Is He a Good Man, But a Bad Boyfriend?


When my girlfriend dumped me in 2004, I was beyond devastated.

We’d had an incredibly passionate three-month relationship.

You know the kind.

You say “I love you” within a couple of weeks.

You’re taking vacations together within the first month.

You’re talking about plans for the future and how “you just know” that your relationship is meant to be.

You feel like you’ve known this man your whole life and can’t imagine living without him.

Yeah, those are good times.

Except those times ended as abruptly for me as they did for you.

To her credit, my girlfriend let me beg and plead and cry and generally embarrass myself for three hours at her place. It was there that I learned that:

When a genuinely good person breaks up with you, you can only question EVERYTHING.

1) She’d been thinking of breaking up with me for a month.
2) She tried very hard not to criticize me because my last girlfriend was so critical.
3) She did love me but, as she got to know me, had concerns about certain traits of mine — namely my big mouth, my anxious nature, and my up-and-down moods that came with my up-and-down new career — writing online dating profiles at E-Cyrano.

So while I was still as madly in love with her as I was the day we’d met, she was slowly pulling away. Sure, I felt a little bit of distance, but since we never really fought, I just thought that it was par for the course. Relationships, you know?

It never occurred to me that my girlfriend’s feelings about me had shifted — nor that they even COULD shift. That’s how strongly I felt about her.

That’s how blind I was.

That’s how blind you are.

Especially when your boyfriend – like my ex-girlfriend — is a genuinely good person.

When a genuinely good person breaks up with you, you can only question EVERYTHING. Because you love him so much that you think his judgment is superior to yours. Because you think that if he concluded that he doesn’t want to marry you that there’s something WRONG with you.

I’m here to tell you that there’s NOT.

There’s something wrong with your ex-boyfriend.

Is he cute? Yes.

Is he smart? Yes.

Is he kind? Yes.

Did he treat you well? Yes.

Seems like the perfect guy!

But look deeper.

The great guy who doesn’t want to be your committed boyfriend or husband is USELESS as a boyfriend or husband.

The great guy who DUMPS you because his feelings for you have faded is USELESS. Your husband’s feelings don’t fade for you.

The great guy who is “just not ready” to take the next step is USELESS as a partner. Great partners make you feel safe and secure; they’re not just keeping you around on their terms only.

The great guy who doesn’t want to be your committed boyfriend or husband is USELESS as a boyfriend or husband.

It took me a long time to realize the truth about my ex-girlfriend.

She is a great person. She was not a great GIRLFRIEND.

I gave more than she did.

I was more in love than she was.

I was willing to overlook her flaws. She wasn’t willing to overlook mine.

I would have tried to make things work. She’d rather find someone else.

What else do I need to know that this person isn’t right for me?

If you look clearly at your relationship with your ex — the good guy, not the jerk — you’ll see the same exact pattern.

A man can be a good man — smart, funny, generous, thoughtful — but not be a good boyfriend or life partner for you.

Maybe it’s because he doesn’t feel strongly enough about you.

Maybe it’s because he doesn’t know if he wants to marry you.

Maybe it’s because the timing is wrong and he’s not ready for a serious relationship.

The truth is that it doesn’t MATTER.

It’s time to stop beating yourself up over such men, because, whether you know it or not, those men could not make ANYONE happy.

They will always charm women and they will always run.

Just be glad that you’re free to find the man who does stick around.

Are you still glorifying some ex who decided he was better off without you?

Join our conversation (58 Comments).
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  1. 1

    This post was just the right thing for me – I was building a relationship with a woman who didn’t think after a month that she would “feel it”.
    I got a version of the “it’s not you it’s me” story, and maybe it was now that I’ve read what you’ve written.
    I thought we could be great together.   But when it all adds up, it was short of the relationship I want and as I look back, I should have realized this was the likely outcome.   I just missed all the signs.
    Thanks for this post.   I feel much better now.  


    1. 1.1
      I love EMK

      you’re adorable….this post shows the sweetie in you. Even though most posts have parts that annoy the fuck out of me, this post reminds me why my username is I love EMK.

      I find your external unattractive (I’m sure your wife and other women don’t agree with me) but your writing is downright sexy! This post is so liberating and uplifting even to me.

