Avoid The Nice Guy Trap

One of the complaints I hear all the time from men (and that I used to make all the time) is that women, and in our case Christian women, always seem to choose the bad guy over the good guy.  If you are a consistent reader hear then you know that I would say that is the wrong view of a real issue.

Here is what women do – they choose the guy they are attracted to over the one they aren’t.

There are a lot of men who say that women should date them because they can be a great husband, are trying to be godly etc, even though they are not, for whatever reason attractive to women.  I would ask that guy, are you asking out women you know to be godly that you are not attracted to?  I’m guessing no.

So rather than sit around and complain, maybe we should think about what is attractive and work on it.

This leads us right back into something that I’ve written about before but I want to address in a different way.  If “nice” guys are not attractive, why do we continue to be nice and how do we keep getting into that spot.

If we are the nice guy, chances are that we will keep getting friend zoned by women.  Maybe eventually a woman, after being with enough “not nice guys” will decide to choose the nice guy, but usually that leads to a marriage that isn’t super successful either.

Today I want to talk about why we think we should be or need to be nice.  Later I want to talk about how to get out of it.

There are lots of reasons that men, especially Christian men, fall into the “nice” trap.  Here are a few.

We think that if we are nice, that it will be reciprocated.  

This of course isn’t actually being nice for niceness sake.  It’s being a player in it’s own way.  In other words I like the girl so I’ll be really nice.  I’ll meet her needs.  I’ll buy here stuff.  I’ll listen to her problems and “minister” to her.  And if I help her enough, surely she will want to be with me.  Except that she won’t.  And if she does it won’t be because you did those things.  Forgetting the fact that this is just as manipulative as any other “game” move, it is not typically effective.

The Church has taught men that if they are nice (or Godly or servants or . . .), women will be attracted.

Making matters worse is the fact that most in the church teach their men this.  They say, serve the woman, protect the woman, rescue the woman, listen to the woman.  I’m not saying that we shouldn’t do those things.  But what I am saying is that those things will not make you attractive to her.  And getting mad about it won’t change that.

You cannot serve your way to attraction.  You cannot buy your way to attraction.

I know you’ve seen the romantic movies (made for women) where the guy buys the flowers or rescues the damsel.  But go back and re-watch those movies.  When was the girl attracted?  Seriously.  Think about it.

Often we think that we can “save” the girl and if we do then she will want to be with us.  I know I thought this a lot.  But it just doesn’t work that way.  Look, the hero isn’t attractive because he is nice – he’s attractive because he is strong, brave, and doesn’t need anything back from the person he’s saving.

We equate being nice with being good.

This is a false dichotomy.  Nice does not always equal good.  You see someone doing something wrong.  What’s the nice get along thing to do?  What’s the right thing to do?

Jesus was not nice . . . at all really.  He was for sure good.  He called out stuff.  He was fully confident in who He was.  He didn’t need anything from anyone other than God. Remember in The Chronicles of Narnia? Aslan (the Jesus character) was a lion for heaven’s sake.  Not safe, but good.  There’s a difference.

We are scared.

Finally the reason a lot of guys are nice is because they are afraid.  Afraid of rejection.  Afraid of not being liked.  Afraid of conflict.  Afraid of tension.

This fear causes many men to not approach women at all.  It causes others to do it extremely poorly.  It also causes husbands to not lead their wives.  Avoiding conflict and tension with women is a terrible plan.  I had a mentor who said that most men are afraid of their wives.  Look around you and tell me it’s not true.  Happy wife, happy life right?  Really what we mean is don’t deal with crap and then we won’t fight.

I’m not saying be an a-hole.  What I’m saying is that being nice while expecting reciprocation is not really nice.  Being nice to get the girl is horrible plan.  Being nice and being good are not the same and being nice to avoid “trouble” is not healthy.

Gentlemen I get it.  I really do.  I was the nice guy to the women I liked for almost two decades.  What’s funny is that I’m not really that nice.  But I was nice to them.  You know what that did for me?  Nothing.  I honestly don’t think it served those women.  It for sure didn’t help me get married.

28 thoughts on “Avoid The Nice Guy Trap

  1. You know Justin, this is probably your best post on this topic.

    As I have grown in some maturity, I even have noticed that “everyone” wants someone nice. Even the bad-boys claim to be nice. Are you purposely going to pursue a woman who is not nice????? Nice is a word thrown around like “love” today, and of course we all want a wife who will “love” us as well, are you going to marry someone who doesn’t love you?

