Miss Information

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Am I too nice for girls to like me?

by Cait Robinson

Have a question? Email Letters may be edited for length, content, and clarity.

Dear Miss Information,

I was recently talking to a friend of mine and the subject of relationships came up. I haven't had many relationships, and the few I have had weren't very serious. My friend believes the reason I've had so little success is that I've been too nice. As in, I was being friendly with new girls I met and giving off a "not interested" vibe, regardless of my actual interest, and then getting friend-zoned.

I do think of myself as a fairly "nice" person. I try to always think of other people's needs before my own, and I'm always ready to offer a helping hand. So while part of me understands what my friend is saying, another part of me doesn't think that's a fair assessment. 

Is being too nice really a thing? Do girls move on quickly if they think you're just trying to be a friend? Is there a time limit before which you must establish yourself as a potential mate, as opposed to just a friend? I've always been somewhat at a loss to explain my dirt-poor record with women. While I don't think of myself as a particularly great catch (given that I'm below average attractive-ness but have a nice enough personality, as I have plenty of friends), I'd expect that in twenty-five years someone would express more than a cursory level of interest.

It would be difficult for you to tell me whether I'm too nice, because naturally, you don't know me. Personally, I don't think of myself as too nice. If anything, I should always be trying to do more. But if that truly is a possibility, I'd at least like to know so I can maybe stop wondering what about me is flashing a neon "not boyfriend material" sign.

— Too Nice?

Dear Too Nice Question Mark,

In almost every context, I hate the word "nice." "Nice" means nothing other than "the absence of mean behavior." Think about it: if someone asks, "Do you know Alice?" and you reply, "Yes, she's very nice," what are you actually saying about her? You are saying that she has never set fire to your house or told you your haircut looked stupid. You are also implying that she has no other standout characteristics — she's not funny, sharp, profound, or otherwise impressive. She's just "nice."

As it pertains to that old chestnut, "girls don't like nice guys" — I think you're misinterpreting "nice." Girls love kind guys. Girls love thoughtful, giving, good guys. It's the "nice" (read: forgettable) ones that get passed over.

If you want to get past being "nice," focus on being noteworthy. There's a bit of defeatism in your letter. Why should a girl want to date you if you yourself don't think you're a catch? Nobody calls home to breathlessly exclaim, "Mom, Dad, I met somebody! He's kind of eh, whatever, and we're so in love!" If you can't get excited about yourself, getting others excited about you is hard. You're good enough with people that you have a lot of friends. Now, approach girls with the belief that you are a great person to know and have a lot to offer. Lead with your strengths, not with a shrug.

In dating, there are no set rules or rigid etiquette. Above all, just be accessible. It's not a game of poker where the most evasive person wins. To that end, this statement — "…giving off a 'not interested' vibe, regardless of my actual interest" — seems like the biggest problem. Vulnerability and honesty are big turn-ons. If you stay walled-off, you won't make connections, and nobody will notice what makes you cool. You will just be "nice."

You don't have to be a perfect ten to find love. Most of us aren't. You just need to find your angle, and work it. To paraphrase David Sedaris, "If you're not cute, you may as well be crafty." I can't speak for all girls, but I know I'd rather date a fun person with an idiosyncratic point-of-view than a super-attractive puddle of oatmeal.

Dear Miss Information,

I'm a twenty-four-year-old guy who not-too-recently broke up with his younger girlfriend. It's been about six months now. I might still be in love with her, and she was certainly my best friend. Our relationship had its ups and downs like any other, but at some point I was going above and beyond for her, and she just wouldn't meet me in the middle on the things that mattered to me. We had broken up for a week once, then again. I finally ended it.

I realized I had built my life around her, and that it was probably an unhealthy relationship. I was okay. I was ready to find someone new. I had a few one-night things. For months, my ex promised change (as she had before, over and over), and I kept telling her that I either didn't want to get back together, or that it might happen, but I needed time. I made a couple of half-hearted attempts to get back with her, but I didn't feel ready, or maybe I wasn't interested. I guess I sat on the fence. I feel bad that I may have strung her along. 

Recently she started seeing someone (someone I really hate — probably just a coincidence, of course) and this alarm went off in my head. I freaked out and I begged her to come back. She told me she loves me but no longer has romantic feelings for me, and she won't resume the relationship. She had just begged for months. Now I'm begging her. 

I don't know if I love her; I don't even think it would be the best idea if we got back together. I don't know how she feels about me. Am I dealing with simple jealousy? Am I in love? What is going on with me? I can't sleep, I'm miserable, I'm sad, I'm lonely. Suddenly other women seem inferior, and my life has lost meaning and purpose. Just slap some sense into me, please. I feel like an asshole for so many reasons. 

— Fence-Sitter

Dear Fence-Sitter,

Oh, honey. You don't need a slap. You need a stiff drink and a good cry.

First thing's first: you know full well what's up, because your letter has all of the answers in it. The relationship wasn't working, and you know why. That's all you need.

This sounds like a pretty clear-cut case of jealousy. When she was begging you for your attention, you had all of the power and control. There is a perverse high in having someone beg for your attention, and being able to dangle it over them. (Perhaps you could even say you got off on withholding?) Then she moved on, your control vanished, and that felt terrible. It's unflattering and it's ugly, but it's also a very human reaction. These things happen; just don't let an emotional reaction consume you.

This relationship doesn't really seem like the issue; it seems much more about wanting to feel desired and powerful. So what to do? Finish that drink, dust yourself off, and move on. She's with someone else now, and besides, you deserve to be with someone you don't have to talk yourself into wanting.