Miss Information: How can I tell if a "nice guy" is really a nice guy?

by Cait Robinson

Have a question for Miss Information? Email missinfo@nerve.com.

My darling Miss Info,

I met a guy while we were both living in a small vacation town, living a vagabond lifestyle. We got along famously, and we were terribly attracted to each other, but mostly, we just seemed to speak the same language: we see the world alike. It's hard to remember now why we didn't take our friendship more seriously, but I remember having long conversations about how we were "too much alike" to be good for each other. When another, more stable girl entered the picture, he asked me point-blank whether I wanted him seriously. I told him that he had to make up his own mind.

I don't blame him for going with the stable, boring, and openly loving girl. We continued our really intense sexually-and-emotionally charged friendship for months, until it just made me too uncomfortable and upset. 

Fast forward three years. I've moved across the country, but we're still friends. He's still with the other girl. I have a great boyfriend who's also stable and supportive, and tempers me in ways Boy #1 didn't. But now Sweet & Stable wants us to get married, and I'm realizing that I still rely on my phone conversations with Boy #1 to give me direction and insight. I thrive on our pseudo-relationship still. I feel like a candle flame with my boyfriend and a propane torch with my friend. 

I can't imagine trying to end my relationship, trying to smash up my friend's boring relationship and forge some sort of glorious future. But marrying Sweet & Stable when I only feel half-alive with him doesn't seem fair or moral. 

I've never been one for the idea of true love or romantic comedies that climax with big emotional realizations, but what should I do in this situation? I truly don't know where to start.

— Vagabonded

Dear Vagabonded,

I'm going to bludgeon this question with a hammer, and then we'll go back and pick through the pieces.

Of course the fling-from-three-years-ago feels like a propane torch, because he was never close enough to become three-dimensional. He gets to stay sparky and insightful because you never have to deal with him after a long day or hear him fart in his sleep. He's all bon mots and inspiration, and your sweet boyfriend looks dull and gassy in comparison.

So that's one vote for not breaking up both of your relationships in order to share a propane-fueled future. At the same time, though, you shouldn't marry anyone who makes you feel "half-alive." If you're feeling "eh" about Sweet & Stable now, how do you think you'll feel in ten years when you're trying to sneak a flask into your kid's PTA meeting just to dull the screaming in your head?

What I get from this letter is the most annoying possible answer: the solution likely isn't either guy. Don't advance the relationship further with either of them until you know what you're doing. It's not fair to Sweet & Stable for you to rely on someone else to fill in the gaps that he can't quite reach. It also may be unrealistic to expect a long-distance fling to be the answer to your prayers. Rather than guessing which guy will fix everything, focus in on what you really want.

Discussion Questions (answer key on p. 185):

1. Is it possible that your indifference to S&S is just a lull in a long-term relationship? If these feelings just recently started, or if your "fuck this, I'm leaving!" sense is new, I say wait it out long enough to figure out if these desires are real or reactionary.

2. If you break up with S&S, are you expecting Guy #1 to do the same with his Stable Boring? Obviously, you're allowed to change your relationship, but you're not allowed to meddle in his. Think through the possibility that he might not want to break up his relationship. If that were to happen, how would you feel?

It all boils down to this: if you break up with S&S, it should be for your own reasons (i.e. "I don't feel like myself around him"), rather than for your fantasies about someone else ("Boy #1 takes me rock climbing on volcanoes!") Ultimately, relationships will always have their lulls. Make sure any decision you make is rooted soundly in following your truth, not in chasing happiness in the form of an idealized partner.

Dear Miss Information,

What's a girl to do when she keeps being attracted to the so-called nice guys? I don't mean the genuinely good men out there — I mean the ones who act interested in what I have to say and how I'm feeling, up until I sleep with them, at which point they do an about-face and act like total jerks. I'm tired of coming away from sex feeling like I've been manipulated and used and like I can't trust my own judgement. Are there some red flags I should be watching out for? Is there a difference between a real nice guy and guy who's just acting nice?

