Do Nice Women Finish Last? Absolutely Not!

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I usually don’t write on the weekends, but this email from a regular reader made me change my mind – especially since it’s thematically relevant to my most recent post, as well as my new book that’s coming out in a few weeks:

All right, Evan, so I’ve been following your blog and advice for quite awhile now and I sure learned a lot from it. You are right on most things, but I must say I was right on this one: Men care more about women who don’t care for them.

Take my latest relationship, for instance, I started “duty dating” this man and eventually we went out for 8 months. For two months, I really wasn’t that into him, and for those two months he was very sweet to me, went out of his way to please me, compromised for the relationship and was very considerate of what was important to me. He told me he loved after 2 months (before I told him) and was already talking about a future together. In return, I gave him the least I could to keep him in the relationship. As our relationship evolved, I started falling in love with him, compromising, going out of my way to make him happy and even doing things that went against my beliefs.

Men care more about women who don’t care for them.

He, on the other hand, stopped putting any effort in the relationship. He would not only do the least possible to keep me around, but also started ignoring anything that was important to me. So while I’ve heard you say that “men like the woman who treat them nicely and makes things easier“, my experience has been completely the opposite.   I usually don’t put any effort until I know where the relationship is going, yet most men I dated were really into me right from the beginning. The one time I become the “nice woman,” he feels he doesn’t have to do any work. Does it mean the saying “nice guys finish last” applies for girls as well?

Thanks for your help,

Tamara

Dear Tamara,

I love your thought-provoking email and take great pride that readers like you have the ability to find the tiny loopholes in my dating advice. Unfortunately, I’m going to have to close that loophole right now. Thanks for playing. 🙂

So here’s my take on why “men care more about women who don’t care about them” is about the worst relationship philosophy I’ve ever heard:

First of all, I don’t think that “nice guys finish last”. As I wrote in one of my first blog entries ever, nice guys finish FIRST, as long as they have the balls to make decisions. Nice guys who are only nice are boring, but the proverbial “nice guy with edge” is the holy grail for most women. I’d like to think you can be a nice, generous, thoughtful, devoted man without kissing your girlfriend’s ass and losing all semblance of self-respect.

At this point, I’d like you to pay attention to this important nuance, as you seem to be ignoring it when you make your declaration that “nice girls finish last”. The world is not that black and white. Alas, your previous relationship has led you to conclude otherwise. Here’s your supporting evidence:

You had a boyfriend for two months and were basically indifferent towards him and gave him the least you could. Finally, his kindness and consistency won you over, but he started to become complacent and selfish. Your conclusion: “this relationship was a lot better when I was being a selfish bitch. Maybe it’s a good idea to always be a selfish bitch!” End scene.

Your solution is to beat men at their own game? To be equally distant and indifferent, under the theory that he’ll try harder?

Can you see why this is an exhausting, and ultimately unsatisfying path to finding a long term relationship? Relationships are built on trust and comfort. Being seen by your partner as your best self. Being accepted by your partner as your worst self. It’s about letting go, and building something that’s greater than either of you.

Can you see why this is an exhausting, and ultimately unsatisfying path to finding a long term relationship?

Why am I sitting home writing on my blog on Saturday afternoon? Not because there aren’t hundreds of things I’d rather do. But because my wife is just out of surgery and wants me around. That’s why I’m here now. That’s why I didn’t go out on Tuesday night, Wednesday night, Thursday night or Friday night as well. Does she actually NEED me here? Not at all. But she wants me here, so I put her needs (my presence in the house) above my own (going out and having fun with my friends). I’m not claiming to be a martyr: this is exactly what she would do for me if the roles were reversed.

Imagine a world in which everyone arrived at your conclusion, Tamara. Would YOU want to have a relationship in that world? Where men give less, you give less, and it becomes a battle of indifference until neither party can take it any longer? Because that’s the slippery slope you’re proposing. Or maybe you’re just proposing that ONLY you give less, so that he constantly has to win you over but never gets the security of knowing that he’s “got” you. Either way, this doesn’t sound to me like the foundation of a successful relationship, does it? In fact, it sounds more like a grade school pissing match to see who can get away with more by caring less.

