Why Nice Guys Stay Single

“I figured if I was nice, I would impress girls. If I was nice enough, I would get a girlfriend.”

I’ve heard this so many times. And for the record, I think it’s incredible. How awesome does a human have to be in order to understand that basic kindness is the bedrock of all relationships? When young men say this to me, it warms my heart. These are lovely, beautiful people, and they’re going to do well in life.

But they’re not going to get a girlfriend. If they do, it’s likely to be shallow, unfulfilling and short lived.

That’s because ‘nice’ is what you do when you’re scared to be who you really are.

Nice is a tool. It’s a predetermined set of behaviors that can be followed in casual social situations in order to avoid awkwardness and hurt feelings. It’s a default setting, and one that works really, really well for 90% of your life—in the office, going to the bank, meeting someone new, walking down the street. Without nice, rudeness would reign in restrooms, yelling matches would pepper our time on public transit, and don’t even get me started on the damage the service industry would inflict on customers, unfettered by this do-no-harm social code. Sent a steak back to the kitchen? Prepare to be punched in the face by the chef.

Nice prevents us from clawing at each other’s’ throats. It’s the lubricant that allows complex, weird, hurting people to have social intercourse without too much soreness afterwards. Emotionally, I mean.

It also separates us from the real, authentic experience we’re having every moment. It gives us an excuse not to share that authentic experience with the people who are experiencing it with us. Because it’s pre-set and default, it’s autopilot. It’s a way for us to cop out. Nice is a way to momentarily disown the dirty ugly parts of ourselves that we are so afraid others will see.

Nice is denying the shadow; the parts of yourself that you wish weren’t part of you …. That means it’s denying others—especially romantic partners—the opportunity to know and love you for who you really are.

It’s pretending you don’t feel afraid, or inadequate, or sometimes lost or often lonely. It’s denying that you are a complex, weird, difficult person who struggles in the world and deserves to be wholly loved and accepted anyways. That means it’s denying others—especially romantic partners—the opportunity to know and love you for who you really are.

We’re all weirdos. We’re all hurting. We all have things about ourselves that we think are so awful that we aren’t even aware they are part of us, because we’re denying them so hard. Nice is one of the main tools we use to deny those things. “I’m not angry!” we cry. “I’m nice!’”

The truth is, you’re neither. You’re much more than what you feel. There are real women in the world who want desperately to see the truth of you. Even the parts you don’t like.

While it makes sense to eschew our freak flags in favor of social niceties 90% of the time, it is a terrible way to approach women you want to be with. It negates the possibility of real intimacy, stops the beautiful flower of connection from sprouting. We’re taught that we have to be nice in order to be worthy, acceptable, lovable. While it’s true that we have to be nice sometimes, in order to maintain social equilibrium, it’s also true that we can let our nice shield down with those who matter. Which is scary! Very scary! It’s the single most vulnerable thing a person can do.

Can you be brave enough to do that for the women you care about? We are yearning for your authentic presence. Can you provide it?

Some women want nice, and not just while you’re out at restaurants or meeting her parents for the first time. Those are the ones with whom you’ll eventually feel lonely in love, always a little bit separate from each other and from the real juicy wet sexy awkward moments of your life together. That’s because you’re helping each other maintain separation from your selves.

I’ve been there. I dated nice guys, and then wondered why it felt like I was dating a cardboard cut out. When these guys eventually, inevitably showed me who they really were, it was with resentment: they had held back, denied themselves, and all to please me. It hurt them, and they blamed me for that hurt. It’s hard to come back from that in a relationship.

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Kathryn Hogan
Hi! I'm Kathryn. I'm a wellness and relationship coach and author. I share powerful tools and mindful practices to help you live that Big, Rich, Satisfying life your heart knows you're meant to be living. My book, Your Big Life: Ground Rules to Get Unstuck and Stop Sabotaging Yourself, is coming out December 14th. Check out.
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  1. This article is written by someone who fancies being dominated or trashed, and wants someone to control them. That is fine, but that is only one type of women. There are indeed women who like nice guys. Most of them end up marrying one. “Nice” doesn’t mean “wimp,” which is what this article is describing. Please stop conflating the two things.

    I’m going to break it down as simply as I can despite the typical, inevitable backlash: “Nice guys” are sensitive “empaths.” You cannot genuinely bring romantic interest to a nice guy and get “rude jerk.” It’s not in our cards if it isn’t in yours. The spirals in your eyes tend to become the spirals in ours. The magic disappears for many when they realize that there won’t be much of a challenge
    The only way to get a “rude jerk” out of a “nice guy” is because:

    a) he learned how to fake it (vomit!) in order to attract you,

    b) you come off as a genuinely low life scum that isn’t worth our time any more than that kind of person is worth yours (i.e. you’re truly worthless and we can tell),


    c) We’re not attracted to you and don’t want to waste your time (in which case looks more like a person who is avoiding you – like I said, we’re kind of empathic. Our radar works just fine.)