— No More Mr. Nice Guy

Dear No More Mr. Nice Guy,

I just finished reading Devil in the White City, a historical account of the 1893 World's Fair and H. H. Holmes, the serial killer who took advantage of it. According to the book, many of Holmes's acquaintances had misgivings about him. He was handsome and charming, they repeatedly note, but there was something "off" about him. Though some of these people were eventually be won over by his charm, they did sense, on an animal level, that something was wrong with him.

I'm not suggesting you've been dating sociopaths, NMMNG — heavens, no — but this is a tidbit I've been mulling over a lot lately. Haven't we all met someone who's tipped off alarm bells that we chose to ignore? If you repeatedly think you're being used, you'd do well to listen to your gut — which, admittedly, can be tough under the cloud of "but he's cute!"

If someone's going through the motions to get in your pants, you can usually tell after a date or two. Is he checking his phone during dinner? Is he half-listening to you, but clearly not tracking? Does it feel like he's relying on a script that's worked with other girls? In short, if a guy gives you the feeling that he's not entirely present — or if he's so present as to seem overeager — that's a tip-off that you might be more of a conquest than a person to him.

That's my spiel on trusting animal instincts. But that's not to say that each of these guys has been some hollow-eyed player; they may well be perfectly good guys who just have different perspectives on sex than you. If you know you invest a lot in sex and that it makes you feel vulnerable, steer your relationships accordingly. Take a little longer than you normally would to get to know the guy before you sleep with him. Talk about sex before it happens, so you know you're both on the same page about what it means. Don't be afraid to cut off a potential relationship if your sexual views are at odds; sleeping with someone won't be worth it if you'll feel scarred later. And try your best to walk that fine line between "learning from experience" and "becoming a cynic." I'm sure some of these "nice guys" can be "good guys" too; being open about what you want from sex will help you tell them apart.

Want to meet a nice person who's also a good person? Meet them on Nerve.

Commentarium (56 Comments)

May 06 12 - 1:42pm
Injest

I think "overeager" is probably your best red flag here and something you want to avoid in the future. I'm not saying only date terminally disinterested guys from now on, but there's definitely something to watch out for in guys who are too eager to please. I mean, of course all guys are looking to make a good impression, but if a guy agrees with you on everything you say and goes out of his way to demonstrate what a compassionate, attentive, and devoted human being he is, that's when it goes from being thoughtful to dangerously obsessive. A guy who frequently risks failure and/or gracefully accepts it is, generally speaking, a lot more emotionally stable than a guy who does everything in his power to avoid it. The failure-fearing ones are the ones who will freak out over any perceived drop in interest or misleading cue. Their brains can't handle the possibility of failure and they're compulsively driven to fix it...or worse, to convince you that you're the one messing up and that they've been doing everything right all along. Which is when things really get ugly. So yeah, don't discount the charming ones, but make sure their entire purpose in life isn't to become your shadow.

May 08 12 - 11:47pm
nn

Hmm... I must question whether you read the letter above. The young woman isn't worried about guys obsessing, but about guys ditching her after sex...

May 06 12 - 4:13pm
LM

Was anyone else put off by Vagabonded's choice of words in her letter? I was just really put off by her continuously calling the girlfriend of the first guy "boring." Have you met this woman? If you have then do you know her well? Are you so sure that you are infinitely more "interesting" than her? Also, he asked you if you wanted him seriously and you told him he had to make up his own mind? That's not an answer to the question. Obviously he was already going to make up his own mind, likely without your permission, what he was asking for was more information so that he could make an informed decision. Refusing him that makes it seem like you are/were more interested in the romanticized, "blowtorch" relationship from afar.