By now, you’re probably on board with the idea that being selfish isn’t a great strategy, but you’re still faced with your empirical evidence: your boyfriend was more devoted when you were ambivalent about him. Therefore, you think that, to keep him hooked, you should continue to act that way in perpetuity. Interesting philosophy.

Imagine a guy asked me for advice and said the same thing: nice guys finish last. Jerks do better with women. Should I start being a jerk?

By your standards, Tamara, the answer would have to be yes. After all, it would seem to be a good bet. Millions of women have signed up for relationships with such men, who keep up their indifference forever, never letting you feel safe, never letting you rest easy that he’s going to stick around. Do we really need more of this? I get hundreds of emails from women complaining about men like this and yet you want to FOSTER this same behavior in womankind?

You have to break the cycle of insanity, sweetheart. Otherwise it’s an eye-for-an-eye, where everyone is left blind. Or single.

Your logical mistake is in thinking that there’s a correlation between how nice you acted and how your boyfriend withdrew. Because if you were the perfect girlfriend, and he pulled away from you during this time, it just means that he’s NOT the man you want to marry. End of story. Good men respond to good treatment. And if he can’t take you being unconditionally good to him, I’d say that’s a fatal flaw in the relationship, wouldn’t you? Same way I’d tell any nice guy not to put up with bullshit with a woman who actually wants a bad boy. Let the bad boys and bad girls terrorize each other. I’m trying to foster good, healthy, nurturing relationships. That begins with being a giver, not a taker.

You can be smart. You can be strong. You can have your opinions. You just have to put your ego aside for the sake of a relationship that’s bigger than you.

Your belief in “Why Men Love Bitches” is a very simplified version of the world, but it’s not that much different from my Nice Guys With Balls theory. You can be smart. You can be strong. You can have your opinions. You just have to put your ego aside for the sake of a relationship that’s bigger than you. Since I know you, Tamara, I have a feeling that your boyfriend isn’t entirely at fault here and that you let your ego and worldview of how things are “supposed to be” get in the way of your relationship. You’re more interested in being “right” than you are in keeping the peace. But that’s another conversation for another day.

The real point is that if you’re going to be building a life together, the ONLY way to do it is through empathy, generosity, and selflessness. Your suggestion might lead to some smitten guy who chases you around like a puppy dog because he thinks you’re hot…it just doesn’t lead to equality or long-term peace. Take your ego out of it, start thinking long-term, and realize that the guy you want to keep will LOVE being treated well.

Thanks for your question. Your comments below are appreciated.

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Comments:

  1. 41
    downtowngal

    RAR#21, “you aren’t interested, why bother dating the guy? ”

    Good point. though I wonder if OP's comments are in hindsight. I've also seen situations with guys who will only pursue women who aren't interested in them. This guy sounds like a total d-bag, and I agree 1000% w EMK.

    Though it raises some questions about dating. I've been told that i”m 'too nice', and have shown too much interest at the start, which turns guys off, that I smile too much. I've also been told I'm pretty, down-to-earth and self-assured, and don't exhibit desperate behavior with guys.

    On the other hand, with some guys, if you don't show enough interest (like kiss on a first (blind-met-on-the-internet) date) he thinks you're not into him.

    I've always thought, if you treat someone (friend/mate) well and show self respect, you'll receive it. Problem is, it doesn't seem to work that way with relationships. Guys will do what they want and don't always think about 'wow, she seems like a good person who shares my values' when they meet someone, instead they'll go for the hot chick w the big boobs walking by. And even the nice/good ones will be reluctant to pursue women who who too much interest at first. This is why women learn to play subtle games and string guys along in case something develops. Say what you want but I've seen it happen with success, guys falling for the same stuff.

    OP's situation sounds like an extreme case, but the title of the post refers to more women who fall into this 'gray area'.

