Why Getting Engaged to a “Nice Guy” Was a Huge Mistake

Are we taught to look for the wrong thing?

No matter what your friends may claim, most people entertain some kind of romantic fantasy. Some are harmless. Other fantasies work like a slow-growing disease. I was a victim of the latter. You have no idea how ensnared you are until it’s over.

Choosing to skip the sexy bad boy phase, I jumped right into pursuing guys who were outwardly gentle. While most twenty-somethings dreamt of passionate and mysterious lovers, I dreamt of men who would help me with the dishes and want children. Armed with a bubbly personality, I was drawn to an unassuming wallflower. I enjoyed being someone’s dream girl. My heart may not have been racing, but my partner was so kind and soft. Granted, he came from a troubled family, but he assured me that he desired a healthier and happier future. I figured that anybody with his endearing disposition and foresight would surely appreciate me and more importantly, us.

I was going to marry him. Until it fell apart.

A House Built On Lies

After a two-year engagement to my textbook “nice guy,” I was confronted with the cruelest reality. My partner had been deceiving me for over five years.

We had been in a long-distance relationship since my sophomore year of college. Since we were both drowning in loans post-graduation, we decided to stay in our respective cities and live with our parents to pay off our debt. I was patient. I went to a job I hated. I endured being the constant third-wheel. Finally, on a tropical vacation, he got down on one knee and slipped a diamond onto my finger. But we still didn’t live in the same zip code. I planned on a long engagement and proceeded with wedding planning.

My plans came to a grinding halt when I finally contacted a local real estate agent. Although my fiancé still hadn’t found a job in my city, I was curious to know what kind of mortgage we would qualify for. The ugly truth spilled out from there. Based on the information I received, my fiancé (backed into a corner) finally admitted that his credit score was abysmal and that not only had he not paid off any of his debts, he had almost doubled them. For years, he chose to live in avoidance in order to “tell me what I wanted to hear.” I knew the truth. He couldn’t break away from the dysfunction of his past.

Sobbing, he apologized for his cowardice. Cowardice does not a good husband make. With a sound mind and an aching heart, I walked away.

What Is Nice, Anyway?

What is a “nice guy”? Here is what we’re taught: Nice guys send flowers on your birthday. Nice guys rub your feet at the end of the day. Nice guys tuck you in at night because you still love that ritual of safety and warmth. And don’t get me wrong. These are all lovely traits, but Boy Scout deeds can only do so much good.

The reality is, we need to be looking for so much more than a pleasant demeanor. Quality life partners aren’t just nice. They’re brave. They’re reasonable. They’re honest. They give you tough love. Ultimately, they challenge you to be a better person.

I realized that my own life was worth so much more than what “nice” had to offer. And if you’re caught in the romantic trap I was in, trust me when I way, so is yours.

Who here has had the so-called “nice guy” myth blow up in their face? Should we be looking for nice? Or for something different?

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  • Amy March

    I always think it’s interesting to see what we take away from our experiences. Reading this I didn’t see a cautionary tale about settling for a nice guy but rather an illustration of the potential pitfalls of long distance.

    Personally I view “nice” as a minimum standard. If you aren’t nice to me, I won’t be your friend, you don’t get a second date, and I’m not interacting with you socially at all. Nice is mandatory but it is also a bare minimum, not a knock it out of the park Home run.

    • G.

      Agreed. I also don’t think outwardly “nice” means much if it’s not accompanied by core values like honesty. Because deceptive does not a nice person make.

    • Katharine Parker

      Based on the title, I was expecting this to be about the “but I’m a nice guy!” kind of misogynists who feel entitled to women’s sexual attention based on being “nice” to them.

      I agree that being nice is a bare minumum, not a sufficient quality for someone being a life partner.

      • Eve

        Yeah, there’s a difference between actual nice guys and Nice Guys (TM) who aren’t actually nice guys.

        And then there’s also the whole sliding scale of the actually nice guys. Because just because you’re nice doesn’t mean you’re the right nice for me. There are plenty of genuinely nice guys out there that I absolutely do not want to be married to ever.

        • Amy March

          Yes exactly! So many nice guys are not the guys for me. If you feel like you are settling, it’s probably not right for you.

        • Jess

          I dated a bunch of really, actually nice guys! It did not work with most of them, for lots of reasons that had nothing to do with them not being nice.

          • NotMotherTheresa

            Yup, dating is kind of like anything else.

            I’m a nice person.

            Does that mean I would be a good brain surgeon? A good astronaut? A good president? That you should hire me to cut your hair, or babysit your kids, or design your website?

            Nope. It just means I’m nice.

      • Christina

        My first husband was that kind of “nice” guy. And when we split, I lost a bunch of “friends” because he was so “nice” and they made the assumption that I was lying about his abusive habits and decided everything that went wrong in our relationship must have been my fault.