May 06 12 - 6:46pm
nope

Agreed, she sounds like a real tool. She doesn't want the stable guy but she doesn't want to give him up; she couldn't, and can't, admit or commit to the depth of her feelings for the blowtorch guy; she decries romantic comedies (which I would assume are for other, 'boring' girls) yet seems very interested in making her life as dramatic and high-stakes as possible. There's no talk of communication, of working on her relationship with the stable guy, or anything so pedestrian as that. No, it's either becoming a sad, forlorn, 'half-alive' wife, consigned forever to stability, or running off to make a last, desperate stab at explosively romantic homewrecking. Ridiculous.

May 06 12 - 4:22pm
steve

I'm really looking forward to the comments on this one. The "nice guy" argument hasn't been re-hashed nearly enough.

May 06 12 - 4:31pm
Eric

@LM, yes I was put off. Calling the other girl boring is catty. Telling the guy to make up his own mind was unnecessary, and pretty much guaranteed he would walk. Now that she doesn't have him she wants him back. She should leave him alone with the sweet girl, and maybe stop calling him too. I'd be shocked if he would be that upset about it. Mature, long-term relationships are more on par with a candle flame than a propane torch, but if the LW isn't ready to be a candle flame, then she needs to respectfully break up with Sweet & Stable.

May 06 12 - 5:42pm
Argothair

What I want to know is whether Sweet & Stable has any idea that Vagabond has an emotionally and sexually charged friendship with someone who she relies on for direction and guidance. It's normal to have multiple people in your support system, and your friends don't need to know everything about each other -- but it's dangerous and unhealthy to keep the very *existence* of one of the most important people in your life as a secret.

If the old flame has been a secret so far, and if Sweet & Stable suddenly found out about Vagabond's old flame, he would probably play it one of three ways: (1) not bothered or threatened by Vagabond talking to her old flame on the phone, (2) bothered enough to ask Vagabond to cut off contact, (3) bothered enough to rethink getting married. If S&S's reaction is (1) or (3), Vagabond's hard choice goes away. Plus, you know, honesty tends to be a good foundation for long-term relationships. Worth a thought.

May 06 12 - 5:39pm
m

Oh I love this.
Lw1: You told your blow torch friend to fuck off! And if you were "too much alike to be good for eachother " then, what's changed? Sweet and stable is obviously wrong for you, and so is the blow torch (good advice miss info!) This is what you're doing are you ready? You've been eating mashed potatoes and gravy and it's pretty tasty, if a little bland. And then you call the blow torch and it's like eating spicy spicy peppers. Holy shit! But you know what happens when you eat really spicy peppers? Taking a dump burns like a motherfucker. You wouldn't want that everyday would you? The solution. Find somebody who's tasty mashed potatoes with a SIDE of hot sauce. Both your guys are extremes. Find the middle.

Lw2: It's a sad reality that if men who were only looking for casual sex said that they were only looking for casual sex upfront, they would get no sex at all. Everybody acts nice and friendly towards people they want to fuck. However, there are some signs. As a man, I am less inclined to want to snuggle beforehand and hold hands and go for moonlit walks with those I only want to fuck. You could say relationshippy things, and "in 3 months we should go to this festival." Hopefully if they are not planning to be around in 3 months, they will say so or you will find out. Personally i don't get it. if you like fucking someone, why burn the bridge? Even if you don't want to date them, maybe you'll both want some more at a later date.

May 06 12 - 7:19pm
k

I disagree that men can't be upfront (and I'm a woman who's had casual sex). I mean, obviously if you say "well you're not relationship material but I'll fuck you" it's hurtful, but there are definitely ways to be honest and open and still get what you want, provided that they other person wants the same thing. I'm not saying that you personally are lying, but men who do lie and say/indicate that they want a relationship when they don't are assholes. End of story. Just because you're not committed to someone doesn't mean that you shouldn't show them respect and honesty. Not every woman wants a relationship rather than casual sex, but even the women who do just want casual sex don't want to have it with someone who's willing to treat someone poorly just to get laid.