  2. 42
    Havingsaidthat

    Look at this from his perspective. He spent two months chasing after this woman who was kind of bitchy and indifferent. He stays in the relationship, because he doesn't feel like he knows her that well and is willing to overlook her coldness in case there is more to her than he has seen.

    After a few months, she's a bit less bitchy, but he feels like he knows all of her good points and is not as impressed as he had hoped he would be given the initial coldness.

    So, he distances himself. And you guys break up.

    The problem is, unlike a good scientist, you are only studying your experimental conditions, not the subject. This guy is responding to many things in addition to how you behave, just as you respond to many things in addition to how a guy behaves. Guys will put up with bitchiness initially to see what's there (actually, guys may not even see it as bitchiness, since they tend to want more emotional distance anyway — they may just see it as you not really caring about them at all, which is true).

    Men are PEOPLE, people. They are motivated by the same things we are. To understand why they do what they do, think about yourself, but 10x more looks driven and 10x more sex-driven (no matter how horny you are). Then, think it through.

  3. 43
    Elaine

    I have been in Tamara's relationship before and I agree with the comment #42 and I'd like to add that what Tamara didn't take into account is that maybe after 8 months, the guy didn't feel like being in a relationship with someone who wasn't that into him. She says that she began become more open towards him, but she doesn't take his point of view into account. What if she had spend 2 months pursuing a man who wasn't into her, and then who knows how many more months slowly openning up. He might have been completely receptive for the last few months but would you really trust someone who spent half the relationship running away or trying to make up their mind?

    When my boyfriend and I broke up this was one of the reasons that he gave me. He told me that he knew I was not comfortable dating him in the beginning of the relationship and that this still bothered him, months and months later. And whenever I did something that he didn't like, he questioned whether this was my "not caring" coming out again.

    So the point here is, you can't be indifferent and use people emotionally as you need them until you decided that you want to keep them, and then expect them to stick around like nothing happened.

  4. 44
    starthrower68

    I think the thing I struggle with is trying to do a balancing act that seems virtually impossible.  Here's an example: Evan has said on a previous blog that when a man tells a woman he finds her attractive, that doesn't mean he's interested in her, he's just being in the moment.  Evan has also said men (as a general rule, not all) don't know what they want.  It's difficult at bet to navigate one's way through that.  But then a current video says to assume the best about men.  At this point, the only thing I really know how to do is just smile and nod and say "thank you".  I don't want to be completely disengaged because I'm trying to be open, but its tricky because a woman also has to be sure to see the red flags.  I don't want to assume I'm going to get hurt, but I don't want to ignore things I should see in an attempt to be open.  Am I the only one with this conundrum?

  5. 45
    Selena

    Starthrower,
    I'm not sure I understand the conundrum between being open and ignoring red flags.  When you meet new people without romantic expectations do you do so with openness? Or do you scout their landscape for red flags? I'll guess that you generally just go with the flow of getting to know them and when/if they do something you find inappropriate, you re-evaluate how you want to proceed socially with them. Why should it be different with men you might be romantically interested in?
     
    I've been guilty of ignoring red flags before too thanks to sexual attraction. But I think, hope anyway, that I'm less apt to do that now having previous experience.  Doesn't stop me from being open, but I might weight some things like inappropriate flashes of temper, snide remarks, questionable ethics and untruths heavier than my younger self did.  And that's with anyone not just romantic possibilities.  "Presumption of innocence until proven otherwise", I find is a much happier way to live.

    1. 45.1
      Cindy

      This response is to answer the questions in your first paragraph.   Dating someone is different than meeting anyone else.   If I start to have feelings for this guy, he has the power to hurt me whether he wants to or not so it is important to proceed with some more caution.     
      There are other situations in life in which you have to be more careful when dealing with other people for example at work.   I work in a very competitive field with some people that can be cut throat and nasty.     There are certain strategies one has to develop in order to even survive much less thrive in this environment.   I’m not saying dating is like that but developing strategies to not get hurt are important.  
        