        But I agree that being a genuinely nice guy does not a husband make. There are so many other qualities people need to look for in a spouse.

        • Sarah

          We’ve each brought our share of baggage to our relationship, and it hurts to know for a fact that I would lose most (if not all) of our friends if we were to split up.

          Which isn’t something I’m worried about actually happening (right now…ha), but I get sad about it anyway.

        • I once heard someone explain that there’s a difference between “nice” and “kind.” Nice was explained as being nice when people were looking or when it was convenient. Kind was actually doing the right thing even when no one was looking, even if you didn’t feel like it, but just because it’s the right thing to do. I liked the distinction and decided I wanted someone kind. Not someone “nice” who acted that way because they enjoyed the pats on the backs from being nice…

          • Christina

            I love that description!

          • Em

            Great point! I never thought about there being a difference, but I just checked the definitions:
            nice: giving pleasure or satisfaction; pleasant or attractive
            kind: having or showing a friendly, generous, and considerate nature

        • Another Meg

          You are so much not alone.

          When I left my “nice” husband (great on paper, appeared to be devoted to me, emotionally abusive and generally violent in acutality), most assumed it was because I was a huge bitch who didn’t feel like trying to make a marriage work. Only the few who’d witnessed his terrible behavior understood why I left. Some of my family members are still FB friends with him. Even after hearing examples from me.

          I’m so sorry you went through this. It’s such a double whammy to go through the failure of a marriage and have “friends” blame you for it. Hugs.

          • Christina

            Hugs to you too! That sounds exactly like my situation – my “friends” and some of my family all assumed any fault fell to me and not him. And yep, my ex and his mom were still friends with my family for a long time.

            It was rough for awhile – as I’m sure you remember – but after some reflection and therapy I came to realize it was better in the long run. The true friends who heard my side of things and stuck with me through all the ugliness have become like my family. I’d do almost anything for them and I know I can trust them completely.

          • Another Meg

            Stronger friendships were such an important silver lining for me, too. That, and going to therapy.

            My ex met my nephew before me. His baptism was a couple of months after our separation, and my sister invited him. I wasn’t able to make it out to where she lives, but he was and he WENT. It took me a while to get past that. And several wine-fueled heart-to-hearts with my sister before she understood what had happened.

            I’m so happy you’re on the other side of that. I had this terrible fear for years afterward that because I’d left him, I was capable of leaving anyone and might just stop loving my husband (and kid). Tons of therapy later, I know that I wasn’t the problem there. I was just strong enough to leave a bad situation before it got worse.

            And kudos to you for leaving, too! It’s not easy.

      • wannabee

        Is it just me, or is there no actual evidence that this ex was particularly nice at all? I’m not saying he isn’t, there are just no examples in the essay of anything nice or kind he did for the writer.

        • NotMotherTheresa

          I think there’s the common misconception that nice=pleasant.

          From the sounds of things, he was a PLEASANT guy. He said he loved her. He bought flowers. He did thoughtful things. He probably smiled and nodded a lot when she talked, and didn’t start arguments. Too often, niceness is associated not with doing anything that’s actually ~that~ nice, so much as not doing anything that causes strife or unpleasantness.

          • Andrew Vanbarner

            He sounds more so weak than “nice.”
            No woman finds weakness attractive, and a weak partner is not a good partner. Many men are actually afraid of women, or are afraid of things like hard work, frugality, honesty, and self respect. Because our society denigrates masculinity, many men today are appallingly weak. Not necessarily bad or evil, but weak.
            I’ll admit to being occasionally grumpy, and sometimes even unpleasant, but rarely weak. Perhaps for that reason, my marriage has lasted, as did many of the relationships I had before I met my wife.
            Strength takes effort. Strength requires courage. Strength is increasingly rare, it seems, in much of Western society, but the right types of strength come with tremendous rewards.

          • bananafanafofana

            What? I’d need to know a whole lot more about what you think “weak” means before this seems like a sensible statement. Like, a lot of “masculinity” in our culture is super toxic chest-pumping asshole like behavior, that presumes men don’t have feelings, or can’t be sensitive, or not care about sports or a bunch of other bull. What do you think it means to be “weak?” By plenty of THOSE sorts of standards my (generous, compassionate, affectionate, goofy, kind to everybody, took a pay cut to do more good in the world) husband is weak. And that sure as heck is exactly WHY I am with him.

          • Em

            Well, nice does = pleasant. As per Jenny’s point above.

          • NotMotherTheresa

            I mean, it depends on how we’re defining it.

            Are we defining nice as “congenial” or nice as “being a good person”? Jenny was basically defining it as congenial, in which case, yeah, nice=pleasant. But I don’t think either definition is inherently wrong.

