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How to fix Nice Guy relationships

A relationship is a romantic partnership where two people have explicitly crossed the line from dating/friendship into committed partnership, e.g. girlfriend, wife. This is different from attraction and connection – relationships really mean the introduction of boundaries.

And relationships exist on a sliding scale from healthy to abusive.

The issue for nice guys is that the relationship is often poorly defined. Boundaries are either covert contracts, non existent, or inconsistent. This comes from belief that confrontations are bad, rather than necessary and helpful. Confrontation is confused with conflict.

It’s not unusual for a nice guy to be in a relationship that’s never been defined beyond “we can’t see other people” or whatever the partner demands on a daily basis. The relationship becomes a prison sentence of servitude and unspoken resentment. The Nice Guy starts giving up on dreams, hobbies, friends, and constantly catering to wife and child’s demands. He suffers from green light syndrome – does not initiate sex, take over leadership or decision making roles for the family.

It all ends in emotionless stalemate, leading to divorce or long term silent suffering. In this video, we look at how to fix this mess!

 


 

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Full transcript

Nice Guy relationships

The definition and meaning, and how this is different to other relationships.

So let’s start with just defining what an actual basic relationship is. I’d say a relationship is a romantic partnership where two people have explicitly crossed the line from dating or friendship or something else into a committed partnership with a label like girlfriend, boyfriend, husband, wife, husband whatever it is, you’re now calling yourselves “in a relationship”. It’s got a romantic sexual theme to the connection, and there is boundaries around the level of commitment and loyalty that is expected of each other.

That might seem really obvious. But it’s amazing to me how often people confuse this with attraction and connection, which I’ve done previous content about before. They think that if I’m dating someone and we really like each other, that’s the same thing as being in a relationship.

If you haven’t explicitly crossed that line, then you just have attraction and maybe a connection. You might think because you get along really well with someone that you have some sort of ongoing relationship with them. But if you haven’t sat down and talked about what is this relationship and what are the boundaries, then you’re still just in a connection.

Boundaries

Relationships are really the introduction of boundaries to a long term connection; to a repeat connection with somebody you see often, or are in contact with often, regularly. The relationship element is just the boundaries and the rules around how you’re going to engage with each other.

And the issue for nice guys is that these boundaries are rarely well defined, often very poorly defined, there’s very few of them. A nice guy can easily be in what he thinks is a relationship for many years, and not once have they actually sat down and talked about what it means to be in a relationship and what the rules and expectations are. It’s all just implied and hoped for.

Now, relationships obviously exist on a sliding scale from really healthy and helpful all the way down to horribly abusive, and boundaries – how well they’re maintained and defined, and how well boundary breaches are confronted and dealt with – generally decides where the relationship sits on the healthy to abusive scale.

So often, I’m working with nice guys who have been divorced or had disastrous relationships and they’re trying to figure out why. And the first thing we go to is Eell, let’s have a look at the boundary setting. Let’s have a look at the relationship. And what we’ll see is a high correlation between what felt like an abusive relationship and poor boundary setting and boundary enforcement.

Nice guys boundaries are usually covert contracts, which means that they’re kept inside and hoped for and they’re not spoken aloud. You might hold someone to account for breaching those boundaries, but not explicitly. You’ll just sulk or punish them, give them the cold shoulder when they’ve done something you don’t like. But you don’t actually say,  I want you to do this, or I don’t want you to do that. Covert contracts are absolute poison for relationships.

Or the boundaries are just non existent. The pushover type nice guy who’s just fawning all the time and just doing whatever it takes to make his partner happy. He has no internal sense of what’s right or wrong. He just adjusts to his partner and her pleasure, so the boundaries are inconsistently based on mood and feeling. And what happens today doesn’t match what happened yesterday or tomorrow, you just come up with rules as you see fit.

Conflict avoidance

This poor boundary seeing practice comes from an innate Nice Guy belief that confrontation is bad, a conflict avoidance thing that most nice guys have in common. We think that confrontation hurts relationships.

Boundary setting and confrontation gets put aside. We avoid anything that might cause a fight. And so we don’t ask for what we want and say what we don’t want and define terms for how someone must interact with us and define what respect means. We avoid all that because there’s so much potential confrontation there.

One of the biggest epiphanies I ever had in my life that really helped my nice guy recovery accelerate was understanding that confrontations are good for relationships! Necessary, actually. And the absence of confrontation doesn’t mean that you’ve got a good relationship, quite the opposite. If you’ve got nothing but pleasure and agreement all the time in your relationship, you’re doomed. Doomed!

It won’t be tomorrow, maybe not next month, but give it a few years and it’s all over.