May 06 12 - 7:19pm
babyjane

There are actually plenty of women who are up for casual sex. I have personally been involved in several scenarios like this where we were both very upfront about what we wanted. Furthermore, while some men believe the only way to get what they want is to lie to and manipulate women, that in no way justifies their actions. Also if someone who I was just getting to know started talking about what we would be doing as a couple in 3 months, I would run. That's really presumptuous and shows poor boundaries.

May 07 12 - 8:15am
Dewey

@babyjane; you think thats why all my favorite girlfriends have bounced so quickly? ...because I really liked getting to know them and let them know about it emphatically?

May 07 12 - 12:33pm
mp

Honestly, once I started being more up front and honest about my intentions (usually summed up with I started having much more sex. Enough guys are so full of bullshit I think women like to reward refreshing honesty :P That or they just wanted sex, which also happens sometimes.

May 06 12 - 6:11pm
For LW2

Three words: discerning female friend. You need one to help you out with your "nice guy" blind spot. That is pretty much what friends are for.

May 07 12 - 9:35pm
src

Agreed, although discerning male friends should be included too.

May 06 12 - 7:09pm
Erotic Pursuits

The answer of course, is in the headline. If the guy in question appears "nice" then he wont be.

Not
In
Control
Emotionally

Mike aka @EroticPursuits

May 06 12 - 7:39pm
babyjane

The second LW should probably wait longer before she sleeps with guys. If she spends more time getting to know them she'll be better able to pick up on warning signs. There's also a limit to how much time these guys will invest in the relationship just to get laid. She could also try weighing actions more than words. Ignore what these guys say they want, and see how their actions betray their intentions. Are they on time, call when they say they will, catering to her interest when making plans, and are they considerate and kind to other people like waitresses. She also shouldn't blame herself for their shitty behavior. Just because somebody kicks you doesn't mean you deserve to be kicked.

May 06 12 - 8:31pm
ggg

Nice guys are usually 'losers'

Not in the drugg addled kind or 30 year old, socially awkward kind.

More like the nice guy who isn't worried about being an accountant because that is so boring. Or like the nice buy who doesn't splurge on expensive cars or frivolous kitschy items; instead he saves his money to buy a home and hopes to god he'll find a responsible women with whom he can pay the mortgage and live a decent life, however boring this sounds.

Nerve readers are too cool for this type of nice guy so women date feckless, talentless men whose dreams are fueled by pixie dust.

May 06 12 - 9:10pm
Cranes

a lot of "nice" guys appear to actually be resentful, hateful jerks with a huge chip on their shoulders for all of woman-kind. This is not a nice guy. Obviously, ggg, you THINK you're a nice guy. but this post pretty much proves you are actually a resentful "nice" guy. If people don't date you, it's not because you're an accountant who's saving for a house. It's because you're a resentful jerk.

May 06 12 - 9:59pm
ggg

ACtually, I am an underemployed and I would probably fall under feckless, talentless artist type category.

May 07 12 - 8:30am
Dylan

@Cranes: the reason so many "nice" guys come across poorly is because we get kind of a raw deal when it comes to women. We're taught by modern culture that women like being appreciated, being heard, having guys do sweet things for them so we get in the habit of being very kind, polite and thoughtful towards women and yet SO many of the hottest women we know date assholes who treat them poorly or loser artistic types with their head in the clouds. Its as if we're the butt of some cruel joke - we compliment women, listen to their problems (acting as emotional tampons if you will), buy them gifts and constantly get stuck in the friend zone or get fake phone numbers. Most of us are too nice to give the whole "be an asshole" thing a shot so we're stuck with our miserable lot where the only women we get to play with are usually desperate because they're fat/ugly/have something else really wrong with them. You'd be bitter too if you were constantly doing nice things for guys hoping they'll like you and the best you ever got from them was a pat on the head.