    • Sarah E

      Agreed on your take-away here. I think it makes a big difference when the long-distance period happens. If it’s in the developmental stages of your relationship, it’s tough to build a strong foundation to make the distance possible.

      • Katharine Parker

        I think long-distance is workable with an end-date. So being long distance for this year while one person is getting a degree or for 6 months that someone is on a work assignment, or while one person moves to be with their mother who is getting cancer treatment. An open-ended long distance relationship is difficult (unless you never intend to live together, in which case, do what works for you).

        • Absolutely. My relationship started long distance but there was a very clear “someone needs to move within 12mos” deadline & we were both in a place in our careers where we could make that happen. We also were older and past the need to hide things from each other, we just put it all out on the table.

      • Anne

        In my view, the major lesson here is just that long distance requires a really high level of honest two-way communication. That can be easier or harder to deal with depending on various factors, but there’s no getting around it.

        • Jewels

          My fiancé and I are long distance and have been for a long time, with a long time to go! We went on 3 dates in a row, took a step back because I was about to start studying abroad, and then two months into my studying abroad started dating officially (we were talking everyday and super into each other lol). Then when I got back we had about 6 months being an hour apart, so we visited each other every weekend. Then I moved a few states away for a job so we’ve been long distance for about 1.5 years now. We recently got engaged and have 1.5 to 2 years left of LD while he finishes school and while I start law school! We did know we eventually wanted to get married by the time I moved away. We are very open and honest with each other, talk on the phone almost every day, and visit each other every 2 to 3 months. It’s super hard sometimes but it’s worth it. He’s my best friend and so supportive of my dreams, as I am of his!

      • sofar

        I was long distance with my husband for almost the first two years (with short visits every other month). While I think we managed to build a strong foundation despite the distance, there were definitely a lot of things I didn’t see/know about/fully understand about him until we were in the same city. Some things I came to accept. And some we worked through before getting married. Same for my “issues.”

        When I moved to his city, some people were like, “Um…I wouldn’t move cross-country for someone without a ring on my finger!” And I was like, “Are you insane? I’m not marrying someone I’ve only dated long distance! I need at least a year or two in the same city to know if I WANT a ring on my finger.”

    • I think it’s particularly challenging to find takeaway’s with someone who has deceived you… Because ultimately “don’t get lied to” is not an actionable caution.

      Like, I think looking at the pitfalls of long distance and learning not to conflate “nice and considerate” with “has integrity and is a good life partner” are both very legit points. But I also think sometimes trying to find a lot of broader/actionable meaning around the actions of people who are lying can turn a mindf*ck in it’s own right.

      • Abs

        This. My parents’ lesson to me after their divorce was “don’t marry the wrong person.” Which was…not helpful.

        I think it’s also hard to know what to do when you fall for someone who seems to correspond with your ideal, and then it goes wrong–do you throw out the concept of an ideal altogether, or do you keep the ideal and add in some more elements (like “honesty”)? It seems like LW is still struggling with that.

    • penguin

      Right to me saying a guy is nice is like a restaurant review saying that eating there didn’t give them food poisoning – a good place to start but nothing that really recommends it.

  • Zoya

    I’m currently rereading Middlemarch, by George Eliot (one of my favorite books). One of its main themes–which she unspools with heartbreaking clarity–is what happens when you construct a mental ideal of someone, fall in love with that ideal, and then have to contend with the actual person you actually married. Several of the characters enter into relationships believing their beloved will fill some hole in their lives–a yearning for intellectual fulfillment, a higher social position, a happy and comforting home–only to be deeply disappointed. I’m struck by how enduring a problem this is from George Eliot’s time (and before) to ours.

    • LCS

      Yes! We all fall in love with the best part of someone and it is often not until much later that we are faced with their shadow sides, their most deeply flawed selves. And then you have to ask yourself if you can love the dark with the light. And it’s really hard to do that. But (WITHIN REASON, FOLKS!) if you are going to be with someone for decades, eventually all of their shit and your shit will come up and out and you will have to support each other through your flaws. Otherwise, we should all stay single!

  • Mrrpaderp

    Yeah there are tons of Nice Guys out there who should be avoided. The conflict avoider. The manchild. The wanna be frat boy (who was never “cool” in high school or college and desperately wants to make up for it in his late 20s/30s). A lot of these guys are so invested in this image of themselves as a Nice Guy that they have no clue who they are or how to have meaningful relationships with other people.

    More generally, I think LW’s story is illustrative of how our cultural narrative about marriage seems to be moving past the romantic fantasies she identified at the beginning of this piece. Most people don’t get married right after high school or college. When a couple says they’re waiting to get married even though they’ve been together for umpteen years, the #1 reason I hear is financial. We’re starting to recognize that marriage is a business partnership as much as it is a romantic one. If you can’t run the business of a household with someone then they’re not a good marriage partner for you.