    Otherwise, being genuine is what counts here. When we’re on top of our game, we’ll catch you every time. If you’re looking for fake, your next ex has you covered, and as you probably already know, there’s plenty of that to go around.
    For the number of times I’ve heard “If you can’t handle me at my worst…”

    Me at my worst is being a person who cares too much, and very few can handle that up front (…only to seek that exact quality once the relationship with Mr. “Bad Boy” comes unglued). An even bigger pitfall awaits those who try to hide their feelings. Learning to hide it means I have to learn to become something I’m not.

    Besides, that doesn’t work. “Nice guys” are people you either accept or you don’t. I’ve met several women who were more than willing, but were not the right match. We too get caught in the realm of seeking out people who turn out to be toxic for us. We’re mostly attracted to distressed souls who will chew us up and spit us out while of course making the whole damned thing our fault (Both parties are always to blame. It’s never a one sided affair). As a result, we learn to proceed with caution.

    And as for the tired, ridiculous notion that a nice guy will never “ravish” you… if that’s the scenario, you didn’t meet a nice guy at all. If you don’t know the value of a person who takes the time to do it right, then you don’t deserve to know what that experience is like, or how it happens in the first place (Find me a couple that is madly in love after 30 years, and tell me that either of them built that on one of them being a rude person or a “bad boy/girl”).

    In this scenario, you’re meeting people who are willing to fake it for the sake of being in a relationship. I.E. They weren’t in love, they just wanted someone around. That is why it feels like dating a cardboard cut out. A genuinely nice person is fine being on their own until they fancy someone who can handle who they really are, yet doesn’t put up with people trying to walk all over them.

    So what’s left is a world full of assholes pretending to be nice, and a bunch of nice guys trying to be the “bad boy.” Otherwise, being genuine is something that few *people* are willing to change about themselves, let alone men.
    So for those women who bagged a nice guy and that know this article is B.S., that we *do* have emotions, that we *are* decisive people, and that we *are* comfortable with ourselves, thank you. We know you’re out there

  2. A lot of people see me as the “nice guy” that loves to help and they’d like to get close to me, but there’s a reason why I’m single and prefer solitary. The reason is that I’m an asexual schizoid with DID issues and have no desire to form relationships with anyone beyond a helping hand in times of need. I just prefer not to drag people down into an insanity spiral that never lives up to their expectations. I’m not saying all “nice guys” are crazy, but surely we have our reasons. As for me, if you want to chat about software or need help with car maintenance, I’m there, it’s fun to help others and have a “nice” time. If you need a boyfriend, I’m not the best shoulder to cry on or understand romantic interests. I might sound crazy, then again, I technically am and being a “nice guy” is how therapy taught me to better socialize with others.

  3. You are absolutely right. I know — I’m a recovering Nice Guy. The truth is, the Nice Guy syndrome you speak of isn’t really “nice.” When I was a practicing Nice Guy, I was actually a people pleaser. (And by the way, people pleasing has nothing to do with pleasing anyone except one’s self.)

    I was an adept chameleon and a shape-shifter. Being “nice” was a way to get the external approval that I craved. Instead of having a healthy sense of self and worthiness, I was dominated by the need for outside validation. I became skilled at becoming whatever others (especially women) needed me to be – no matter how inauthentic – in order to be accepted and loved.

    And where did I get the model for how to behave in order to get this love? From mom, of course. She taught me how to be a “good boy” (which was her job). Unfortunately, when I became a man, I had no one to show me how to access my healthy masculinity and couple that with empathy and love.

    This “nice” way of being is not about kindness, compassion, or tenderness and is the very antithesis of vulnerability. It’s about staying safe, getting what you want, and staying out of conflict.

    The man I am practicing being is whole-hearted and integrated. I embrace and accept the fullness of who I am, including the shadow parts that I disowned so long ago. I am self-validating, which allows me to be more and more authentic every day. I don’t need to tie myself in knots in order to be liked and approved of by everybody.

    It is that kind of man, able to hold the opposing tensions of both my light and dark with grace, that is the example I am proud to give to my two young daughters. My hope is that when it comes time to pick a mate, they will look for someone who is authentic, present, vulnerable, strong, and tender. In other words, someone who is real, open, and even a little rough around the edges.

    • Exactly! There is a HUGE difference between a “Nice Guy” and a “Wimp.” This article is describing a “wimp,” which is what all Nice Guys start out as. Once we learn that the world will take advantage of wimps, we toughen up, but keep the sensitivity. Being a friendly person has endless benefits, and true lovers are born out of people who learn to master affection and self confidence.

  4. True love isn’t a drug. The more we realize this, the more our divorce rates and cheating rates will drop. Finding a partner who is “nice” to us – not fake nice but truly nice – is a blessing in this world. But isn’t just attempting to be nice or kind a better way to treat your partner than being mean, abusive, etc.?

  5. Just be you!!! and be happy and content with who you are and if theres someone that just clicks with you then follow it, same thing goes with everything else if it works, it works of it dosent then give it a few more trys, Ponder on it, and see how it works. Just don’t let anything bring you to a place you don’t want to be in the long run. Love life and it will love you back!!