  6. 46
    Evan Marc Katz

    I love you guys. It’s like I don’t even have to offer dating advice anymore since you GET it. Thanks, Selena, and Karl, and everyone else who contributes to the positive dialogue here. Keep up the great work…

  7. 47
    Selena

    Re: # 46
     
    Slacker! 🙂

  8. 48
    starthrower68

    Selena, I understand your questions and maybe that wasn't the best analogy.  Let me pose this questions in response to what you said: one should not have any romantic expectations about someone they might be romantically interested in, is what I think you might be saying (but please correct me if I'm misunderstanding)? 

  9. 49
    Selena

    @Starthrower #48
     
    Hmm, not exactly. What I meant is, when you meet new people, say a new co-worker joins your company, or a friend of yours introduces you to her neighbors at a party…you are probably open when getting to know them yes? It doesn't occur to you to scrutinize them, to be on red alert for red flags. Why not approach dating that way? If you meet a single guy, hey, he might be interesting to get to know -why not be open  – that's all.
     
    The thing is Star, you already know what the red flags are you previously ignored. You will be less likely to ignore them if you see them again.  If you see one pop up with a new person there will be a little voice in the back of your head that goes "uh oh".  Or if it's a BIG red flag, maybe there will be a little robot madly waving it's accordian arms going "Warning! Warning! Danger Will Robinson!" 🙂 
     
    Being open, to me, is essentially just being friendly. Not getting too caught up what might happen, or where things might go…just letting the other person reveal themself as you spend time together.

  10. 50
    Karl R

    starthrower68 asked: (#48)
    "one should not have any romantic expectations about someone they might be romantically interested in, is what I think you might be saying"
     
    I'm not sure that's a good paraphrase of what Selena said … but it is an accurate statement by itself.
     
    Last year I went on a very enjoyable first date. We had a lot in common. There was obvious rapport. Despite the successful first date, I didn't allow myself to get carried away with "new relationship" euphoria. I didn't even know whether she would say "Yes" to a second date. This minimized my disappointment when she was not interested in a second date.
     
    Another way to explain it:
    You shouldn't be in a rush to turn a handful of date into a relationship. Nor should you be in a rush to rule out a relationship based on a handful of dates. Relax, have fun, get to know the other person, then make an informed decision.
     
    As Selena indicated, people have a tendency to rush into relationships with people they find attractive and charming, despite red flags. On the other hand, people often rule people out for not having traits on their list, without discovering whether the person is suitable anyways.
     
    Selena provided an example of rushing in despite red flags. To give you an example of ruling someone out, several women on this blog have stated that they would not date a man who didn't have a college degree, because that man would not be their intellectual equal. I always find those comments amusing, since I don't have have a degree … and I'm sure some women on Match.com ruled me out for precisely that reason.
     
    Don't rush to classify someone as "your boyfriend" (or "not your boyfriend") quickly. There's nothing to lose by spending a little extra time where the guy is "maybe your boyfriend."

  11. 51
    Selena

    Agree with you about the college degree Karl. I have more formal education than my previous partners and many of my friends – never made a whit of difference  – we were intelluctual equals.

  12. 52
    downtowngal

    This post is mis-titled.  OP doesn't sound like a 'nice girl' – in the sense that she continued to date someone she wasn't intersted in. 

  13. 53
    Carly

    I failed to set healthy boundaries with the man who loved me and I gave too much…he was the needy one but I gave too much. Now he is gone and I realize he must have felt overwhelmed and suffocated by my care and the fact that there was no room for me to ‘need’ him in my life.
    I told him that I would respect his wishes and no longer contact him and I do not know where he is now…It’s been 3 weeks. He may have moved away. What can I do now? We had and I believe still do have an amazing emotional bond and loved each other very much. He told me every day and showed me in many ways and we planned to never part.

