Maybe you’re familiar with the idea of a wolf in sheep’s clothing—a master manipulator who presents a perfect image yet has evil ulterior motives. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, a wolf in sheep’s clothing is, “someone or something that seems to be good but is actually not good at all.” I think we’ve all encountered a man like this once or twice in our romantic lives, and most of us have probably even dated one. Wolves can be tricky it’s true, but there’s another man you need to look out for. Because the sad truth is that the men who will hurt you the most won’t be the wolves, or even the wolves in sheep’s clothing. It’s the sheep you have to watch out for.
Don’t know what I’m talking about? Have you ever met a ‘nice guy’ who seemed sweet, caring, and, well, nice, but then there was just always something off about him? Maybe his demeanor was sweet and caring but his actions weren’t, maybe there was a certain look you caught in his eyes during an argument, or maybe he was just too immature or focused on himself to make the relationship work. While these men didn’t mean to hurt or manipulate you, they always ended up doing it. No, they’re weren’t wolves. Just sheep with good intentions, who couldn’t follow through.
I call these sheep the Not-So-Nice Nice Guys—the guys who want to be nice, who want to be good men, but don’t want to do the actual work that goes into it. The Not-So-Nice Nice Guy is a strange breed. He’s hard to identify and even harder to understand. So, to help you out, here are the four major signs that the guy you’re with isn’t as nice as he seems.
1. He can’t or won’t deal with conflict.
Lots of Not-So-Nice Nice Guys are great when you’re getting along, but if you have a disagreement they shut down and can’t (or just won’t) deal. If you’re with a guy who refuses to talk about uncomfortable topics, has a hard time recognizing or seeing your side, and closes up when asked about how he’s feeling, he may not be emotionally mature enough for the kind of relationship you want.
One common behavior, that I’ve experienced myself, is when a man ignores you after an argument until he’s ‘ready’ to talk about it. When faced with an argument, an emotionally immature man won’t know how to handle the conflict and so he’ll try to avoid it. He may think he’s being nice because he’s not being mean or yelling at you, but what he doesn’t realize is that by ignoring the situation or putting it on hold, he’s making you feel even worse. And because this behavior doesn’t fit in with the typical idea that most of us have about what a ‘bad guy’ looks like, it’s hard for everyone in the relationship to realize what’s going on. (I know it wasn’t easy for me.)
But eventually, after being ignored more times then I’d care to admit, I realized that someone who would rather let me feel bad than have a hard conversation is actually pretty selfish. Every relationship will have bumps in the road, some bigger than others. When one person in the relationship is closed-off and avoids conflict, it can make the other person feel confused and alone. And though it may not seem like it, it’s actually pretty cruel. Being with someone who either doesn’t know how or doesn’t want to bother with feeling anything other then basic day-to-day emotions isn’t healthy.
2. He becomes distant when you’re having a hard time or crisis.
Life isn’t pretty. We all have our ups and downs. If you’re with a guy who only likes being with you when you’re up, then he’s not a very nice guy. Whether it’s problems at work, a fight with friends or family, a sick pet, or something stressful you just need to talk about, the person you’re with should be there for you when things aren’t great. Does the guy you’re with tune out when you talk about something that’s bugging you? Does he dismiss how you feel and tell you that you ‘just shouldn’t worry about it’? Or does he make you feel like you’re burdening him when you talk about something that’s bugging you? Part of being in a relationship with someone is hearing them out and helping them work through things that aren’t always pretty. True, you probably don’t need to talk about every single problem you have with the guy you’re with—and there are going to be times when a good guy will call you out for focusing on the negative or letting things get to you—but you should always be able to turn to the person in your life when times are tough.
3. He doesn’t put in the effort.
There’s no getting around it, little things matter. One way people show that they care about you is by going out of their way to do something nice every once in a while. Things like a text just to say hi, running an errand you don’t want to do, picking up your favorite dinner, or scheduling a nice night out for the two of you are normal, thoughtful things the guy in your life should be happy to do. And you should be happy to do these things for him too! If your guy doesn’t put any effort into making you happy, it makes you feel like he doesn’t care. Especially if you’re doing these things for him and feeling like it’s all one-sided.
Sometimes we simply get comfortable in relationships and put less effort in over time. If you mention how you’re feeling to your partner and he hears you out and puts the effort into changing, then great. But if you mention that you’re not feeling the love and he tries to make you feel guilty, or like you’re too demanding or unappreciative, then he’s being a Not-So-Nice Nice Guy. Once again, it may not seem mean because he’s not actively doing anything to you, but his passive behavior can be just as hurtful.
Every relationship goes through a courtship phase, where you’re both trying to woo each other. That courtship may end, but successful relationships—the ones that last forever—are relationships where two people never stop trying to woo each other.
4. He’s a flip-flopper.
Is there anything more annoying than being with someone who is constantly hot and cold? The problem with the Not-So-Nice Nice Guy is that he wants to be a nice guy, he really does, so every so often he’ll up his game and do something great that will make you think he really does care about you.
Here’s an example from my experience: The guy wants to make you a priority in his life and do the right thing by you—so one weekend he’ll cancel guy’s night to take you to dinner. Then the next weekend, after you get excited for another great Friday night together, he’ll tell you, “You know that’s guy’s night!” Cue major confusion.
At the heart of the Not-So-Nice Nice Guy, is a man who wants to do the right thing. So one week you’re his priority and the next week he wants to hang out with his guy friends so he makes them (and, let’s face it, himself) a priority. There will be times when he realizes he’s making you feel bad, where he’ll realize that he’s not the best boyfriend in the world. He doesn’t want to be a bad guy, and he doesn’t want to hurt you, so he’ll spring into action and do something nice so he can feel like a good guy again.
But here’s the thing—the intentions are good but the genuine love and care just isn’t there. And I would say this truly sums up the Not-So-Nice Nice Guy. They want so badly to be good. They’re not bad enough to be wolves, they’re not evil. They’re not manipulative or even smart enough to be wolves in sheep’s clothing. They’re just guys who don’t have the experience or maturity to realize that being a good man and having a good relationship involves more than what they’re giving. Maybe they’re really not capable of it yet. Or maybe they’re just not willing to. Whatever it is, they don’t care about you in the way you deserve.
Relationships with Not-So-Nice Nice Guys start on a foundation of mutual trust and because you see the good in them (flaws and all) it’s hard to realize what’s happening and even harder to walk away from it. You might still continue to fight for the relationship because of the small glimpses of good, or because you still care about him. But that’s what makes the sheep that is the Not-So-Nice Nice Guy far more dangerous than the wolf.
He’s not a bad guy, he’s just not good for you.