Do you remember what it was like growing up as a kid? Most of us would really have to think about it to remember the absolute freedom that came from being a child. As children we didn’t have to worry about religion, gender roles, homosexuality, or race. We saw the other little children as playmates, friends, and equals.
As a child there were no expectations, and I certainly did not have to worry about being “too nice” with anyone. I could just be myself. We all could.
That is when the travesty of life happened to all of us. Adults.
As children we are fresh, new, and everything around us is a wonder, but as we age the adults in our lives feel it’s necessary to “teach” us what it is to be a man or a women. It’s important to them that we follow the same set of social constructs that were taught to them including political affiliations, religious views, how to dress, what music to listen to, what shows to watch, and how to behave.
With all of this enormous pressure we begin to change. We adopt views and opinions more out of obligation than we do actual belief. We allow ourselves to be defined by the expectations of others, and so our life is molded from the outside in.
This outside definition of who I was suppose to be, and how I was suppose to act was very difficult on me. I constantly questioned everything, and wanted to know why certain things were just accepted as truth. This unwillingness to “conform” made me a lot of enemies, and earned me my fair share of beatings on the elementary school bus.
By the time I entered the 8th grade I had been beaten up enough times that I was ready to “conform.” I wanted to be “normal” whatever that meant. I was starting at a new school in a new state, where no one knew me. I could be anything I wanted to be, and I wanted to be the kind of guy who had a girlfriend.
Now it is safe to say that my first relationship I was the “nice guy.” I held her hand at lunch, I brought her roses that I had picked from my Dad’s garden, I carried her books to class, and basically put her needs, wants, and emotions in front of my own.
I was a doormat.
Needless to say that relationship didn’t last long. We broke up, and she moved on to another kind of boyfriend.
He was rude, mean, started a lot of fights, and generally ignored my previous girlfriend. And yet she hung on his every word. Followed him around school like a puppy. Fought hard for his small affections. In fact she seemed to even like that he ignored her, and treated her like an accessory. It seemed to make her work that much harder.
The classic case of “nice guy” vs “asshole.”
Growing up no one wanted to be the “nice guy.” It was akin to being dumped in the friend zone.
So misguided as we were “nice guys” like myself would try to mimic “assholes.” This never worked out well in our favor, and often ended up in disaster. Leaving us even more confused, misguided, and lost.
For many years I would ping pong back and forth between nice guy and asshole, and with each relationship I would learn, often painfully, things about each side of the spectrum.
Nice guys will often put others needs and emotions ahead of their own. Sometimes even at the cost of their own dignity. Their partner takes advantage of them, breaks all their limits and boundaries, and when the nice guy has finally had enough, when they finally explode, they have no idea how to communicate with their partner. In their mind expressing their limits, boundaries, and expectations would mean a loss of love and abandonment from their partner.
Nice guys do not like being treated like shit. In fact they resent it, and hate themselves for putting up with it.
In most cases they stay quiet, withdrawn, angry. Walls begin forming around their emotions and heart. All the while living with a heavy heart, and broken spirit.
And do you know where all of this comes from?
Not being able to express the kind of love they both want and need.
Now I have already told you that I was the “nice guy” in several relationships. But truth be told I have also been in relationships where I was the “asshole.” These relationships generally were on the heels of one of my “nice guy” relationships.
I had been treated badly by someone I cared about, so I needed to balance the scales.
This never worked out well for me.
I would form connections with women, but I would never let them into my heart or my life. I kept them at a distance, and dissociated any emotion with sex. I was fake. I lied about who I was, and despite the fact that I was now getting attention from sometimes some wonderful women, I was still falling victim to the same issue I had as a “nice guy.”
I wasn’t expressing the kind of love I wanted and needed.
Sure I wasn’t a doormat anymore, and I certainly had boundaries in place, but there was no authenticity to the relationship.
So what did I learn from being both a “nice guy” and an “asshole?”
In any relationship it’s important to communicate the kind of love you want and expect. You can’t be a doormat, and you certainly can’t be an asshole. You need balance.
It’s true, by telling your partner honestly the kind of love you want and need may in fact mean the end of your relationship. It may cost you the person you love either because they or unwilling or unable to provide you with the kind of love you want and need.
It’s also true that by being open, honest, and communicating you may open a vulnerability within your protective boundaries. A vulnerability that your partner may exploit or use to their advantage.
But what if they don’t?
What if you are open and honest and they don’t leave? What if you expose yourself and they don’t use it against you?
It’s in that moment of perfect understanding and clarity that you could have everything you have ever wanted and needed.
Don’t get me wrong. Relationships take work, and time to build, but it’s my opinion that when a person finds that balance, expresses honest empathy, sets up realistic boundaries, knows their own worth, and choose to be neither a doormat or an asshole, that it could lead to something amazing.