I received a lot of good feedback on my last article discussing How I Learned to Have a Satisfying Relationship. The messages of taking personal responsibility to become a valuable mate, learning to make others trade fairly, and finding internal validation, all seemed to make a connection with readers. However, I had a few readers who still had some questions.
Some of the questions came from a group of people I call Nice Guys and Gals. These people do everything for others. They do everything they believe they are "supposed" to do for their lovers. Yet, time and time again, their partners abandon them, overlook them, mistreat them, and generally fail to love them back.
Nice guys and gals are completely confused by these outcomes. They cannot understand how they can, at least theoretically, do everything right - yet have the situation turn out so wrong. They cannot understand why their good behavior doesn't lead to love and respect. After all, we're all "told" that is how it is supposed to work. Bring someone flowers or cook them dinner and they love you forever... Not quite!
Well, I'm going to let you in on a little secret. I was a nice guy. Heck, I think I was THE nice guy. I was that clueless guy, doing everything I was told to do by society and romantic comedies, and it was not working. I gave lovers everything and got no gratitude for it. I did the "good" boyfriend and husband thing...and it all fell apart. I learned firsthand that such nice behavior didn't work.
But, I eventually found the answers!
Why Nice Guys Finish Last (and Nice Gals Too)!
The first step to seeing this clearly is to temporarily put aside any frustration and bitterness. If you are reading this, you probably have a story of your own to tell. You may have been treated badly. You might have been picked over for someone who seemed clearly inferior to you. Why would "your guy" go for that high-maintenance, promiscuous woman? Why would "your gal" dump you for that unemployed felon?
Well, there is a reason. Your partner (or their gender) is not stupid. The world has not turned upside down. There are simple influence principles at work here. These principles make the "inferior people" look valuable and you not-so-much. Let us take a look at them further and see why nice people finish last...
1) Nice People Do Not Make Their Partners Invest
When we do nice things for others, we invest in them and the relationship. Those investments of time, effort, and money tend to build up over time. Those investments also make us feel that our date or mate is valuable, that we love them, and we are committed to that relationship. This is called the principle of "sunk costs". Doing favors for others and treating them well, leads us to value and love them.
However, the reverse is not true. The receiver of good treatment does not always feel love for the giver. In fact, they may feel manipulated, burdened, or just generally ungrateful. Love cannot be bought or earned.
Given that, whoever is doing the favors will fall in love. But, whoever is receiving the favors probably will not fall in love. The person that invests feels love. The person receiving the investment may not feel anything. Get the picture?
Nice folks are on the losing end of this deal. They do all of the "doing". They are the ones waiting on their partner, doing good deeds, buying gifts, paying for meals, etc. As a result, they have a lot of love (sunk costs) for their date or mate. But, their partner has not invested. They have not given a thing. So, they are not at all in love or committed.
Contrast this with the demanding bad boy or diva... They are always making demands and requests of a partner. They require being pampered, waited on, and appeased. They make their partners INVEST. So, their partners have a ton of sunk costs. Thus, their partners fall in love with them and feel committed.
Moral of the story - don't be "nice" and do everything. Make your partner invest in you and the relationship too. Remember, when they DO FOR YOU, is when they fall in love. If they refuse to invest in the relationship, however, then they may never love you back.
2) Nice People Reward Bad Behavior
People learn from the consequences of their behavior. When they perform a behavior and are rewarded, they tend to do the same thing again. In contrast, when they perform a behavior and are punished, they tend to shy away from that behavior in the future. Pretty simple...
Well, nice people tend to treat their dates and mates very well. All the time. EVEN, when they don't deserve it. No matter how a partner is treating them, the nice person will continue to treat them well.
The nice person often "thinks" that such good treatment will one day be recognized. That it will snap the partner out of their bad behavior. Turn the other cheek and all that. But, they fail to recognize what they are TEACHING their partner by treating them well under all conditions.
In essence, by being nice all the time, they are rewarding their partner for bad behavior. If you cook him dinner on the nights he disrespects you, then you have rewarded and encouraged that behavior to continue. If you take her out on the nights she is grumpy and nagging, you have ensured that she will do it again.
Not-so-nice people have better boundaries. They only reward partners when they earn those rewards. They also ignore partners when they are disrespectful or bad. This teaches dates or mates what they will and will not tolerate. It lets them know what is expected of them.
As a result, nice people get walked all over. By being nice all the time, they actually encourage others to treat them badly. They reward those who mistreat them and make the behavior more likely in the future. If they were selective in their rewards - and occasionally withholding - they would receive better treatment in return. They would also be more respected by others.
3) Nice People Are Too Available
We all have mental shortcuts that help in our decision-making. One of these shortcuts is the rule of scarcity. Generally, we believe whatever is scarce, or requires work to obtain, is valuable. Whatever is easy to get, or common, is probably cheap. While this is not always true, it is true enough of the time that it becomes a common, unconscious assumption. It is applied to everything...even people.
Unfortunately for nice people, they are anything but scarce. They are eager to please. They are always agreeable to dropping their life and rushing over to their date or mate. They make time, dote, acquiesce, and try to be as convenient and easy as possible.
Their hope is that this behavior will lead to gratitude and respect. By making themselves available to a partner and removing inconveniences, they hope to make love easier. Instead, however, they come off as needy, get taken for granted, and become overlooked. In other words, they are the opposite of scarce and hard to earn. So, all of the available behavior actually makes them seem low value and worthless.
The bad boy or diva, in contrast, is always "hard to get". They are never available, always cancelling plans, and make lovers do things their way. They do nothing but neglect and inconvenience their lovers. Yet, their lovers find them alluring, tempting, and attractive (much to the confusion of "nice" folks).
Nevertheless, the bad boys and divas are scarce. That scarcity makes them SEEM valuable. Their unavailability and breaking plans makes them look confident and important. Making others work to earn their time gives the illusion that their time is valuable. Having to drop everything to steal a moment with them makes others appreciate the time they are "given". It is the illusion of scarcity.
Given that, nice people would do well to inconvenience their lovers once in a while. They would benefit from being scarce. They would look a little more valuable if they didn't drop everything to be at their lover's beck-and-call. If they were a little harder to get, their lovers would find them more enticing.
Again, your ex (or their entire gender) is not crazy. But, their psychological dynamics do cause them to process things differently than a nice person might hope. As a result of a few mental shortcuts getting crossed, winners look like losers and losers look like winners.
Does that mean you have to be a jerk or diva to find love? No. But, it does mean that you need to be selective with your time, attention, and niceness. It means you cannot be eager to please, needy, overly-available, or endlessly nice. To create a loving, respectful, and appreciative relationship, you have to know the rules of the game...and play by them.
So, learn from the jerks and divas- but don't emulate them completely. Simply get your partners to invest in you back, as you invest in them. Further, only reward them when they deserve it and ignore them when they don't. Also, make them accommodate you too and don't let your life revolve around them. This will show them that you are a valuable and attractive person with some self-respect. Then, you can still be a decent person and find love...without being so nice others walk all over you.