May 07 12 - 10:23am
well

I didn't think anyone could personify the bitter passive-aggressive "nice" guy archetype so perfectly. Bravo, Dylan!

May 07 12 - 11:06am
@Dylan

So you only attract women who are fat, ugly, or have something else really wrong with them? Like attracts like, so they say... Congratulations, you are the common denominator!

May 07 12 - 12:35pm
mp

Women like nice guys. They don't like boring guys.

True story, most self-proclaimed "nice guys" are boring.

May 07 12 - 1:58pm
Injest

Hahaha oh my God, look at this. Look at Dylan. It's like we've pinned a butterfly. Truly spectacular. I don't think I've ever seen the nice guy complex laid out so nakedly and unabashedly. Dylan is the ur-Nice Guy.

Women, take note. These are the resentful bitter hateful entitled thoughts swirling around in the head of every "nice guy" to ever exist. These are the toxic assumptions you will have to contend with if ever you dare to date a "nice guy." This is the heart of darkness, and it's EVERYWHERE. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

May 07 12 - 5:41pm
Cranes

The part about Dylan's post that irritates me the most is the way he kind of treats women as something he's entitled to just for "acting nice". Women aren't a prize and you aren't entitled to one just because you go through the motions of "doing things right". That's just as much objectification as slapping your secretary on the arse and saying "hey toots." Maybe worse because it's so subversive. Guess what? No matter who you are, like 96% of all your dating experiences will be failures. It's not because women hate you. It's because dating is hard and there are a MULTITUDE of factors that go into finding someone you truly love and who "fits" you in a sexy, loving, functional and respectful way, as well as fitting into your life, your value system and your future plans. It's this way for EVERYONE. Drop the entitlement act and drop the chip on your shoulder. You are no worse off than anyone else, except for the fact you're passive aggressive jerk who feels entitled to have a woman because you pay lip service to a generic social ideal, rather than trying to truly relate to another human.

May 07 12 - 5:43pm
LM

Pinned a butterfly indeed. So glad I've learned how to find Good Men instead of Nice Guys. And that goes for whether I'm looking for one night of fun or a long relationship.

May 07 12 - 5:53pm
Cranes

@Dylan
Oh yeah, and you use "hottest" as the most important value marker for women in general? REALLY?

May 07 12 - 9:18pm
Slav

Wow, Dylan just got circle-stomped like that black dude in Kids. One thing I noticed is how he blames "modern culture" for the way he relates to women. Hope the mob doesn't turn on me for saying he has a point there... a point far better made in the first two entries of this Cracked article: http://www.cracked.com/article_19785_5-ways-modern-men-are-trained-to-ha...
Just to be clear: I'm NOT agreeing with anything else he said except that men today are taught some awful lessons about women we don't even realize we're being taught

May 07 12 - 11:36pm
@Slav

That's a good Cracked article, but it doesn't exactly relate to what Dylan said. Dylan's contention is that society teaches him to treat women well, and women hate him for it. The article in question says that society teaches men that they're entitled to a hot woman and that having a hot woman will bolster their (i.e. the mens') status in society. But I fully agree that these are contributing causes to Dylan's underlying resentment, even if he claims it's the other way round.

May 08 12 - 5:49pm
ggg

Women like to slapped around a bit, figuratively or not at times.

It's a complex human thing nice guys don't get.

May 09 12 - 4:21am
Tina

For god's sake, Dylan, if the only thing you care about with women is how "hot" they are, of course you're going to get passed over.

NEWS FLASH 1: We have thoughts! And interests! And weird quirks and habits! We are people who want to connect, not prizes to be earned with good behavior.

NEWS FLASH 2: Being nice is not a plus, it's a requirement. You should be nice not because you want to get in my pants, but because you genuinely are a decent human being. This means you shouldn't have to think about being nice, and it shouldn't take effort to be nice.