  • Anon

    Huh, this isn’t what I associate with the term Nice Guy. I get that what the author is saying is that someone can be gentle but still be kind of a wreck in other areas so it’s important to consider your priorities beyond the bare minimum. Which is true! For sure,

    But in the current zeitgeist, a Nice Guy tends to refer to someone who believes they are entitled to sexual attention, favors, or acts by nature of their traditional gentlemanliness. In the wake of #MeToo, I was expecting a convo around that.

    • Jess

      I definitely expected it to be more Nice Guy (TM) than a kind guy in a bad financial situation with communication issues.

  • theteenygirl

    Ooph. I want to agree with this letter – I really do. While I agree with how this has been summed up (look for MORE than just nice) I’m not sure that the body of the letter supports this statement. This doesn’t read to me as a situation where a nice guy ended up not being nice.. it reads more as a communication deficiency that was made worse due to a long distance relationship. Having had been in a long distance relationship I can attest that it is really hard to bring up Big Things because it feels wrong to bring it up over phone/text/face time, but then you don’t want to bring it up in person because you don’t want to ruin the little time you have together.

  • Kelly

    I do find it interesting that the author correlated the fiancés bad behavior as something that was bound to happen given the past she mentioned. Perhaps I’m in the minority but both my parents came from disfinctinbal families and are the greatest people. Same with my husband- sins of the father do not automatically come to the sons. My two cents

    • Anne

      This aspect of the article made me uncomfortable as well – thanks for articulating it.

    • Her Lindsayship

      Totally agree. There’s a lot of nuance missing from this interpretation of the situation.

    • penguin

      I felt that way too – she mentions the family he comes from like it should be a red flag, but lots of people come from troubled families and don’t hide massive debt from their partners.

      • Jess

        And lots of people come from perfectly ok families and do hide things!

    • Pannorama

      As the person who has dysfunctional parents who are crap with money, I was definitely saddened by the portrayal of the ex-fiance as someone who could clearly never escape his past. These are hard skills to learn on your own! And mountains of debt often lead to horrible anxiety and avoidance. That doesn’t make it okay or anything, but I don’t think people who have yet to learn those skills have an inherent moral failing.

      • S

        This is how I felt too, like her partner handled this badly but I also understand the snowball effect of this situation and don’t think it makes him automatically a bad person. (I also don’t know what it has to do with him being nice to her or not, but that’s another issue.) I also think, if we’re talking about people in their early-mid twenties here…it actually takes a long time to learn communication skills, break bad habits, practice honesty and accountability for our failings, learn how to manage that snowball feeling, etc. I know so many people who had problems not dissimilar to this at that age, including me. It’s one of the hardest things about being with someone for the long haul when you’re this age, imo. (I honestly feel like I was barely even a real fully-formed person until I was at least 25.) And I don’t know if this is a fair assessment or not, but I also think it’s possible that if someone is in a relationship with someone with a more stable background, possibly of a higher class than their family, it might make it a lot harder to be honest about struggling in this way – particularly if that partner has ever made them feel “less than” or like their background was a point in the “con column” for dating them.

    • Jess

      I sure hope people are able to overcome their upbringing (whether it’s financial or emotional). It helps when those who love us give us the chance and a boost. When they believe in us. We do have to be honest about it, though.

      I think everybody is going to have some kind of major struggle that they are embarrassed of, that they try to hide, that they are afraid of their significant other’s response to, regardless of their upbringing. It’s not so much an if but a when.

  • Jessica

    Just want to run in and say that long distance is not the reason for this deception–this guy probably would have lied to her if they were living together with separate finances.

    I’m also going to go ahead and say that being ashamed of money is nothing extraordinary. Lots of people are hung up on money and debt and it is shrouded in shame. It’s one of those things where you should be discussing money with the figures in front of you (like, hey, we’re going to discuss wedding, budget, and buying a house, so I need your assets, debts and credit score for that convo), which can give the partner a chance to come clean and have an honest conversation about their terrible habits.

    • Jess

      Yup. I agree that the long distance thing just made it easier to hide.

      Money (and debt) can be really difficult topics, coming with lots of emotional baggage. My take-away here is definitely of the “Talk about the big things before you stake your future on someone”

    • Yes, I totally agree that someone can live with you and hide all sorts of things… Long distance might have made it easier, but it could have happened if they weren’t long distance.

  • GotMarried!

    Nice guys are not deceptive. You were not with a nice guy.