      For that I’ll make you sandwich 😀

    2. 1.2

      I can totally relate to this. It makes me sad because so many people want the benefits of being in a relationship now without actually being in one. Hell, the guy I’m with now just laughs when I tell him in in severe pain from my split tooth, or if I am upset doesn’t bother to listen to me to even talk. He would rather do the things that make him happy, and I am actually breaking up with him. So, there is that bonus. I won’t tolerate someone who is all about themselves and not about each other as a couple. Especially one who says that all women are deceitful, and will betray him in time like his ex wife did. I need, and want, someone better for me.

  2. 2

    Ah yes. This is so hard to do. We see someone who seems to be perfect, and then force ourselves to believe that they must be perfect for us. I think a lot of us also believe that just because we’re with someone who’s a decent person, we are somehow obligated to be in a relationship with them. Unfortunately, there’s just no way to force reciprocal interest and commitment. If it’s there, you’ll definitely know. If it’s not there, there’s nothing you can do to force it.

  3. 3

    Wow.   It’s like this blog entry came from heaven straight for me to read!!   Since the last week, I’ve been going through this EXACT issue and reading what you wrote makes me realize that I can finally let go.  Thank you Evan!   

  4. 4

    I agree with everything you say about dating a person who’s wonderful but not a good girlfriend. Except what you say at the end. It’s a broad generalization to say “those men could not make ANYONE happy.  They will always charm women and they will always run.”

    I am speaking from personal experience. I have been the girlfriend who stayed in a relationship that wasn’t working. I said ‘I love you’, because I did love them at the time.   I also allowed myself to be pulled into the allure of a man who was madly in love with me, rather than look honestly at my own feelings. There were key areas of compatibility that were missing for me, and in spite of that, I stayed for a few months, hoping I could fall more deeply in love with these great guys.  

    However, I am not the type of woman who can NEVER fall deeply in love or make ANYONE happy. I have been in deep loving relationships that were mutual.

    What I’ve learned from my past relationships with great guys who were missing key components of compatibility, is to pay better attention to my own needs from the beginning. I don’t want to ever again give a man the wrong message.

    I take great pride in my integrity and honesty, and I now recognize that it was insecurity that led me to be taken in by quality men who fell in love with me very quickly.   

    I am confident enough now to choose more carefully, and to end things much sooner if I’m not feeling it. I am not intent on charming men and running away. Just the opposite.

    The other thing is, men and women need to take responsibility for their actions and feelings in a relationship. It’s easy to be blindsided when you’re deeply in love (or lust), but the signs are usually there. It’s important to pay attention to the messages you’re receiving from your girlfriend or boyfriend, and decide what works for YOU.

    1. 4.1

      “I have been in deep loving relationships that were mutual.”

      This is the line in your comment that confuses me a bit and I’m hoping that you’ll elaborate. In my opinion, people’s needs and wants shift over the course of their life. But if you have a deep abiding love for the other person, those shifts are not enough to warrant a split. Especially if the two involved love each other enough to accommodate the other’s shifts in what they want in life.

      So if you don’t mind saying, could you say why your deeper relationships ended? I’m curious because I’m now going through difficulty with someone I love deeply, and who I thought loved me deeply as well.

    2. 4.2
      Vuiton amor

      Awesome. One I apologize any grammar or spelling errors but this is touching my heart. Ok so I feel this is me but then I tried with someone with knowing all these factors. Also listening to them saying they can handle these struggles. Now our first fee months living together I feel tore us apart.i got to see the real him after putting my guard down. Honestly i dont like him. So now after sacrificing and compromising so much to be together, I feel it’s a waste. I think the more we together the more I’m hating him. I try to talk things out. It makes things worst. He has no respect. He has his own issues that I tried to be supportive and be there but look in his phone see messages to other women and I’m just feeling maybe in life some of us is meant to be single. Then i would hate to miss the love of my life cause my heart is hurt.