This is because nice guys confuse confrontation with conflict. We think that standing up for yourself and asking for what you want and setting terms about how someone can and cannot behave if they hope to be in a relationship with you – we think that that’s a harmful thing to do. That it always comes with conflict. It always comes with emotional drama and escalating tensions and shouting and whatever else we experienced in our childhood when we tried to stand up for ourselves.

But it’s important that we separate these two.

Confrontation is asserting a boundary. A conflict is a bad reaction to that. They’re not actually the same thing.

Two healthy people don’t have conflicts, but they do have confrontations.

Resentment

So it’s not unusual for a nice guy to be in a relationship that’s never been clearly defined beyond perhaps say, we can’t see other people or just whatever his partner says is right and wrong. He never has a say and he just placidly agrees with everything.

Over the months and the years this grinds him down into a kind of prison of servitude. An unspoken resentment. Everything he secretly wants goes unmet. And he starts to blame his partner for his own feelings of of inadequacy and unfulfillment, despite the fact that he has refused to take responsibility for making those things happen himself.

And of course, on the other side, his partner will start to resent him for being spineless, boring, flavorless, and for being unable to trust that he could stand up for her because he doesn’t stand up to her.

The guy will start giving up on things. He lets go of his big dreams for the future. The hobbies start to fade, he stops seeing his friends. And basically, he just starts catering to his wife or even his children, their demands and their needs are always prioritized. He’s always self sacrificing. And all this does is create resentment from everyone involved. Nobody wants it, and yet he’ll just keep doing it because he still thinks that confrontations are even worse than this.

It won’t be until he’s in divorce court that he realizes, Maybe I should have confronted it. But now it’s too late. It creates what I call Greenlight syndrome.

Green Light Syndrome

The guy becomes so avoidant of any kind of tension that he will not act without a green light, he will not do something that does not clearly have encouragement and permission. Generally, he has to wait to be told to do something or wait for somebody else to lead.

I quite often get emails about this being a problem in the bedroom, that the guy just does not initiate. The woman thinks he doesn’t want it anymore. Sometimes he’s actually given up on it because it becomes so confrontational to have sex. But the issue is he can’t move without her making the first move. The woman has to adopt the kind of masculine role in the relationship, whether she’s naturally masculine or not. And he isn’t even feminine, he’s just passive. He’s just this follower.

The decision making, especially for the family, the decisions that affect everybody in the family, get dumped onto the partner. And the nice guy just sort of plays it off as if he’s easygoing, an I’m cool with whatever you’re cool with role that doesn’t actually help anyone and just places a huge burden on the partner, and also makes her doubt whether he really enjoys anything that’s happening because she can’t trust what he likes when he doesn’t express what he dislikes.

The end

This can end in a number of ways, but most commonly for my clients it ends with an emotionless stalemate or a kind of living with a flatmate situation, where all the tension has gone. It feels like you just live with a relatively pleasant friend who never upsets you. And of course, this leads to either a divorce and breakup, or the long term silent suffering.

So many nice guys have parents who are people pleasers, and they’ve stayed together because they’re from a different generation. But that’s the only reason they’ve stayed together, there is nothing left and their relationship is empty and hollow. It’s just people going through the motions, it’s horrible to watch

Solutions

While this obviously requires a major reset, particularly around boundaries, basically you have to restart the relationship, as in start again with boundaries. It requires not only the boundaries are set, but they’re enforced.

I’ve talked about this in other pieces of content. It isn’t just saying what you want and don’t want, what you expect, but actually behaving to make that happen to stand up and make changes when those boundaries are breached. It’s a huge paradigm shift for nice guys.

They don’t realize that it’s actually attractive, and it’s going to bring the spark back into the relationship. But they are going to have arguments, they are going to have confrontations. The emotional range is going to get bigger. There’s going to be more anger, there’s going to be more upset and more disappointment, more confusion, all that stuff you’ve been avoiding. There’s going to be more of that, but there’s also going to be more happiness, more love, more sexual thrill.

It’s a package deal to have a healthy relationship. Both partners need to buy in on the reset. Because the fact is anybody who stays with a nice guy and allows them to keep being this way is implicitly involved. They’re co-conspirators in this disaster. So the partner has to pull her weight as well and she’s got some shit on her side that’s not so healthy. In fact, it’s guaranteed.

So both of them have to commit to new boundaries being set. Not only does this guy have to push himself to be more assertive and more honest, the wife will usually have to push herself to be safer to be assertive with and be more accepting and loving when honesty comes out, and not to punish it.

Think about inserting massive honesty, massive assertiveness and massive curiosity about your partner. An injection of those three can turn around a nice guy relationship. A lot of help a lot of people with this so if you and your partner wants to get together for a conversation, get in touch dan@brojo.org And we’ll talk it through

How you can make massive progress in just a few months!

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Thanks for reading

Hope to speak to you soon

Dan Munro

 

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