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How to help your Nice Guy husband be more masculine

A surprisingly large number of my coaching clients are men who have been referred to me by their wives.

I’ve come to understand that a common relationship dynamic is that the woman gets frustrated with the unchanging nature of their connection with a Nice Guy / people pleaser type, and is the first to start researching possible solutions.

Such is the nature of Nice Guy Syndrome, the husbands are complacent and reluctant to look for “solutions” because they either don’t want to or they can’t see that there’s even a problem. So long as no one is getting dumped and emotions are relatively stable most of the time, the Nice Guy would prefer not to rock the boat by exploring potential improvements.

So it’s up to the poor women to yet again take the lead, as they’re always forced to do, and go looking for someone like me to help their husband find his balls and be the man she desires.

It started well, then went downhill

It was pleasant at first, wasn’t it? Either he was just so nice and gentle and sweet and considerate that you felt incredibly lucky to have finally found a “good one”, or he did actually show attractive masculine traits like assertiveness, leadership and honesty in the beginning, but these slowly but surely wore away over time once the relationship was established.

Right?

So you’re either fed up with the Nice Guy act and now see it as a lack of spine and an ongoing manipulation of you to create a peaceful environment, or you’re bewildered as to where exactly the man you met has disappeared to, and when precisely did he get replaced with a slack, agreeable wimp?

Regardless of how you got here, let’s look at what the problem is and how to solve it.

This will take some serious work

I’ll be straight with you. If your man has Nice Guy Syndrome, he’s going to need to do some extensive inner work. NGS is caused by complex childhood traumas, and isn’t going to be resolved with a few conversations or some nice lingerie. 

He’ll either need to work closely with someone like myself, or he’ll need to be incredibly motivated and brave to use resources and tools to do the work himself.

What YOU can do, however, is create an environment that enables his change and supports and encourages masculine behaviour. You can at least make it easy for him, and not make it hard.

That last sentence is important here. I have to challenge you.

You must be part of the solution

Nice Guys tend to get into relationships with their match. You will be the opposite piece of the puzzle here, and while you’re not to blame for him being a Nice Guy – that shit happened in his childhood – you are probably creating a relationship environment that provokes his people-pleasing and perhaps even punishes masculinity.

You can’t expect him to change if you put up resistance to the changes you want. He’s struggling enough with fear and inner demons, he doesn’t need more barriers from you than he’s already dealing with!

So keep a simple formula in your head: reward and encourage masculine behaviour; reject and dismiss people pleasing behaviour.

What is masculine behaviour?

It’s all that stuff he’s not doing. Probably things you have to do.

Confrontations, boundary setting and assertiveness. Leadership and initiation. Risk taking and bravery. Honesty. Taking responsibility. Emotional shamelessness.

I’m sure you imagine that these traits would not only be healthier for your relationship, but rather attractive as well. But here’s the thing, you have to be careful what you wish for, and to support it when it’s happening.

Careful now…

You want him to be more assertive? Well, most of his confrontations need to happen with you. You’re the one he’s been the most passive with (probably), and you’re the one who will have to face his wrath when he finally stops pretending to be OK with everything.

Want him to take responsibility, to take the lead and initiate? Well, that means you’ll have to put up with him doing things “wrong” by your standards. You’ll have to tolerate his “stupid” ideas, and follow along. You’ll have to let him do things that you’d rather do yourself.

Want him to be more courageous? Well, that means he’ll have to do things that are less considerate of your feelings. Most of his cowardice is based on “protecting” your feelings, and for him, true bravery means doing what he wants or feels is right but knows you won’t approve of.

Want him to be more honest and share his feelings? Well, that means he’s going to say some things you really don’t want to hear. He has thoughts and feelings and desires and issues that will make you quite uncomfortable to talk about. That’s why he’s not talking about them already! He’s as honest as he feels safe to be.

You’re the one he loves the most, but unfortunately you’re probably the one he’s the most afraid of. His confidence and identity is based on keeping you happy, so by asking him to be more masculine you’re asking him to risk losing you! At least, that’s what he fears.