  • Sarah

    Yes, a Nice Guy (TM) is generally not. I knew (and went out with a few times actually boo on me) a guy who told me his best buddy and girlfriend “trusted” him alone with the girlfriend (which is all kinds of patriarchally gross to begin with, like she’s a pet rabbit) because he was such a nice guy. And of course no one wanted to date him because he was so Nice. I wish I had just said “No Mike, they just say that cause you are little-n nice and they aren’t attracted to you and don’t want to hurt your feelings.” Grr.

  • Her Lindsayship

    It must’ve been terrible to learn that the man you envisioned your future with wasn’t being open with you when you discussed finances. But I don’t think this is related to how ‘nice’ he appeared to be, and it doesn’t sound like something you should’ve seen coming due to his dysfunctional family. It’s just a failure of communication. If there’s anything to learn from that, it’s that a lot of hard conversations should be happening before engagement, especially the ones that make one or both of you uncomfortable. It’s not clear from this essay whether you guys did have those hard convos and he just lied really super well (in which case, there is literally no way you could’ve seen that coming), or you made assumptions about each other’s finances and didn’t bother to dig deeper. If it’s that latter one, I don’t know, I don’t think that’s a romantic fantasy ‘nice guy’ kind of problem – it’s a both of you should’ve bridged that gap earlier problem.

    • another lady face

      I think it was the fact that he acted like a great guy doing all the ‘right things’, but turned out to be living a different life. They were supposed to be living separately and working jobs in different cities to pay down their student load debts and prepare for the long term marriage relationship. While she was doing that (living with parents, working a job she hated, etc.) he was living it up in another city without her and racking up debt. Sounds like a fake to me!

  • Sara

    From the title and the start of this article, I was expecting something very different: the pitfalls of staying with a guy because “there’s nothing wrong.” Several years ago, I dated a guy much longer than I should have because he was a genuinely kind and caring guy who treated people well. Unfortunately, the sexual chemistry wasn’t there, and I couldn’t articulate why I shouldn’t be with him until the moment he surprised me by proposing out of the blue. The thought of being with him suddenly made my heart sink.

    If there were a dating version of LinkedIn, I’d have happily endorsed his many amazing qualities, and I’m so happy to know he’s happily married with a family now.

    • another lady face

      right, that’s what I was expecting, also. I dated the ‘nice guy’ for 2+ years and almost moved in with him until the red flags and alarm bells started going off in my head that something just wasn’t right and was missing from our relationship. There still wasn’t anything majorly ‘wrong’, but we were definitely not right for each other. I still think he’s a great guy, just not right for me.

  • Violet

    I’m confused by a number of aspects of this essay, but most are already covered coherently by other commenters (nice guy vs Nice GuyTM, communication, long-distance done well vs done poorly, and woah major stereotype that people can’t handle money better than their parents). Another question I have is about what OP says she was “drawn to.” She talks about being with a nice guy as a romantic dream, but then when she met her guy, her heart was not racing. I usually associate romantic ideals (foolish or otherwise) as grounded in what gets your heart racing, so clearly OP and I have different ideas of what romantic ideas can lead you astray. But can I just throw out there that if your partner doesn’t make your heart initially pitter patter, maybe move on? Getting a kick out of someone else being into you is not really a sustainable option. You also have to, you know, like them back.

    • Amy March

      I thought that was about the difference between who you think you are supposed to be into and who actually makes your heart go pitter patter. Forcing a relationship because he looks good on paper isn’t likely to work out.

  • brad james

    Or the nice girl one…….for that matter

  • Arianna Timko

    I agree nice is necessary but not sufficient for a life partner. I think its interesting how sometimes we women conflate nice with boring and assume dating a nice guy means there will be dependability but no passion. I’ve dated nice guys who are super passionate and with whom I have great chemisty- they exist! (Thank goodness)

    I have a theory women like the “bad guy” and find that sexy not only because the bad guy is spontaneous and exciting (often a sexy rose colored glasses spin on flaky and selfish, I think) but because if you can get a bad guy to date you, it means he is bad to everyone else but nice to YOU. Yeah, he may call other women matteesses and have mom issues and have ghosted his ex girlfriends and he doesnt tip but he’s with you now and things are great. Which makes you very very special. And that specialness is a big part of what makes dating a bad guy appealing. (think feeling like Anna in 50 shades- if you’re the one who can make him change his bad boy ways or settle down or he’s never wanted anyone to move in but you can then damn, you’re the most powerful and sexy woman in the world)

    Thank goodness for all the male partners out there who respect all women and keep things exciting without being literally dangerous or illegal and make you feel special not just by downward comparison.