    Getting upset at this or frustrated serves a purpose but after awhile you can (and will) get stuck; and even the people who empathize or want to help you sooner or later won’t. Who can blame them? Nobody wants to be around someone who is “nice” but wallows in hopelessness about the issue. It just shows them on a surface level that you are indeed not nice. I have told a few people (and I am not an expert on ANY of this) that “Go pay a therapist if you just want to complain about this non-stop. Tell them how nice you are. They’ll listen, empathize, agree with you, and then they will take your money (Christian or not) and have you back to do the same thing next week as long as you continue to pay.”

    There is nothing wrong with being nice to people, to strangers, your church family, or even family / relatives you can barely tolerate. The lesson is that people don’t have to be nice back to you. There is no rule, law, or social construct that says people have to be nice to you because you claim to be nice. People may have different levels of what being “nice” is or means. The world may (and more than likely won’t) conform to you definition of it. This is where Christian men (and women too) tend to get stuck. No one owes you a date because you are nice. Even the nicest people have “bad days” and struggles. Even the nicest Christian men who are married have arguments with their wives (so that makes them not nice now?????). Nice is too subjective, too vague and I finally learned it’s an excuse. It’s a discussion stopper when people use the word in their defense especially when it come to the Christian dating scene.

  2. “…being nice while expecting reciprocation is not really nice.”

    So true. I can see that this can happen whenever we are trying to find acceptance, whether pursuing a romantic relationship, a friendship or when we otherwise just want to be liked.

  3. “We think that if we are nice, that it will be reciprocated.”

    I wish that I knew where this myth came from, since I’ve never seen a any man actually operate by these parameters in dating or in approaching women (and I say that as a single man approaching forty). I recall back when “friendzone” and “nice guy” were joke terms that weren’t used as odd predatory speech, because it was understood that men who acted too nicely toward women did so not with ulterior motive but with (something that I still suffer from) an inability to be even *remotely* rude to women. It was often those of us who grew up in households with broken marriages (but not divorces) and crudely programmed ourselves to effectively act in every situation the opposite of how we saw our fathers interact with our mothers. It had NOTHING to do with sex (since that same experience teaches us how screwed up human sexuality really is).

    Justin, you have a lot of good things to say here on this site. But, having commented before that you draw some information from the “Pick-up Artist Community,” I would sorely recommend that you drop their take on the “Nice Guy” and “Friend Zone” issues – you may have been dating back when those terms meant something very different to those of use who were long-term singles (before the PUA types rewrote the meanings of those terms and the likes of Urban Dictionary cast the new meanings about – seriously, watch some old episodes of FRIENDS where Joey and Chandler talk about the terms in their classic meanings!)…

    • Episteme

      The reciprocation part was only one example given here for why people are “nice”. It is real. I’ve seen it – and I’ve heard it from men. Heck – I’ve done it.

      I have referenced that PUA community. However I’ve never endorsed them. You’ve been around here long enough (which I appreciate) to know that I’ve been pretty clear about motivations, morals etc.

      There are all sorts of reasons people become the “nice” guy. I’ve listed some in this post. I have my own definition – not someone else – which I feel like I’ve pretty well described here and on other posts. You may not agree with it – which is totally fine by me. I’ve never proclaimed that I’m the end all be all in any way. But to take what I’m saying about this and suggest that I’m leaning on the PUA’s here is sort of strange to me. I’ve lived this as well. For 40 years. I spent a whole lot of that being the “nice” guy. I continue to say that there is a difference between nice and good. And there is for sure a difference between effective and ineffective.

  4. I’ve never known “nice guys” to actually feel “entitled” to dates. Rather, they’ve been so indoctrinated by their churches that the “nice guy” approach is the ONLY way to attract women, they just end up dazed and confused by constant rejection from women who don’t actually value the qualities in men that their communities claim that they do.

    My (evangelical) church taught singles to “pursue holiness” so that members of the opposite sex would find them attractive. This was utter nonsense, but the church leadership honestly believed it to be true. Until the church can be honest with itself about the true nature of female sexuality, nothing will change or improve for the Christian dating scene.

    If you’re looking for advice on how to be attractive to women, not only will your church be unhelpful, it will openly spread more misinformation. “Nice guys” complaining bout thier lack of prospects don’t need therapy, they need to be deprogrammed of the dogma preached by a religious institution that clearly holds them in contempt.