  5. 5

    Evan, I find that I feel sometimes there are some mixed messages in these posts. Let me explain. In the recent post, “Can a smart, strong, successful woman get a smart, strong, successful man,” the woman is clearly turning off men. The following dialogue that ensued among the readers was about how women can do things that make us less attractive to men. Now here is a post about a partner breaking it off with their boyfriend/girlfriend. Your belief in this case is it’s the girlfriend’s/boyfriend’s issue and that she/he wouldn’t be a good girlfriend/boyfriend to anyone. What if this boyfriend lets say met the woman in the previous post who turned men off. So sometimes you say it’s all the man’s fault (no need to change woman) and then other times you say it’s the woman’s fault (you’re not feminine enough for the man to want you). How do you know the difference? Maybe in the relationship you had, perhaps you came on too strong (liked her too much) and that was unattractive and turned her off. I’ve been there. I don’t mean to be so black and white about this but in any given situation in dating how do you know when it’s the guy’s fault or when it’s our fault. A lot of times we don’t see the error in our behavior. That’s my current struggle with these post (as I’m really trying to learn the difference).  

  6. 6

    When someone isn’t into us it’s tempting to believe that they will never find a compatible person or be happy in relationship, or that no one will ever be happy with them. Probably not true, though.

    Also, the people we weren’t into are probably thinking the same thing about us.

  7. 7

    Oh Evan. You rock! I am so hard on myself. I’ll stop now 🙂

  8. 8

    Haha, that’s been me!  
    I also think age / maturity has a thing to do with it as well.   It’s hard to say you don’t want someone, when you don’t really necessarily want anyone.   I can remember feeling (and saying to exes), “I don’t want to get married now… but maybe in 5 years”.
    If the subject of marriage came up, I’d shoot it down saying “I can’t see myself getting married anytime soon, and I don’t know if you are the person I want to marry”.   Of course, if asked how I felt about them, “Well, of course I like you… I just don’t know about the future”.
    Either way, it’s not going anywhere if two people don’t want the same thing and have equal feelings for eachother, and if your partner is aloof or indecisive about his/her feelings, it’s probably not a good sign.   (Of course, I do know couples who have been together since they were teenagers and didn’t get married for 7 or 8 years who “didn’t know where it was going”, but these people also never questioned how much they loved the other person and the emotions were never unequal).

  9. 9

    This is my first time posting. While I do agree with what Evan is saying…what about the good men/bad boyfriends who WANT to stay with you despite the fact that they are terrible partners? The men who want to keep you around but don’t want to put in the effort to sustain the relationship? Who feel that spending money and occasionally taking you out is “being a good boyfriend”, but when it came down to the real nuts and bolts (supporting you no matter who you happen to go up against, listening to you vent, loving you no matter what, not allowing his baby mama to control his/your life, intrusive overbearing negative family and friends) he’s not there? What about walking away from that? Does that make me a bad girlfriend? And that’s only a drop in the bucket of things I’ve experienced with the good man/bad boyfriend combo….which leads me to believe that the good people are really bad deep down but just know how to put on a good face.

    1. 9.1

      The best comment I ´ve read in this thread Kay. I totally agree with you and relate to what you say. It has happened to me more tan once

    2. 9.2

      Great one Kay. That’s what I’m going through right now. I keep asking myself is it even worth it

    3. 9.3

      I’d be interested in a separate article on this subject. I think some good people are very duty-bound, and some have full-blown rescuer syndrome. They use up all their best energies trying to fix messed-up people’s problems and end up neglecting the people who really matter. I don’t think they really see why you don’t put up with their neglect, because they put up with quite a bit of crap themselves. Here’s the answer I hope I have the fortitude to stick with:   Good people with bad priorities deserve our pity – but not our time. If we settle for being put on the back burner while they enable other people’s bad behavior, we’re enablers too.

      1. 9.3.1

        I never felt like a priority but he sure was good at helping his ex and his friends. To this day I ruminate about my inability to point out how hurtful his inability to prioritize me was without either falling apart or getting angry. He would point to the emotionalism as invalidating of the point I was trying to make. He could never fully mirror the grief and the pain and to this day o wish I could have felt less. I still expend useless energy on thinking about it. It’s so odd to love and attach to people who don’t get us. I think I understood him but I could not find a way to be okay with were I stood in his life. Forever sidelined unless there was nothing else going on and nobody else offering attention. When there was, I had to take a back seat or walk.