So if "nice" is not a plus, what is?
Plus #1: Having common interests
Plus #2: Having a spine
Plus #3: Having a personality
Plus #4: Not whining about being left with the "fat ugly" women
Plus #5: Not being derogatory to women, i.e. calling them "fat" or "ugly"
etc...

NEWS FLASH 3: Until you see women as more than sex objects, you're no better than the "assholes" who fuck them over.

May 06 12 - 9:15pm
Cranes

To the second letter- If you want to sleep with a guy just for fun sexy time, make that clear up front so you're both on the same page. There is nothing wrong with that.

If you want a relationship with an actually nice guy, wait longer to sleep with him. If he's really nice and not just "nice", he won't mind. (He might even be into it. boys have feelings too, and sometimes they are afraid of getting hurt or used for sex or putting themselves out there emotionally too fast.) The longer you wait to have sex, the better you get to know the person you're bangin'. If they suck, they might do you the favor of getting sick of waiting and dissappearing. If they don't, they will appreciate the care and effort you put in to getting to know them as a human.

May 07 12 - 12:14am
j

...but what happens if you fucked them first and THEN find yourself wondering if he's a nice guy or it's all an act and he's just playing you? this is what confuses me as i've accidentally fallen for someone i initially set out to be casual with. it's easy to excuse their behavior as you can't expect much from a fuck buddy, yet it becomes difficult if you're simultaneously trying to size them up for boyfriend material.
can you judge a fuck buddy's character fairly and use it to predict how they would ultimately be as a partner?

May 07 12 - 10:34am
Carol

Absolutely you can judge a fuck buddy's behavior when evaluating his potential as a boyfriend. Just because you have casual sex with someone doesn't mean you don't treat them like an actual human being. If you have a fuck buddy who doesn't treat you with respect and talk with you honestly, then not only do you not want that person as a boyfriend, you don't want him as a fuck buddy either.

May 08 12 - 1:36am
Rj

So confused. Who is Dylan? What cracked article?

May 09 12 - 9:20pm
leitning

I would argue that the fuck-buddy relationship is often one of the most open, honest relationships there is.

May 07 12 - 8:16am
Saratoga Slim

It's entirely possible that it's not the men who change on NMMNG (#2), it's the letter writer, herself. Yes, some men will court a woman, then change how they treat her once they have sex. On the other hand, some women also change once they have sex and begin to "take possession" of everything the man is, so he feels smothered at the very least. If you're confident and personable upon meeting but appear insecure or possessive later, some men will consider that bait-n-switch and bolt.

May 07 12 - 9:24am
hmmm

Is LW2 on the Pill? There has been a lot of evidence lately that taking the Pill clouds a young/childless woman's judgment when it comes to choosing a partner. By not ovulating naturally, the hormonal signals being sent to the brain can cause a Pill-taker to pair up with a guy who is not a good biological fit for her. These guys could be anything from raging assholes to legitimately "nice" guys, but either way, they are clearly not the ones with whom there is a meaningful MUTUAL connection on a more PRIMAL level. So perhaps it is no wonder she says that she doesn't trust her own judgment, which is a huge impediment to dating. Just sayin'.

May 07 12 - 11:12am
Argothair

Can we get a citation or a link for some of that evidence? From the conservative movement's point of view, that's an awfully convenient claim -- it'd be nice to see some proof.

May 07 12 - 5:50pm
Cranes

Actually these studies say very specific things about how the pill effects behavioral choices in dating. A woman is more likely to choose a man who exhibits good "nesting" potential over good "survival" potential when she's on the pill. That means that to a woman on the pill, there is a VERY SMALL MARGIN of hormonal influence that makes men who are better earners and more stable seem more attractive, over men who exhibit more dominant and adventurous behavior.