  14. 54
    Gina

    I actually found the book, “Why Men Love Bitches,” to provide some common sense advice. When the author uses the term “bitch,” she’s not using it to refer to mean, selfish women who treat men poorly. Rather, she’s advising women to be nice, but not become a doormat when dating or being in a relationship with a man.   Here are a few of her attraction principles to give you an idea of what I’m talking about:

    Attraction Principle #1

    Anything a person chases in life runs away.

    Attraction Principle #23

    Before sex a man isn’t thinking clearly and a woman is thinking clearly. After sex, it reverses. The man is thinking clearly and the woman isn’t.

    Attraction Principle #44

    Most women are starving to receive something from a man that they need to give themselves.

    Attraction Principle #50

    The nice girl gives away too much of herself when pleasing him regularly becomes more important than pleasing herself.

    Attraction Principle #100

    The most attractive quality of all is dignity.

  15. 55
    Tia

    great advice Evan, so simple you almost would miss it.   and the people t hat we want to end up with are not people we have to put on facades for or “play hard to get” indefinitely.

  16. 56
    Serena27

    It sounds more like this was a case of Tamara showing her ‘true colours’ than the guy.   She was indifferent for two months and he courted her and told her he loved her.   Then she started to change and then so did he.   I know everyone is on their ‘best’ during the first weeks or even months, and everyone has skeletons in their closet (divorced- twice; debt; STI; living in parents’ basement etc.) that they maybe don’t want to reveal on the first date.   Still, there is a reason the advice to  ‘be yourself’ is still so popular, or as Evan wrote, ‘be your best self’ (or something like that).   Tamara started out as one person, and morphed into a completely different person.   Maybe her boyfriend had been walked all over by his mother or ex-girlfriends, and he liked the way Tamara (mis-)treated him.   Then she started doing things for him all the time and even doing things that went against her beliefs!   He was no longer in the unhealthy relationship he craved and pulled back.   Or maybe Tamara wasn’t that bad in the begining.   Maybe she came across as strong, and independent, with a mind of her own.   Suddenly, when she starts falling for him, she changes into a clingy dormat, pouring out her insecurities and caving on issues she professed were important to her.    He saw that he had fallen in love with a pretense, and he didn’t love or respect the real her.  

    Say I was dating a  single father  who seemed  caring and  dependable and told me his children were very important to him and he prioritized them, and I fell in love with him during this period.   If he suddenly started spending all his time with me, hired a babysitter everytime it was his night with them, and skipped his daughter’s school play performance  to take me away for a fabulous weekend getaway, I would not appreciate it.   I would be angry.   If I fell for him b/c he was a responsible, family man with good boundaries, then I’m going to fall right out of love if that changes.   It  wouldn’t matter that he was doing nice things for me.  I would feel like he mis-represented who he was during the first months.   I would lose all respect for him.  

    Same thing if he seemed confident at first and then turned clingy and insecure.   Sure, everyone has insecurities.   Allowing ourselves to be vulnerable with another human being is how we grow closer.   But there’s a difference between saying “this is who I am, please accept me,” and “this is who I am, oh please don’t leave, me, I’ll do anything to keep you!”

  17. 57
    Gina

    Why Men Marry Bitches is a horrible  title and an equally horrible argument. It makes the assumption that relationships are a priori power defined spaces. F… that!  
    What we need is temperance, balance, equality, empathy, and generosity. Not playing games. Not power play between the genders.  
    So I agree with Evan’s take. Treating someone how YOU want to be treated, consistently. Being yourself. Give and take. A two way street.  
    Are peoplare ware of what “sharing” means? What it means to share and partake in love? deceiving someone or ignoring them or playing power games with them is  
    not love and care.

  18. 58
    Sparkling Emerald

    GREAT blog post !   Don’t know how old it is, there was a comment about it on the side bar, and I clicked, and I am glad I did.
    I don’t want to string anyone along, nor do I want to give up on a potential great guy, because I don’t feel insta-chemistry.   In fact, I don’t want that flaming inferno immediately, it usually leads to being blinded by the sparks, and the whole thing goes down in flames anyway.
    I’ve read “The Rules” “Why Men Love Bitches” and the men’s websites where they school men on how to get the women to do the chasing, in order to get the upper hand.   All that sort of thing makes me want to projectile puke !
    Most of the advice seems to be about competing for the upper hand in the relationship.   Trouble is, I don’t WANT to compete, I want to CONNECT.   What’s the point of being in love, if I can’t surrender to that feeling, with BOTH of us knowing that we are being loved in return ?

