If there are two things I think a lot of us heard while growing up that subconsciously programmed us to make unwise choices where our hearts are concerned it's, "He only mistreats you because he likes you," and, "Don't be so focused on whether or not you're attracted to someone that you miss out on a really nice guy."
That first statement? Many of us heard that as children. By the way, a little boy doesn't mistreat a little girl because he likes her. Usually, he does it either because he wasn't taught how to treat little girls or because he's not mature enough to know how to express himself. And little boys who aren't redirected from this way of acting grow up to be men who do the same thing.
That second one? I'm willing to bet a lot of us still hear that to this day, whether it's from our nosey auntie who's trying to figure out why we're single, the church lady who thinks that since she took that advice it should apply to all of us, or our mom who is waiting for us to give her some grandchildren.
I know I personally heard that a lot while growing up in the church. Whenever a cutie would break my heart, some woman somewhere would either flat-out tell me (or somehow imply) that if I wanted a good man, his looks would have to take the backseat. If I wanted to be treated well, I'd have to settle for someone who wasn't aesthetically-pleasing but was indeed a nice guy.
And you know what? A couple of times I fell for that totally dysfunctional way of thinking.
I allowed individuals who really didn't know what the heck they were talking about convince me that when it came to love, I either had to choose a fine man or a kind man—both simply did not co-exist.
As a result, I wasted my time and the time of certain men in my life who were as sweet as pie but also weren't what I was fully drawn to. I let how nice (pleasing, agreeable, pleasant) and kind (benevolent, helpful, considerate, gentle and loving) a man was to me make me overlook other things that I wanted. Y'all, at the end of the day, even being with someone just because he's a "nice guy" is a form of settling. And to make a man feel like he's some sort of consolation prize for what I really want? That's not nice. It's mean. Very much so.
Why am I sharing all of this with you? It's because, ever since I can remember, I have watched women on screens and heard women I know claim that the reason why they've let some really good men get away is because they are "too nice". While there are some women who sadly seem to get off on being mistreated, who seem to think that masculinity and some forms of abuse go hand in hand, I think there are even more women who are actually trying to convey something totally different. The real issue isn't that the good man they aren't into is too nice.
I'll give you a personal example of what I mean. When I think about a particular someone I dated, who I wasn't really attracted to but seemed too nice to not at least give things a shot, once the relationship ended and folks asked me what was up, sometimes what came out of my mouth was, "He was too nice" when that wasn't really the case at all. The real issue was I wasn't attracted, I was bored, he didn't really thrill me—he simply wasn't "it".
But since I was programmed to believe that fine men will dog you and nice guys are less than appealing, I chalked it up to mean that a guy I'm not into must be "too nice", when the reality is simply that I want more than just a nice or kind man.
The reason why I use the word "programmed" is because even my own mom has said to me, virtually all of my life, "I just want a kind man for you." I get that. It's wise to want to be with someone kind. But when I reflect on the men she wanted for me, every single one of them made my stomach hurt. It's not that they weren't attractive in their own way. Not at all. But the thought of spending the rest of my life with them? Listen, marriage is too serious and (is supposed to last) too long to start off not being physically and sexually into your partner. And I wasn't interested in ANY of them in that way.
Whenever I expressed that, I was basically told that I was being superficial; that one day I would realize that looks aren't everything (sex either) and I'd wish that, rather than being alone, I'd gone for the nice guy. Maybe, but that never really or fully set well with me. There had to be more to it than that.
Then one day, without even really looking for him, I met a man. He's the kind of guy that old and young women, white and Black women, men (including straight men) can all agree that he is quite the specimen to behold. You know what else? He's soooo nice. He's also brilliant, funny, ambitious, generous, spontaneous, fun, good to his mama, a gentleman—the list goes on and on.
Before you get excited for me, we're just friends. Good friends but still, it's only meant to be platonic (my choice). Yet some people come into our lives to remind us that everything we're looking for does indeed exist. We don't have to settle for one or the other. We can get the whole shebang.
My oh so very fine and kind friend helped me come to the ah-ha moment of my not wanting to be with a man because "he's too nice" was really my way of saying "he's really great in the nice department but what about everything else? Sure, he's mega-kind but that's kind of all that stands out about him." To me.
Understanding that this is what was really going on beneath the surface has helped me to realize that I'm not someone who only wants a good-looking guy nor am I a woman who would rather have a bad boy than a good man. I'm simply someone who desires balance. Be fine and nice. Be super-masculine and kind. Don't be just good-looking and also don't be just a nice guy. BE BOTH.
Going for someone just because of the physical or sexual is shallow. At the same time, forcing yourself to be with someone just because he's nice is unhealthy. It's unhealthy because it can cause you to think that nice and kind men don't come in the packaging you truly desire. And that is simply not true.
Again, I know some women who turn down nice guys because they aren't very nice to themselves; that's another article for another time. But if, like me, you've been saying "he's too nice" when what you really mean to say is "the only thing I really like about him is how nice he is", I give you permission to reframe your way of thinking and let go of the guilt or second thoughts related to letting the nice guy go and moving on.
I get it now. It's not that I'm turned off by nice guys. It's simply that I want more—A LOT MORE—than that. Unapologetically so. Nice is A quality that I want in a man but it's not THE only one.
Church ladies, I'll wait until I get it all. Thank you very much.
Featured image by Getty Images.
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