However, women are not, in fact, only ruled by hormones. They are actually fully aware human beings who can, believe it or not, consider who they want to date and make a concious choice. In fact, there are many factors that influence the way the mysterious woman thinks, including past experience, value systems, future plans, personality. (rolls eyes at hmmm.) It's not going to make a wild, adventurous artist who values freedom choose a conservative who wants to settle down right now. It's not going to trump value systems, concious desires and a woman's freedom of choice in relationship matters. To imply that a woman is a slave to her hormones in the matter of choosing a partner is just as misinformed and prejudice as saying that a man can never settle down because he just has to sow his wild oats and his dick demands he boink as many women as he can forever.

May 07 12 - 11:48am
BrosephofArimathea

LW1: Learn to accept the fact that "the one" is one of many and sometimes it just doesn't work out. The person you're pining for is 90% fantasy and your obsession is dissing the guy you're with. In conclusion, knock it off because everyone will get hurt if you keep going.

LW2: what babyjane said.

May 07 12 - 2:04pm
Injest

Okay for real though, everyone (especially LW2, if she's reading) needs to scroll up and read Dylan's reply to ggg's comment. If anyone here thinks nice guys are innocuous or "misunderstood," we seem to have attracted the perfect example of the insecurity, sexual frustration, and barely-concealed misogyny that typifies this kind of person. This is why nice guys are a big deal, and this is why you should never even give them the time of day. LW2, if anything in the behavior of a potential partner reminds you of Dylan, run far far away.

May 07 12 - 3:53pm
lazy b

Eh, modern masculinity is a tough nut to crack. men are simple souls. "I would like a lady. What should I do?" Six pack abs? A nice car? An education? A good job? You can do all that stuff and still not get laid, and some other dude can do none of it and do great with women. I understand the frustration that drives men to pick up artists and misogyny. I've seen a bunch of my smart, nice, tech-y friends drug down that path. Guys just want an answer to "what the hell should I do to find myself a lady" in terms they understand. Unfortunately any answer I could provide is so full of caveats and exceptions that it turns into mush.

May 07 12 - 4:31pm
Injest

Oh don't worry I know, modern masculinity is a hilarious disaster. Pick any Hollywood movie and check out how terrified we all are. We're clueless. No one knows what to do anymore. Hell even I don't really. But I can guarantee you that the answer isn't to throw up your hands and say "ugh WOMEN, amirite guys?" It ain't the women that are the problem here.

And by 'you' I mean generally speaking by the way, you seem cool lazy b.

May 07 12 - 9:43pm
R

I feel like I should be able to offer some kind of answer to lazy b's question here, if only because I was the lady eventually gotten by a guy much like his friends--smart, nice, tech-y, and for years, utterly luckless with women. He was also, when I met him, overweight, unemployed, and (at 30) dressed like someone's grandpa. I was in shape, had a great job (as his professor), and married. Before the term was over, I was so besotted with him I couldn't see straight; I thought I was losing my mind. This was 10 years ago.

What did it? Well, he was smart. He also just radiated interest and curiosity--in what I was teaching, in me, in what other people had to say, in everything. He never tried to be anything other than his own weird, sweet self. He had crinkly, kind, smiley eyes and an adorable tendency to blush whenever he spoke to me; he developed a massive crush on me that I could sense without him ever saying an inappropriate word. And I think the most important thing was that I got to know him under circumstances where dating him (going to bed with him, moving in with him, spending the rest of my life with him) was the absolute furthest thing from my mind. Had I met him through, say, an online dating website, and assessed him as a possibility from our first meeting, I'm pretty sure he'd have done nothing for me: too pudgy, too badly dressed, talked about himself too much, not well travelled, not well read, etc, etc. What advice to deduce from this, given that most men aren't positioned to charm the pants off their married professors? I think it might be to quit "dating" and put yourself in situations where you'll meet women who'll get to know you without having to ask themselves on first meeting whether they are or could be attracted to you.

May 09 12 - 9:30pm
leitning

@injest - It's not true that all nice guys are that way, just the ones that call themselves nice guys.