    1. 58.1
      Anais

      I wholeheartedly agree. The “bitch” books are good at explaining what it means to have boundaries. But it emphasizes game playing and “the chase” too much. Some aspects of the chase help build the attraction. But I see many women go so out of their way to play hard to get. Really they just need to allow a man “lead”, let him show effort by making plans in advance, and don’t drop everything for him (which falls into people pleasing category) but don’t make your schedule so full that you never have a chance to see him. Or that you pretend to be busy or act cold.

      That’s why a lot of women try to date based on the chase without forming any connection and don’t get into a relationship. When the “chase” is over, the men realize there was no connection, the woman wasn’t providing the nurture, appreciation and feminine energy that he values and makes him want to stay.

      1. 58.1.1
        Cindy

        I totally disagree.   Everyone perceives these books this way and in some cases, like The Rules, it is certainly understandable where that perception comes from.   What you all fail to understand though is that they are written for women who tend to be the doormat in a relationship and their purpose is not to “get the ring at any cost” or to be the center of the universe so that a man will worship you.   The purpose of these books is not to get control but to not loose control and some women really need very clear guidance on this subject.   Women have been taught and expected to be submissive in relationships since time immortal.   Not everyone fits into that category and that’s fine.   A lot of women do, though.   To expect women to always be very, very nice to men and generally be submissive but somehow know exactly when and how to assert themselves and in exactly what manner, not too much, but enough at all times is ridiculous.   You work out how this will play out in the beginning of a relationship.   Just a couple of generations ago this was pretty well understood and men were expected to be downright chivalrous with women.   I’m not suggesting that the world should return to those days but men and women really do need to understand why things were that way and why it is important.   It’s about respecting each other.  

        1. Cindy

          And another Anais, I will repeat this ad nauseum.   Men run the gammit in terms of being really nice and wonderful to being controlling, manipulative, sociopathic, pshycopahtic, to you name it and everything in between.   Women need to have a range of responses to the wide variety of men she might encounter when dating and men OF ALL KINDS INCLUDING REALLY NICE GUYS need to respect women’s need to be cautious when they start dating because we don’t know who we are dealing with until we get to know that guy.   You might be the greatest guy that walked the earth but when I start dating you, how am I supposed to know that until I get to know you?  

  19. 59
    marymary

    There ARE men and likely womem too who can’t bear too much emotional closeness and prefer push and pull relationships.   I say prefer, they probably don’t know they’re doing it.   They pursue, sense you getting close, pull away, feel comfortable again, come back, feel the closesness, pull away ad nauseum. A woman may be able to play him at the same game for some time, but it won’t be the type of relationship where he’s really there for you.

    1. 59.1
      mcurious1

      i dated and fell in love with this kind of man. it’s a type of emotional abuse after a while if you are a warm, loving person

      1. 59.1.1
        Karmic Equation

        I really hate people playing the victim. I really really detest it.
          
        If you’re more unhappy than happy in a relationship, GET OUT of the relationship. Staying in a relationship where you’re constantly being pushed and pulled is YOUR OWN FAULT.
          
        He can’t emotionally abuse you if you END in the relationship.
          
        Golly gees.

  20. 60
    judy

    Marymary 59 – I don’t know how old this article is.   I think  you’re partly right when you say “they probably don’t know they’re doing it”.
    It’s a protection mechanism as in “I don’t want to get hurt again”.
    Maybe with this kind of situation, if you genuinely think you would like the man/woman, maybe there is a lot of patience, communication and reassurance to be given.
    But after a certain time, maybe, leave the game completely.

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