    4. 9.4
      Karmic Equation

      I believe this is really an incompatibility issue.

      His love language is “acts of service” while yours may be “quality time”.

      It’s not an issue if his acts of service are aimed at YOU, but if his acts of service to OTHERS prevents him from spending quality time with you then you’re going to feel unloved.

      Read “Love Languages”. Take the quiz (I think you can take the quiz without buying the book if you Google it).

      Find a guy whose love primary or secondary love language is the same as your primary love language.

      And learn to be fluent in ALL the love languages yourself, so that YOU can more easily speak to any man of your choosing in HIS preferred language, until you know for certain whether he speaks yours or not. Being able to ID his love language makes it easier to connect and sustain a relationship.

      My primary love language is quality time with a minor in physical touch. Luckily my bf’s love languages match mine. Fortunately for him, I’m also fluent in all the other languages, because, due to a neglected childhood, he needs someone who speaks all the other love languages too. I automatically his love language to him when I feel that he needs it.

      The only caveat to this is that one can’t resent him for not being fluent in the other languages, just because I am. As long as I get quality time and physical touch (e.g., holding hands, hello/goodbye kisses, etc), I’m 80% happy. I don’t worry about the other 20%. Occasionally, I’ll unabashedly demand/cajole compliments out of him, when I’m in need of affirmation.

  10. 10

    hi evan

    i agree with you.   my last boyfriend whom i’m still broken hearted over took off with some other women he met at a pub. (i know, i know)

    i realise now that he didn’t see me like all my other friends. his perception of me  (i found out afterwards) was that i was controlling and hard work. but all my male friends and my ex boyfriends  say i’m fun and easy going.   so i feel like he had a negative perspective on me. no matter what i did, he found the negative in it.  

    i can’t help thinking that these people who see the negative in the person that they’re with are just not happy or secure within themselves. so they are always looking for another person to give them what they can’t give themselves (or what they see their partner is not giving them). and because we are all fallable to some extent, we’re always going to fall short of  these types of people’s  great expectations, which they themselves cannot live up to.  so when they find  the  next person isn’t giving them exactly what they want, how they want it, when they want it, they look for somebody else and so the cycle goes on.   he’s looking outside for somebody better, instead of looking  within himself to become a better partner.

    i never saw that he looked at how he could make the relationship better, or how he looked at  his part in his  discontentment with life in general.   it seemed to be that the focus was squarely on how i was not making him happy (even though i pretty much gave up  most my own needs to conform to his wants).  

    so once you are involved with somebody and you do deeply love them, i think that love  becomes more an  action  than a feeling. e.g. even though i’m not getting exactly what i want from this person when i want (sex etc), i am understanding and patient. even though i’m not always happy in the relationship, i am patient and accepting that our love with help us through etc.

    but i i’ve decided  now that it’s important to try to get to know a person for a significant amount of time  before you get sexually involved and hence too emotionally  attached to them.  i realised that  the way i viewed him was an illusion (which was greatly assisted by his mastery in lying).   by trying to get the know the person, if there are shitty things about them which you feel you can’t live with, you’ve found that out before you get stuck on the  emotional  hook. also trying to get to know somebody before  getting physical  with them helps develop mutual respect and trust for each other.   but i know this is hard to do when the chemistry  is strong.  but i know the thing i regret the most is that i didn’t stay friends with this last boyfriend and get to know him better.

    i honestly think that suffering the full brunt of  this broken heart for as long as it takes is personally going to stop me from diving in so fast ever again.   learning how shitty men think (from evan’s website) is also greatly assisting.

  11. 11

    Your blogs are mixed …on the one hand you indicate to walk in a dead situation …. On the other hand you say treat him with kindness and thoughtfulness and make him feel wanted and admired and you will receive in return… Perhaps the indicator is if you don ‘t receive in return then cut your losses.

  12. 12

    I agree wholeheartedly with this entire post… except for the line, “because, whether you know it or not, those men could not make ANYONE happy.”  
    As much as it hurts to admit, I do believe that most good guys who weren’t good boyfriends to me have gone/ will go on to have wonderful relationships with other women.   They weren’t ever going to be good boyfriends for me, and that’s what I need to keep in mind… it truly doesn’t matter that they can make other women happy because it’s only my own happiness that needs to concern me.

