Friendly but no-nonsense relationship and dating advice for women in their 20s and 30s, from the guy perspective. Come back for biweekly posts and "tips of the week." Skip to the advice...
Anyone who's been watching this season of ABC's "The Bachelor" knows that Bachelor Brad wasn't supposed to be a nice guy. After all, a few seasons ago it was the same Brad Womack who famously rejected all of the women on the show (the only time that's happened). But if you're watching this season -- even if you've only seen one episode -- you probably have a very different impression. On each date Brad is incredibly attentive and caring, so much so that he often seems sincerely on the verge of falling in love with almost every woman he's with. Brad listens to his dates, he's sensitive to their fears and needs, and he frequently sacrifices his own comfort in large and small ways to help make the women more comfortable. In other words, he's a nice guy.
Of course, at the end of each episode, Brad has to "break up" with at least one woman on the show by choosing not to give her a rose and sending her home. That's not his fault; it's the way the show is set up. But after watching Brad gush about each of the women, week after week, and then sending them away one by one, you couldn't be blamed for questioning his sincerity. If he really thought Britt was a woman that "any guy would be lucky to have," as he told her, or that Alli or Shawntel were women he could see himself spending the rest of his life with, as he told them, then why did he send them home? Answer: Brad's a nice guy.
So what does Brad being a nice guy have to do with you? Well, if you're really, really lucky, the next nice guy you're into will be nice because he's deeply attracted to you, sees that there's a connection, and knows he wants to pursue that connection and form a lasting relationship. But as Brad demonstrates, that's not the only reason guys are nice. And as Brad also demonstrates, sleeping with you is not the only other reason guys are nice (even though this is what many women conclude). Because Brad is nice to women he knows he doesn't want to sleep with or have a relationship with. You might say that's just because Brad was raised to be polite and attentive to women, the way every guy should be raised. But that's not the whole picture.
Us nice guys (yes, I've been one too) want to make women feel special because it makes us feel special. If we were to go on a date and be polite but not show any interest, we worry that we wouldn't seem like the special, nice guys we know we are. But what if we're not really interested? It doesn't matter: sometimes it just seems more troubling to convey non-interest than it is to make a date feel special. After all, if you feel special, the nice guy you're on a date with also gets the reward of feeling special himself. It sounds crazy, but the need to be perceived as a nice guy is a powerful force in the subconscious of many of us nice guys.
Of course, eventually the nice strategy stops working, which may be why some supposedly nice guys you've known have suddenly stopped calling you, or started arguments for no reason, or simply disappeared. In retrospect this makes total sense, because telling you that you're not special to him is one thing a nice guy is never likely to be particularly good at.
Nice guys can't shoulder all the blame here, though; there's a lot women can do to be more perceptive about what constitutes true interest from a guy. To help you figure out whether a guy is really into you or just being nice, here are a few tips from the guy perspective:
- Make him talk, and listen to what he says. If a guy is just being nice but not really interested in you, he won't want to spend a lot of time talking about himself. A lot of women on "The Bachelor" quickly trusted Brad and told him all about their lives, but if they didn't also get him talking, it's not surprising they were blindsided when he sent them off the show.
- Pay attention to signals. If a guy seems really nice and into you but is often busy, doesn't return calls or texts promptly, talks about your shared connection in general terms (like Brad's "a woman any guy would be lucky to have"), or otherwise seems hard to pin down, he might just be a nice guy and nothing more.
- Don't confuse your own feelings for his. Your growing feelings for a guy do not automatically mean he has growing feelings for you. If you're feeling tentative, trust that feeling a little, and make sure you're both in a similar pace before letting your emotions loose.