    • My church says the same thing Joel……..and it still sells the lines of “Christian women first and foremost want to see a man on his knees who loves Jesus more than anything! Christian women find this “hot” (so we are told) and its the most important quality they look at in a man!”

      I got wise and I beg to differ. Look, every practicing single Christian who lives by His way wants a woman / man who loves Jesus. I think that’s a given. It’s like when you ask future school teachers “why do you want to teach?”

      and they reply “Well,because I like children…”

      It’s a given. You are in the teaching field because you do like children, it’s an obvious answer that really doesn’t answer anything.

      On Christian chats, and on some blogs that I have been “banned” from because I frankly now tell Christian men “A woman doesn’t owe you a date because you are nice” and it gets the spineless men “hurt / upset / sad” and it makes many of the women angry because I tell the men straight up that many of your sisters in Christ; well meaning that many of them are that “They have perpetuated this lie to you, and have not helped you at all during this journey. They have not read scripture or prayed…..they have mouthed exactly what the pastor has said, and they don’t even believe it….but they have reaffirmed it to you…and most of them are totally turned off by men who behave in this manner but they don’t speak up either. They perpetuate this lie.”

      • I also think that the issue is less about actual nice guys than about the ones who go around calling themselves “nice guys.” There’s a huge difference. Personally, I have found that men who make a big deal out of being nice guys usually aren’t nearly as nice as they think they are. This is true for women too, except I haven’t observed it in a romantic context. I once had a female work colleague who constantly talked about how nice she was. She was certainly friendly, but for her to be “nice,” someone else had to be cruel and she was constantly playing the victim while talking about how horrible others were to her, even when they weren’t. A lot of us got sick of her after awhile which only allowed her to play the victim even more when we weren’t receptive to her narrative.

      • My experience is very similar to yours, Justin. Women constantly telling me men don’t listen, men don’t treat them well, etc. So I became that super nice guy and it did nothing for me. No Christian woman wanted to date me.

        There is an exception to this that many Christian women need to hear. A lot of non-Christian women wanted to date me once they got past some of the social awkwardness I had. For many of these women, finding a man who would take care of them and not cheat on them was very rare – and therefore highly valued. Many of these women wanted to date me even though I did everything wrong…

        I hardly got any interest from Christian women (when younger) because there were “better” choices than me – aka – lots of other single Christian men. Even the ‘lowest’ Christian man is desired way more out in the real world than he is desired in his own church.

  5. Gavin de Becker wrote a great book called “The Gift of Fear.” In it he says, “We must learn and then teach our children that niceness does not equal goodness. Niceness is a decision, a strategy of social interaction; it is not a character trait. People seeking to control others almost always present the image of a nice person in the beginning.”

    • Okay…..I get the premise….but there is a “social construct of decorum” that helps society function. Yes, being nice and polite to people out and about does just make a better society. It doesn’t mean someone is out to control you. Assuming just because someone is being nice to you means they want something….well that is indeed living in fear.

      There is nothing wrong with saying thank you to the bus driver when you get on the bus after you pay your fare. That is being nice. No control there. I compliment a woman on how she looks in church during Sunday school. That is being nice for just the sake of being nice. I don’t believe that means I am out to control her. I am polite to the sales staff at Walmart when trying to return an item. Being nice in this context allows people who are trying to help you to actually help you. I agree it doesn’t make one a “good” person but let’s be careful here. Being nice doesn’t mean “control or being manipulative”

      • Yes – this is where being good comes into play. The good person does the right thing at the right time. Being nice could be used many ways. As you point out Jason – context matters huge – like most things. So a good person could be nice – or not – depending on the situation. And of course none of us are all good – just to be clear. 🙂

  6. “There are a lot of men who say that women should date them because they can be a great husband, are trying to be godly etc, even though they are not, for whatever reason attractive to women. I would ask that guy, are you asking out women you know to be godly that you are not attracted to? I’m guessing no.”

    Yeah, but this isn’t a fair comparison. Agreeing to go out with someone doesn’t imply that you like him or her, but being the one who asks definitely implies that you do. I have and would again agree to spend some time with someone even I weren’t interested in her. That is, I would probably accept an invitation to coffee, hiking, seeing a local stage play together, or something casual like that. It’s unlikely I’d agree to a candle-lit dinner with her, but most first dates tend to be casual, anyway, so I don’t really see why a woman would turn a man down when all he wants is a little casual, one-on-one time to get to know her. It wouldn’t even necessarily imply anything more than friendship.