  13. 13

    My ex-boyfriend is a very good man. Honest, sincere, loyal, funny, sweet…but not a very good boyfriend at all. Workaholic, never made  our relationship a priority, never made me feel like we were a “we.”

    I’m so  glad he wasn’t a good boyfriend (to me) because I let him go, moved on and have now found the most amazing man and boyfriend. My relationship far surpasses even the best days with my ex.  

    My co-worker is holding on to  someone I think is good,  decent guy but he’s a horrible boyfriend and she stays because she thinks that because he’s a  “good guy” he’s worth waiting for (she thinks he’ll be changing his behavior at some point and make her feel  special,  tell her he loves her, want to see her more often). I don’t think it’s likely to happen since  they are 6 months in and  she’s on egg shells most of the time  wondering  where the relationship is going, if anywhere.

    Even a good  man can be totally wrong for you!  Great advice, Evan.


  14. 14


    I just love your blog! What you wrote pretty much summed up my last relationship to a tee. I, too, thought that there wouldn’t be anyone else for me if the last guy did not want me. Boy, was I wrong! I followed your advice dumped the previos guy 10 months ago and have recently met someone else that has put a smile on my face again. Just goes to show that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Thanks, Evan, for your words of wisdom!

  15. 15

    I wanted to say that l don ´t think that Evan gives mixed messages at all with different articles. Love and finding partner can ´t be “handled over with a manual,” or “if l follow the instructions well enough, it will sure quarantee me a happy ending.” This is why sometimes happens, when dating coaches give advices, but it does not work, because at the end of the day you have to use your own brains and listen to your gut  and know whats good to you and what is not. They can ´t do that for you.

    I also think that some women and men are more attractive to opposite sex, naturally, without doing anything, than others. Maybe the woman with 3 different university degree is masculine by her nature, so she can have 100 degrees of university or zero degrees, it does not matter, because she will still be HER.   Type of woman, who says, men find her intimidating, cos of her degrees. No way. And then comes a woman, who has no desire for career, but men go crazy. Its the same vice versa.      



  16. 16

    Thank you, this was just what I needed to read.   

  17. 17
    Teressa Niles

    My boyfriend doesn’t make me feel special. Everything   he does for me, all those nice things he goes out of his way to do for me, he does for everyone. He is always working, not just his regular job, but also chores for other people. Therefore, even on his days off he has no time to call me. When we are together, it’s pure bliss, but afterwards, I hear nothing because he is so busy. I just don’t feel special. I talked to him about this just yesterday, he says he understands, and will find a way to make me feel special. We will see.  

    1. 17.1

      Hm sounds like my situation fuk it if your not a priority LEAVE

  18. 18

    Wow! This sounds exactly like what one of my friends is currently going through. No matter how clear the signs are, we continue to spin our wheels hoping than nothing fell off. In the end, we missed out on great opportunities to be with someone who would truly love, cherish, support, and actually wants to be with us.

    1. 18.1

      YES, no matter how clear the signs are.
      A couple of times she told me that she had a fear of relationships and tended to sabotage them.    And I stayed and got crushed.   
      How stupid was I?  

  19. 19

    It’s much easier to break up with a jerk, but it’s damm terribly felt when he isnt. I’ve obsessively tried to understand what the problem is, neither mine nor his (cuz he’s not a jerk and there’s nothing to blame. I am all right and do my part as I should). An answer doesnt matter as he has made the decision to leave. He will probably make someone happy later, but she’s not me, or at least not me in present (this is really hard to chew). It’s not so hard to find a good man and avoid jerks, but it will take many trials to get closer to the destination. anyway, another good guy has just joined my list of ex-bfs/crushes 🙁 thank you for this article.

  20. 20

    I’ve found that being disappointed is a worse feeling than being angry.   It’s quite sad when you expect to be disappointed and then actually get disappointed.    Sometimes I wonder why I’m in a relationship with someone who doesn’t out the same effort in maintaining a relationship.   At some point; you get tired of the feeling and stop doing what you did to keep it going and them be blamed for the problems in the relationship.  

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