    • I agree that there’s definitely an issue with selfish guys reframing themselves as bad guys who don’t play by society’s rules, but in some respects I think they’re taking advantage of a chauvinist “Bad Guys” narrative that’s fuelled by Nice Guys (TM), who frame any guy who doesn’t play by their rules as a Bad Guy. Nice Guys befriend women and push their boundaries and try and get them to give in (without ever risking rejection) and hate it when a Bad Guy swoop in and just asks them out because they feel like the Bad Guy hasn’t done the groundwork. If you’re a woman surrounded by Nice Guys, being asked out is appealing. There’s no bullshit, no will-he-won’t-he, no “but what does it mean”, and maybe you’re more likely to say yes. It feels spontaneous because there hasn’t been two years of “want to get coffee? is this a date? do you want it to be a date jk lol maybe maybe not wink wink” to trudge through before you actually just get to drink a damn cup of coffee.

      Ultimately, Bad Guys are confident and Nice Guys aren’t. In both cases, you get a lot of entitled arseholes who think if they follow certain rules they’ll be rewarded with sex, whether those rules are Nice Guy TM or PUA rules. But if I had to play the odds on a long lasting, rewarding relationship, I’d have higher hopes the Bad Guy was actually a well rounded human bring who happens to wear leather jackets and didn’t beat about the bush when he liked someone than I would the guy who was all up in my DMs with “I just want what’s best for you” at 2am trying to wear me down.

      • NotMotherTheresa

        As someone who ALWAYS went for the Bad Guys, meh, I don’t know. There’s some truth to what you’re saying, but at the same time, lots of Bad Guys really are kind of bad guys…or at least bad romantic partners.

        My now husband didn’t ~play by the rules~. He did lots of coke, and worked in finance, and called me every single day until I finally agreed to go out with him, because he wasn’t going to take those first 28 rejections lying down.

        Fast forward 15 years, and he’s a decent husband, but those sort of sketchy dynamics are still there. There is no negotiation in our marriage. There is no “talking things through”. He just does whatever the heck he wants, and if for some reason I ~have~ to assent to whatever his plan is, his method for getting his way to just wear me down until I’m too tired to reject him for the 9,758th time. He’s a legitimately good human being, but he’s not Nice. In the TM way or the actual nice way.The same can be said for almost all of my Bad Guy exes…perfectly decent people, but legitimately Bad in some super important ways!

      • bananafanafofana

        I do hope you encounter some ACTUAL nice guys (of the non TM variant.)

        I’ve known a lot of guys who mistake not having self-confidence for being nice (spoiler, not the same thing). But that doesn’t mean all nice guys lack confidence. By contrast, my husband is a generous, kind, compassionate, person who goes out of his way to notice the struggles of people around him and try to make things better. He’s extremely nice. But he isn’t “nice” — he doesn’t have an instrumental view of what being kind gets him. He’s just…..kind. Because he thinks that’s the right way to be.

        And that’s compatible with being straightforward. In that vein, he was completely direct when he asked me out, and from ever after (he was committed long before I was, and was willing to straightforwardly say “I want to spend my life with you and I am willing to wait until you feel confident in that” without any reassurance that I would get there. (I did. In large part because I saw what life would be like with a person who was so caring and committed to those around him, and it lives up to the hype.)

        I have friends who are genuinely nice guys too— the sort who are your friend because they are your FRIEND. Who would never push boundaries not because they lack courage but because they (rightly) believe that would be disrespectful, who encourage me to be a better person and a better partner to my husband. Some of them have confidence, some of them don’t. It’s not a tell either way. But I know that I would play the odds on them being a fantastic partner in a rewarding relationship . I know that because they have already been fantastic partners to me in a non-romantic way for many years.

        I do wish there was a “linked in” for daters– a way you could certify for other people that the person they are going on a date with really is GENUINELY nice. You may or may not click with them (being nice isn’t the only thing) but you will never discover it was a front.

  • S

    Yeah, this was a super confusing read, but it also struck me as…kind of classist? The writer seemed to stick up her nose at dating someone whose family had money problems, deigned to date him anyway, then act like his mistake was one big lower class failing she should have expected. I’m not saying that it wasn’t a crappy lie. I’ve dated someone who lied to me and told me what I wanted to hear because he was a coward. It’s not a great feeling and it’s hard to respect someone who does that. We all have our lines in the sand and I can understand leaving in this situation. I also think for lots of couples, shitty unexpected money problems and your partner handing something in a way you don’t love is part and parcel of being in a relationship that’s in it for the long haul. For me, this would have been a, “Okay, you’re having a tough time with money because you’ve never learned good habits, you really effed up and I don’t really trust you right now but I love you and want to learn how to trust you again, let’s go to a counsellor, make a budget, and come up with a plan for moving forward” moment.

    • S

      (Also, is anyone else reading this and thinking about How I Met Your Mother? I really liked the way they handled this storyline. It felt like an honest portrayal of how a loving married couple deals with a situation like this.)

