(Please note this article is written in a CIS/Heteronormative voice. Probably everything in this article can be considered applicable to a variety of different types of interaction on the sexual fluidity/Relationship diversity scale, however at our core we are still coming to grips with the very concept of gender and whether it’s an outdated way to look at things. From that perspective I felt the topics addressed here would be best spoken in that voice and isn’t meant to be dismissive of the entire spectrum. Secondly, this is a touchy subject. I accept I might be COMPLETELY WRONG in the positions I take here. Keep the discussion lively but civil. Remember, I used to ban people for a living.)
So you’re a nice guy. I know, it sucks. You’ve had an encounter with someone that you felt was far more meaningful than they did. You didn’t even think of it sexually even; you just want someone to love. You abhor the very concept of sexual violence, disrespect, or sexism. You go out of your way when interacting with potential partners to really listen and internalize what is important to them. You’re not a prowler or a creeper, and don’t believe anyone owes you anything. Sex would be nice, but you’re ok with that not being an immediate outcome.
You really are a nice guy. You feel like crap however because that doesn’t seem to be getting you anywhere.
First off, congratulations! I’m proud of you. A lot of people would argue that you shouldn’t be congratulated or get a pat on the back for being a decent person, that the very concept of you being a truly nice guy doesn’t deserve to be pointed out because it should be the default state.
We’re all human. We all fall short of who we want to be sometimes. We should pat people on the back (metaphorically!) if only to remind ourselves to be better than our lowest nature. So… deep breath. Take some solace in the fact that more often than not you are great partner material.
But you still feel like crap. With that in mind, here are some tips that might help you navigate the current thinking and behavior going on in the psychosexual realm that drives a lot of our reconciliation of emotional needs and physical ones (or lack thereof if applicable). And by tips I mean “useful bits of context” not “strategies for getting her into bed.”
#1. Assess the situation.
I’ll say it again, the current environment for discourse on this type of subject sucks for you. However, you have to appreciate how we got here. Generations of abuse, assault, and murder have left a huge swath of our species either afraid to talk or silenced by societal role enforcement. Women in particular are speaking out on these topics precisely because their voice is needed to affect change. Believe me, I have tons of opinions about human sexual and relationship dynamics and I choose not to talk about them accept in certain small audience of friends because now is the time to shut up and listen. No one wants to hear right now about how tough it is to be a truly nice guy in this environment. I know, again that sucks. But sometimes shutting up and absorbing all the viewpoints, even if not applicable to you, is the right thing to do. Everyone deserves an opinion, but not every opinion deserves to have an audience 100% of the time.
No. Sometimes you have to just drop it. Because you have to…
#2: Cope with being privileged.
Being told you’re privileged is ultimately a dismissal. It devalues you as a person and stereotypes you into a societal bucket because no matter what you do that bucket is deeper than any method you could use to climb out of it. Everything you say or do can be dismissed with “You’re privileged and can’t see past it.”
It’s also, unfortunately for your emotions, probably true.
If you’re a white straight male especially: congratulations you are privileged in a large segment of Western society! No, you didn’t ask for it. No, you don’t feel comfortable with it. Yes, you can fight to end it. But you have to cope with the fact you have both hands in the Palmolive and are soaking in it. I’ve even seen guys say out loud, “If I’d known it was going to be this tortuous I would not have taken the choice to be privileged if offered!” or “It’s been tough for me too!”
Stop that. The very fact you are saying things like that reflects your privilege because…
#3: You have to accept the alternative is far worse.
Aw, you’re feeling some sadness over a girl you love who likes men you think are horrible for her? That’s adorable. Try growing up with brown skin in most sections of the United States. Or being female just about anywhere in the world. Sorry but it’s time for some tough love. Your sadness is a valid feeling. What you do with it is what should be your focus. The temporary sadness over a relationship situation will fade, constant fear of sexual assault or harassment or getting shot just walking around whether you’re 8 or 80 doesn’t fade. You have to learn to walk away at some level emotionally and put things into a greater context.
Of course you should tell this person how you feel. And, should it not work out (despite psychosexual programming from Hollywood movies and top 10 pop hits where the persistent suitor usually prevails) you have to take a deep breath and go invest your time and effort with someone else. Yes, friendship is less a life than you hoped with this person. But to hinge everything that makes them valuable as an individual on romantic emotions devalues them as much as being bucketed as “privileged” makes you feel when you read about it. If you can’t get over that simple fact then…
#4: Go attach live jumper cables to your nipples.
#5: You have to learn the hardest fact: The universe and people in particular don’t by default owe you anything, up to and including having the precise relationship you want with precisely the individual you have chosen.
So you have a deep emotional connection with someone that isn’t reciprocated at the same level, and you just want this person to understand how deeply you feel despite their choice and want to tell them. Your mind continually bombards you with the phrase you most want to say “You don’t understand! I’m a nice guy!” When what you are really saying is “I don’t understand! Why aren’t you connecting at the same level?”
You have to drop it. Seeking relationships is like random atoms colliding. I do not believe in any way in the “soul mate” theory, and judging from society’s propensity to have second, or third marriages (five if you are a Republican politician legislating morality SHOTSFIRED) most people actually don’t either. But our songs and books and movies and our culture celebrate the idea such that it makes it hard to let go when the other person just isn’t that into you. If you have to say to someone “But I’m a nice guy…” you have to ask yourself why you are communicating that. To reiterate, what you are saying is “You’re wrong! Rethink your choice!” You’re devaluing one of the most important decisions someone can make: Who they choose to be with. Worse, you are doing it in a way that countless men have coopted as a tactic to emotionally punish a woman for not having sex with him, even if you individually didn’t expect that as the immediate outcome.
I’m 43 and divorced. By no means do I look at this list as a “I figured it out! Just do what I do!” list. But each of these tips (#4 is bracing!) at some level actually can make things better because they allow you to see your immediate gut emotions in a far larger context, which allows you use them to further your own happiness.
I would not want to be with someone I had to badger for months or years to be with me. I’ve certainly had that experience. You always end up sabotaging yourself by forcing a situation because you believe that all relationships (if the person could just see the real you) would yield your soul mate. I’ve failed at that and most likely will do so again. You will too!
It’s how you deal with it that matters.
You’re a nice guy. Again, I congratulate you. But as the old storytelling adage goes, “Show. Don’t Tell.” (why is it called Storytelling then and not Storyshowing…I digress)
Women have a hard enough time dealing with the guys who aren’t nice. I would imagine that as a general group they don’t need another vector by which to have to worry about the choices they should feel free to make.