    • Even if you try to make it casual, there are many women who just won’t agree. I’s nearly impossible to invite a single girl to anything one-on-one without her wondering what it might lead to…and many of them would prefer to pull the plug on the spot instead of agreeing to even something very casual. That’s, of course, a reaction to how attractive they find the guy who’s asking. Personally I’ve had no luck in this regard whatsoever, because frankly I’ve been a failure at assuming those qualities that are generally attractive to women (perhaps that’s something you haven’t struggled with). While I see the point you’re trying to make, I for one absolutely see why a woman would turn down a guy for a casual get-together.

      • Oh, I also know from first-hand experience how uptight women are about saying “yes” to casual get-togethers, so I certainly know why women do what they do in that regard. I just mean that they can’t justify it with the argument our host did.

        Again, saying “yes” is not the same as asking. You’re definitely getting someone’s hopes up by asking. You’re not getting someone’s hopes by saying “yes.” Instead, you’re just being generous with your time.

  7. Anyway, this looks like a good blog, and I’m glad to see it. My first comment mentioning that apparently never made it through.

  8. the gap is narrowing further when it comes to this. it’s getting harder and harder just to go out with a women to “see” if you would like her….single men in church are torn between asking a girl out for the sake of getting to know her……dealing with rejection, and that happens to EVERY guy (even the most skilled men who are blessed with good looks on a cultural standard get rejected too btw), dealing with the gossip in church, being labeled “that guy” in the church, causing jealously with the women……..while at the same time they are told from the pulpits to be a “real man” and “ask out all these amazing godly women that just want a Christian man in their lives” because we all know that women in the church are all prepared to be amazing wives, mothers and girlfriends……it’s us men that are messing it all up (sarcasm here)

    Men I know from my Corps, and the large AG church down the street tend to be stuck. It’s not that they are spineless, or weak, or a bunch of “drooling boys” who don’t know to dress themselves….

    Most have to be 100,000 percent sure the girl they are going to ask on date is going to accept, or it is going to cause problems. You can’t ask other men to mentor you here because a “real man” doesn’t need help. You can’t ask the little old ladies to set you up because “a real confident man of God doesn’t ‘do’ that” and you cannot ask during the postlude of church because a woman wants here Christian romance novel fantasy to fit the situation perfectly of “how” and “when” a guy is going to ask her out………also remember, IF she is attracted to the guy……….it doesn’t matter what he does or doesn’t do. She’ll say yes. Confused yet? 😉

    We live in confusing times. Times that demand prayer, and for men…..who “do” want to earnestly date, or get married?????

    Assess why you are in church to begin with first? Find the ministry you do like and DEMAND perfection in it of yourself (this WILL take work and effort) and exceed the expectations of it. Treat women not as “helpless women” but as fellow believers. I noticed in my own walk (and I am no expert on women or dating) that when I actually told women “no” (gently but firmly) when it comes to stuff in the church……….I slowly gained respect of what I was doing and running (youth program, Cub Scouts.

    We cannot expect results or changes within two weeks, or month. This will take a daily conformity to Christ. We can spend the next decade talking about all this, time to take it to your own life, live it, and bring it into your church.

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  11. Men are expected to pay for dates. And men are willing to do so for the fact that a woman they are attracted to will be more likely to begin a relationship with them. Could that be construed as nice? Isn’t that an expectation of reciprocity?

    Society expects men to pursue women, even to the point of women not having to put forth any effort or take any risks of her own in the context of dating, it seems to me. How is that not “serving your way to attraction?”

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  16. The problem with the thesis that being nice to a woman you wish to attract is cynical and manipulative is that it equally applies to ANY behavior, not only niceness. The lesson, then, would seem to be that we musn’t care to modulate our behaviors based around desired responses; behave according to your wont, without regard for the response of others. But none of us live that way consistently; we tailor ourselves to fit the desires and expectations of those in our lives. An example: when interviewing for a job, you generally rehearse to try and give replies likely to impress your interviewer, and procure an offer. Are you not then being just as manipulative as a man trying to impress a woman with his kindness? You should stop then, sir! Have no concern for effect, and speak your mind, however offensive or flattering your words – honestly requires it, no?

  17. To a degree, we – all – fear each other, because, in a profound sense, we NEED each other; John Donne wrote that no man is an island, complete in himself. We would never seek relationships, taking the risk, giving of ourselves, if their were no corresponding benefit to be had. And what for, anyway? If every other man be just as self-sufficient, what could you possibly offer him?

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