      • SS Express

        Totally! Although personally, I thought they should’ve gone ahead with the “on paper” divorce so Marshall could get the home loan without being affected by Lily’s debts. His whole “I married all of you, including your debts” thing isn’t romantic, it’s foolhardy. Fortunately my husband agrees!

        • Amy March

          Huh maybe I’m missed some nuance of the show but there’s no such thing as a simple on paper divorce!

          • SS Express

            Maybe not in real life, but it’s what the plot line of this fictional tv episode is about.

    • Jess

      I wrote a separate comment, but I really really agree with this point.

  • Mr. Misogynist

    What I read was “I’m a stuck up c*nt that threw a fit because he wouldn’t be able to take care of me as I got fat, and wouldn’t have the money to steal from him via divorce when I got bored and hypergamy kicked in”. Fortunately, with #metoo showing self to be bitter false rape accuser’s mad that unattractive men DARED to think they are people and talked to them, men are getting wise to the game stacked against them. I know this won’t get published, or will just get deleted, and I don’t care. Enjoy your cats, you shallow, narcissistic washed-up old hags.

    To my ignorant brothers: GO MGTOW or you’ll just end up another casualty in the feminist war on men.

  • Jess

    This essay poses a really interesting question. Not so much “Do we look for the right things in a partner?” (which is a worthy topic) or “Can people overcome their upbringing?” (which I sure as hell hope they can, although it may be a bumpy road) but “What happens when the people we love turn out to be hiding something?”

    I believe every relationship goes through a point where one person has done something or experiences something they are extremely ashamed of, or afraid of, and they have a hard time dealing with it. They may be slow to tell their partner, or try to hide it, or maybe they do bring it up but the other person reacts less-than-ideally.

    What we have to ask ourselves when those things happen is “Do I have the ability and the desire to work through this with this person?” The answer can be yes, and it can be no, and both can be good and healthy in different scenarios.

    We may not have the desire to work through it because the relationship wasn’t sound enough to begin with. Maybe we were checking of a list of things we wanted in a person, but didn’t *feel* deeply.

    We may not have the desire to keep going because the betrayal was too hurtful, and we need to look out for ourselves first.

    Sometimes we don’t have the skills to work through something, or the emotional capacity, or maybe what they are going through is too big for any one person to help with.

    We also have to ask, “Is this person willing to work through this with me?” because it is work to get through tough things, and a relationship requires both people to be committed to working through the hard times. You cannot heal somebody with love, even if you try really really hard, if they aren’t working to be healed.

    There are a ton of good reasons to say “You know what? This is too much for me. I need to look out for myself and be done here.”

    The line of Yes and No is different for everybody. We all have different experiences, different abilities, different capacities for forgiveness and different things that hurt us deeply.

    • Sarah E

      This is a super insightful take.

      • Jess

        Aw gee. Thanks!

  • Jack Lan

    And this, gentlemen, is the reason why I stopped giving a shit what women want. If you’re nice they’ll complain that you’re weak and you might have ulterior motives. If you’re a jerk and an asshole they’ll complain that you don’t treat her right. Ever since of becoming indifferent towards women and theirs needs and wants, every aspect of my life has improved. Focus on yourself and your hobbies and you won’t be as desperate to be in a relationship as most guys out there.

  • This was… shorter than I expected. I fee slightly like the author is self-censoring, and still second guessing herself. The opening reminds me of some of the advice columns we’ve had here, where the LW is trying to justify their relationship dynamic on the basis of “he came from a bad background” and “he says he appreciates me” and “it’s my problem that he doesn’t make me swoon”. And he’s not nice. He’s just good at saying the right things at the right time, and offering explanations for when he doesn’t, and persuading you to stay because no one else could possibly ever send you flowers or tuck you in.

    Framing the lies as an issue with being in a long distance relationship may well be true, but it’s also possible that the long distance relationship was a way for him to maintain his lies. Notice how he twists it to make it her fault he lied to her – he was just saying what she wanted to hear. And LW has internalised that as “I need to be challenged” and “I need tough love” out of future relationships, rather than “I need to not be lied to”. She pegs her ex as a coward, but talks about trapping herself in the relationship. He is still, ultimately, off the hook, because he never escaped his past.

    She finds herself at fault as the woman who chose to be with him and questions her judgement. You can’t make a good judgement when you’re being lied to – you don’t have all of the information you need to make an informed decision, so they best you can do is guess, and if someone is lying you don’t even know that you are guessing. Realising someone took your ability to make choices about your life away from you is a mindfuck, and it’s hard to look at face on sometimes, so you reframe the choices you did make as bad choices so you remain in control of your life.

    Maybe I’m wrong, and the relationship is exactly as LW portrays it, in which case, it’s a rather short, simple story about the need to practice good communication in a long distance relationship which LW is trying to pin on other issues (lack of swooniness). But if not, I think LW needs a bit more distance from this relationship, so she can look back on it with the blinkers completely off.