@lazy b - I don't understand why some guys see attracting a woman as some sort of giant mystery, it's not that difficult and in my experience usually only involves one simple task (as evidenced by R's post): listening.

May 07 12 - 3:21pm
steve

It's possible to be a "nice" guy without being a pathetic, mewling sycophant (see: Dylan).

The internet, like it has with a ton of other stuff, has cut this debate into exactly two sides.

May 07 12 - 5:20pm
Dea

I'm in agreement with most people here re: the pseudo-nice guy complex. I forget where I heard this, but it was said to me at some point a long time ago that if a guy has to tell you how nice he is, he's probably not actually that nice. A truly nice guy doesn't have to say it, because it's evident without needing to be said.

While that certainly applies to dating, I think it's true just in general, and applies to women as well as men. Actions really do speak louder than words.

May 07 12 - 9:13pm
Thinkywritey

To avoid rehashing the whole "nice guy" routine, let me just say, I rarely cheer at advice columns, but Miss Info, you hit all the right points on LW1. Brava!

May 07 12 - 10:40pm
GL

LW2: I'm not sure anyone here has mentioned that maybe you should spend less time reading into men's behaviour as to what THEY want and more time telling them upfront what YOU want. Even if that's "a few dates and maybe some sex and take it from there." A lot of people have a harder time lying upfront than they do omitting inconvenient truths. If you're leaving everything up in the air, you're leaving yourself open to be manipulated. Just have the fucking talk already - it's not needy or insecure to ask not to be a one-nighter. "Wait longer" is useless advice if you're just going to end up reading and misreading more nonverbal clues.

May 08 12 - 12:55am
´╗┐´╗┐intermediate persp

A lot of great perspectives are expressed here for consideration. Many of them pose essential questions about the cores of the writer and objects of interest.

While some of would like to see the outcome where our writer makes connection that is now recognized to exist at the onset, a different terrain exists.

May 08 12 - 8:52pm
Thinkywritey

Also, @R the married professor up there, what a horrible lesson and example.

May 09 12 - 9:33pm
leitning

Everyone overlooked another possibility for LW2. What's the common denominator in all these failed relationships/flings? They all ended after sex. Maybe she's terrible in bed.

May 11 12 - 4:41am
unregistered user

"he asked me point-blank whether I wanted him seriously. I told him that he had to make up his own mind. "

He asked you if YOU wanted him seriously and the answer you gave him was that HE had to figure out what HE wanted. That answer says nothing -- or rather, it says everything -- about the question he asked, which was whether you wanted him. The answer that you gave was a pretty unequivocal "No", even if it took a lot more syllables.

You also automatically see yourself as inherently exciting, and the other girl as boring and staid. Narcissistic much? I suspect she is a lot more interesting and satisfying to Old Flame than your ego would care to admit. The same is probably true of Sweet & Stable; it's not so much that he is boring as that you have a need to see yourself as so much more interesting (and unattainable) than anybody else. Personally, I hope Sweet & Stable recognizes himself in your letter, recognizes your condescending attitude towards him (half-alive? seriously?), and dumps you for someone capable of appreciating him as much as he deserves. I'd bet good money you will think she's boring, too.

May 15 12 - 12:05pm
Fantasy Dating Game

Like Maya Angelou says, "When someone shows you who he is, believe him." Those little pangs and"Hmm" moments are there. Really listen to your inner voice. Trust your instinct and believe those signals when you feel them. Then walk away. www.fantasydatinggame.com

May 26 12 - 11:43am
Something

Take your time getting to know the guy. That's the best way to know if they're "nice guys" or if they're better off as friends, or nothing. It's not like I have a lot of experience, but from what I have, waiting and talking about sex before actually doing it helps you a lot to determine if that's the guy you're really looking for. Additionally, try to use at least some rationality instead of "following your heart" only. Yes, it might seem romantic, but can also lead to foolishness and regret. Lose your cool and you might get the wrong guy... again.