings for a man are a sign of “active patterns.” She told me “take the nice guy and you´ll see that after a while you will feel some kind of ‘belonging together,’ and this is what real love is all about.”
If this is what real love is all about, I’d rather remain single! I already tried with nice guys twice in my life. I was rather running away than having feelings of “belonging together.” What do you think? — K
Dear K: I both agree and disagree with your therapist. On one hand, I’m absolutely in favor of choosing nice people to date. Because what’s the alternative: people who aren’t nice?
Unkind people often have attractive qualities. They might be really great looking, or funny, or adventurous. The good times make it easy to overlook the times when they treat you badly—when they neglect to call when they say they will, or when they vaguely dismiss you in front of their friends. In fact, that uncertainty can be an aphrodisiac. Because you’re never sure exactly where you stand, you feel on edge. That can feel upsetting, but also exciting—especially when they suddenly turn the charm back on and you get that rush of relief and happiness. It can feel like a drug. I say this from experience.
So your therapist suggests the “nice guy,” and assures you that you will grow to love him. Well, maybe. But maybe not. Niceness is an essential quality, but it’s not the ONLY quality. You still need to need to feel a connection—emotionally, intellectually, physically.
And that hasn’t happened for you yet. When you’re with a nice guy, you feel itchy and claustrophobic. Does that mean you have an issue where you’re unable to be with a good man, that you have an addiction to the rush that comes from dating the jerk who goes hot-and-cold?
It might. I think it’s worth examining why you want to bolt when you’re with a man who shows up on time and listens to what you have to say. Kindness and respect shouldn’t be a turn-off.
Then again, maybe you’re just not that into the particular nice guys you’ve been with. If you selected them for their niceness only, regardless of whether you have anything in common, it’s no surprise that dating them feels like eating a big plate of broccoli. You know it’s good for you, but you long for chocolate cake.
It doesn’t have to be one or the other. There are people who are cute and fun and treat others with kindness and respect. There are also plenty of people who are ugly and mean, in addition to being crashingly dull.
Bottom line: It’s hard to find the right match. Some people get lucky and meet that person without much effort, and some people aren’t very picky. But for many of us, the search can be long and frustrating. But not doomed. Just because you haven’t found the right fit yet doesn’t mean you won’t.
My suggestion: Get very clear on what you need in a relationship, and trust your instincts. There is nothing wrong with saying you need to feel physically attracted to your partner. There is nothing wrong with saying you want to enjoy talking to him. Frankly, I can’t imagine being in a relationship without good conversation and chemistry.
But I also can’t imagine being with someone who didn’t treat me well. Yes, in the past I’ve gotten sucked into relationships with not-so-nice guys, but these days nothing could sound more boring.
Sara Eckel is a personal coach and the author of It’s Not You: 27 (Wrong) Reasons You’re Single. You can get a free bonus chapter of her book at saraeckel.com. You can also find her on Twitter and Facebook. Ask her questions here.