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  • Caitlyn

    There’s a typo in the last sentence. Should read “trust me when I say” instead of “way” :)

  • Another Meg

    I married a “nice guy” who looked really good on paper. He was mean when he was drunk, but somehow I didn’t notice that because he was an accomplished cook and spoke French fluently and wanted to marry me and have babies and I wanted to marry someone and have babies. He made me chocolate croissants and mimosas for breakfast and wanted to combine finances to take care of me.

    If you’ve seen my other posts, you saw what he turned into. “Taking care of me” turned into control. He seemed so “nice” because he told me exactly what I wanted to hear and if there were any warning bells I ignored them. He felt that I was above him, so before we were married he put me on a pedestal, and once I was his wife he knocked me down, over and over, until I was below him, cowering on the ground and requiring his approval for everything I did.

    I agree with Amy March that a lot of the post feels like a warning against 100% long distance relationships. But overall, the moral could be that if it feels too good to be true, it might be.

  • laddibugg

    So…the only thing that made him ‘not nice’ was that he had bad credit? Did he say he was actually paying his debts off or did he just agree that he would?

  • Thriftypenny

    I was once engaged to a nice guy. Not a Nice Guy TM. But an actual, genuinely nice person. With a very nice (and functional) family.

    But being nice (even actually just being a generally nice human being!) isn’t necessarily enough to start a marriage. Nice is the bare minimum. Nice is very very basic. And you can’t build a life on just “nice”.

    I still, actually think that my ex-fiance is a nice person. A genuinely good person. He was not, however, a person who was ready to get married. Funnily enough he also deceived me about financial matters. including jobs he did not actually get, grad programs he did not actually get into…etc. Which I think he did because he was scared.

    Anyway- it’s strange how similar the stories are.

    • bananafanafofana

      Can I ask– and this is not meant to be aggressive or disagree with you, I’m just genuinely trying to figure out what people mean by “nice”– why you think he is nice when he lied to you about such important things?

      • Thriftypenny

        He was a kind and thoughtful person in many ways. He did and still does work with the homeless. He doesn’t judge people and genuinely cares about other people. He was emotionally open with me (uh…until about the last 8 months of a 5.5 year relationship). He was understanding of my feelings and was always very loving and kind in his interactions with almost everyone.

        I am fairly certain he didn’t lie to me until after we were engaged and I was pressing him on making sure that we were financially stable enough to get married/move in together etc. I was pressing him to make changes to his lifestyle that he didn’t want to, or couldn’t make. He was scared and trying to postpone the inevitable (the end of the relationship)

        • Thriftypenny

          He was also young- midtwenties.

        • bananafanafofana

          Thank you for the response. I can see why he was/is a nice person not able to face up to certain challenges. That must have been really hard for you, and I’m sure in a way for him as well. I hope you are both in a better place these days.

          • Thriftypenny

            Well…I told him I needed two years for us to try to be friends and true to form (two and a half years later) we are on tentative speaking terms.

            Neither of us has found true love mind you. But we’re both doing alright.

  • NotMotherTheresa

    Just the other night, a good friend and I were discussing the ways in which a person’s biggest strengths are also often their biggest downfall. I think discussions of “niceness” are exceptionally prone to this.

    Personally? I am a Nice Person. Not in the gross TM way, but in the legitimately nice way. Every friend, every coworker, every romantic partner past and present–they would all agree that I. Am. Nice. I’m a compulsive people pleaser. I never rock the boat. I’m conscientious. I never have anything bad to say about anyone. No matter how I feel on the inside, I put on a cheery face, and swallow my feelings, and go the extra mile to make sure that my friends, loved ones, colleagues, clients and the random guy at Texaco are ~happy~.

    Awesome, right?

    Well, in the wrong circumstances, I’d be the equivalent of those old pictures you see of the Nazi nurses smiling and joking around with their friends. For exactly the reasons mentioned above.

    One of the big downfalls of “niceness” is that sometimes the boat DOES need to be rocked. Sometimes you DO need to have painful, uncomfortable discussions. Sometimes the Right Thing and the Nice Thing are not the same things at all.

    The former fiance in this essay might have just been a selfish, lying jerk–sometimes, truly horrible people DO hide behind a veil of faux niceness. But it’s also possible that he simply fell into The Niceness Trap.

    It wouldn’t have been Nice to admit that circumstances were making it hard to get on better financial footing. It wouldn’t have Nice to say that he had different financial priorities, and that he cared more about maintaining his lifestyle than paying off debts. It wouldn’t have been Nice to say no to his family’s requests for help. And so, he didn’t say anything at all. He just smiled and nodded like a Nice Person until he couldn’t smile and nod anymore.

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