As I said, Nice Guys find their match. That means, frankly, you’re probably someone who unconsciously encourages him to play the Nice Guy. You reward him for pleasing you (even when it means he compromises himself to do so), and you punish him for attempting to be masculine (even if it aligns with his integrity to do so).

You BOTH need to change, simultaneously.

Getting started

You’ll need to begin with a conversation – and yeah, you’ll probably have to initiate it, sorry. This conversation needs to be a clear boundary from you about the kind of masculine behaviours you want from him, and also – even more importantly – that you’d like him to stop people pleasing you.

You must admit to him directly that you may have unwittingly encouraged him to be this way. It will help him a lot to share the responsibility with you, and his resistance will mostly be around you. He will (unfairly) blame you for the way he is, at first. 

So let’s deprive him of that excuse.

In this conversation, show him that you can see how you’ve accidentally allowed this situation to develop. Take time to think about how you enable his people pleasing and discourage his masculinity (although remember that this is not your fault).

Change starts with you

Then, start doing your best to make some changes to yourself. Check out these lists for things you can control in this situation.

Examples of behaviours that enable his people pleasing:

  • Being grateful when he does things for you that you could have done yourself, and letting him take care of things for you even though you’re capable of doing it
  • Allowing him to give you advice and try to “fix” you when you’re feeling emotional, treating him like he’s your therapist instead of talking about that kind of stuff with your girlfriends
  • Ignoring the fact that you mostly get your way all the time, and believing him when he says he “doesn’t mind either way” or whatever excuse he makes to be constantly agreeable
  • Letting him sacrifice his own needs to cater to yours, like giving up his hobbies or social life while allowing you to flourish

Examples of behaviours that discourage masculinity:

  • Exploding, counter-attacking, or being incredibly difficult to talk to when he tries to assert himself
  • Taking the lead on everything without giving him space or forcing him to decide for himself
  • Criticising any attempts he makes to do things without your approval or against “your way”
  • You always being the one to initiate in the bedroom
  • Complaining when he puts his own needs before yours
  • Hiring other men to do the handy jobs around the house without first asking your man to give it a go

These are just some examples, some of which won’t apply to you personally, but will give you an idea of why he might not feel encouraged to step up.

Again, this isn’t blaming you. It’s more like you’re living with a drug addict and unknowingly doing things that make him more likely to use and unlikely to quit.

Now it’s his turn

So, after you’ve set the tone with a conversation calling him out to step up as a man and get his masculinity back (if he ever had it), here are some ideas on what you can do to basically force him to deal with this, without manipulating him into being someone he isn’t.

Get him to see a coach like me; another man who understands what he’s going through and knows how to walk him through the changes.

Force him to make important decisions that affect the whole family, simply by not making them yourself.

Work with him to create time out during the week that’s just for him and his needs. Hobbies, sports, time with the boys – anything that serves him without needing to also please you.

Make him lead and come up with ideas, such as what to do for a date or what to buy someone for their birthday.

Call him out and tell him to stop whenever you notice his people pleasing, such as giving you unsolicited advice, tolerating bad treatment from others, refusing to identify his preferences in a situation, holding in resentments, and so on.

Ask him what he wants in the bedroom, and make sex at least 50% about his selfish pleasure. Don’t buy his story that you being pleased is enough for him.

Encourage him to attempt brave and difficult new tasks – especially “manly” stuff (e.g. my wife bought a kitchen mixer and told me to install it even though I’ve never done any plumbing before). No matter how “well” it goes, recognise him for trying and let him know that it’s sexy when he steps up like that.

Stop criticizing him. Just stop completely. There’s no need.

Tell him what you want directly rather than playing coy or being indirect and making him guess. Treat him like he’s autistic (which he may well be) and make it easy for him.

And, worse case scenario, if you’ve already tried these things or he’s completely resistant to change, the only thing I’ve seen really work in cases like this is a sudden, very real, break up. You might get back together, but the sad fact is many of these guys won’t feel inspired to change while they still safely have you. It’s losing you that will spark the fire.

For more information on support from me, for him or for yourself, check this out:

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