The typical Nice Guy marriage
While there are lots of different types of Nice Guys, with a range of traits, one thing they all have in common is poor response to conflict and lack of skills with confrontations and boundary setting.
The typical Nice Guy marriage is usually very smooth and agreeable on the surface (depending on how long it’s been going), with lots of hidden resentment, fear of abandonment, and rage under the surface.
While some Nice Guy husbands are prone to tantrums and explosions due to repressed rage and inability to handle conflict, the vast majority are passive and submissive. They back down in response to assertiveness and strong disagreement from their partner, or they kind of tune out and don’t participate in decision making.
Inability to handle conflict well is a death sentence for any marriage.
The Nice Guy dream of having a conflict-free marriage is delusional – there’s no such thing as a healthy relationship that also has no disagreements. Their avoidance of confrontations, or their sulky, controlling and demanding responses (in an attempt to bring all conflict to an end quickly and permanently), eventually drives their partner away.
What is conflict resolution?
Despite what Nice Guys believe, conflict resolution is not about quickly and permanently ending uncomfortable emotions and everyone feeling happy and comfortable again.
Conflict resolution is a process by which disagreement and tense emotions are discussed and understood, eventually leading to some kind of respect and acceptance.
It doesn’t always have to end “well”. You can go to bed angry sometimes. You might need multiple discussions before an agreement is reached. Hell, you might never agree and always have tension over this point.
My wife is Catholic and I’m an atheist. Conflict resolution doesn’t mean that one of us converts to the other’s belief system. It doesn’t mean that we feel happy about the difference. What it means is that when this issue comes up (e.g. when deciding whether to send our daughter to a Christian kindergarten), we’re prepared to talk it through no matter how heated it gets.
Conflict resolution is about the ability to initiate and complete confrontations. Confrontations are assertive, emotion-provoking, truthful conversations that get to the heart of resentment, frustration, disgust and other forms of disagreement.
More on how to have powerful confrontations at the end of this post…
Why do Nice Guys struggle to resolve conflicts?
Nice Guys struggle with conflicts for a range of reasons. Some or all of these might apply to you (some might not depending on what type of Nice Guy you are).
Fear of rejection. Nice Guys equate conflict with dislike, i.e. rejection. As they are afraid of losing their partner, they assume that conflicts risk ending the relationship, and don’t realise that avoiding conflict is guaranteed to ruin the relationship in the longer term.
Difficulty processing uncomfortable emotions. Nice Guys struggle with emotions that are outside the pleasure range, things like frustration, upset, confusion, anger, embarrassment, sadness, anxiety, and disappointment. Conflicts nearly always involve such emotions, and so they can feel like a strange unfamiliar land full of threats that the Nice Guy feels compelled to escape from.
Belief in a “smooth, problem free life”. Conflict is often interpreted by Nice Guys as proof that they’ve done something wrong. They believe that somehow life can one day become completely pain-free, and so whenever there’s conflict they assume they aren’t living “right”, and so try to quickly correct it or prevent it from happening in the first place.
Limiting beliefs about assertiveness and disagreeableness. Nice Guys are often raised to think that someone being assertive is a harmful person; that being bold and opinionated and so on is evidence that you’re a bad person. They stick with being agreeable to prevent anyone judging them as a jerk.
Desire to control. At the heart of Nice Guy Syndrome is the desire to control everyone’s feelings and behaviour to ensure the Nice Guy never has to deal with any hassles. Conflict is seen as losing control of the other person, and so the Nice Guy tries to prevent conflict to remain in control.
Belief that happiness and comfort are signs of guaranteed success. Nice Guys feel certain that if everyone is getting along and feeling good then they are definitely doing “well”. The idea that too much good times might be a sign of trouble in the relationship sounds absurd to them (which is why they often feel hit by a bus when the divorce papers come through). They don’t understand that healthy relationships are evidenced by the full range of emotions being processed confidently and honestly.
Conditioned to feel shame about your preferences. Nice Guys are programmed to think that other people’s preferences are a higher priority, and that their own needs are secondary or simply irrelevant. They feel guilty about asking for and getting what they want for themselves (at least directly), so they back down immediately when their wife resists their preferences, assuming that if someone doesn’t like what they want then they must be causing harm somehow.
Emotion and masculinity shame. Conflict and confrontation requires strong emotions and masculine behaviour. Anger and disagreeableness and resistance is required alongside stern talking, assertive boundary setting, and bold decision making. If you’re unable to access your masculinity, you’re unable to confront effectively.
Anxious Attachment Style. If you have an Anxious Attachment Style, you’ll feel constantly worried about fear of abandonment. You will avoid any conversation that might lead to getting divorced or separated. As any conflict could potentially escalate to unseen disasters, you’ll feel reluctant to let your partner get too upset about anything.
Avoidance of effort. Overall, Nice Guys are exhausted from people pleasing all day long. The idea of further emotional effort into a conversation makes them want to curl up and die. They are also probably low on testosterone, so their overall motivation to engage in disciplined (unpleasant) behaviour is very low.
These reasons and more make confrontations repulsive and terrifying for Nice Guys, and through both direct and indirect means, the average Nice Guy will live in such a way as to prevent conflict from arising (people pleasing), and end conflict as quickly as possible (tantrums, submissiveness, or false agreeableness).
Nice Guys tell themselves that they’re “easy going” to con themselves into believing that their conflict avoidance is actually healthy, and that they’ll pat themselves on the back for the absence of conflict in their relationship, actually considering this to be a sign that they’re better at relationships than other men.
Nice Guys are extremely deluded and doomed to crashing their relationships given enough time.
How to have healthy confrontations
I cover this in detail in the following podcast. No need to repeat it all hear, just give this a listen
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Thanks for reading
Hope to speak to you soon
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