Why do “nice guys” finish last?

Last updated on February 17, 2021

As I continue to meander through the online dating world, I continually come across the admonition to “prove that nice guys don’t finish last” or that this fellow is “the last nice guy ever”.

Oh, please…

Let me tell you firsthand:  “nice guys” “finish last” for any of a number of reasons:

1.  They’re actually victims – of themselves. I don’t know if it’s the Christian ideal of suffering to prove your love or some warped sense of earning approval points through better doormat-ness, but many “nice guys” end up getting the shaft because they offer more than is appropriate to a situation, setting up an unrealistic expectation that they can’t possibly live up to.  They don’t enforce their own boundaries or respect their own needs, so when the other person doesn’t respect them either, it really shouldn’t come as a surprise.

As an example, a guy – we’ll call him “Tom” – gets involved with a girl named Jane.  Jane is a little bit of a train wreck, but Tom believes that she just needs a good, stable relationship and she’ll even out.  They go out, he always picks up the tab (even when she orders expensive stuff), takes her shopping (and pays), takes care of her when she drinks too much, and even pretends to believe her when she says that the guy she was hanging all over at the pub the week before was her cousin.  Tom never tells her that she’s bleeding him dry financially, or that he resents the drinking problem, or that he knows she’s screwing around on him because then she’ll leave him.

No, really?  Ooooor, maybe she’ll actually live up to the higher expectation and improve her behavior.  Not that this happens all the time, but the thing is, if that option isn’t thrown out there, what the heck are the chances it’ll ever happen?  If he puts his foot down and states that this behavior is not appropriate, then either she’ll break up with him (in which case, thank the gods, because who needs that kind of hell?) or she’ll straighten up.  For Tom, it’s a win-win situation, even if it does mean hanging out with Rosie a little more.  The other side of that, though, is that a more assertive Tom will probably wind up being much more attractive and end up getting to choose a higher class of lady.

2.  They’re not nice guys at all. In fact, they’re actually assholes who have been given the wrong idea about what is acceptable.  I have a number of theories about how this ends up happening.  Perhaps in some cases they had overly permissive parents who didn’t want to hurt their widdle feewings by calling them on their shit.  Or maybe they’re just so incredible self-absorbed that they actually DO believe that they’re nice guys, and they generally are – until they are inconvenienced.

How would a young lady such as myself spot this jerk-in-sheep’s-clothing?  It’s taken a while, but I have found some tells.  First, listen carefully to what he says and what he doesn’t say.  When he talks about past relationships, does he ever admit to his own mistakes?  Does he talk of those ladies fondly?  Does he actually relay his wants or needs clearly?  Can he say what’s on his mind in a non-demanding fashion?

For another example, let’s talk about Dick.  Dick thinks he’s a nice guy, and his mother agrees.  When Dick meets Tracy, Tracy believes he’s a nice guy, too, and it’s an easy illusion to maintain because they have a lot in common.  There’s no conflict about where to go or what to do.  Problems arise, however, when she wants to stay in one night and he wants to go out, so he brow-beats her until she gives in.  When she asks him about past relationships, he only grumbles about selfish bitches and whines about how unfair they were to him.  In the end, Dick shows himself to be a selfish bastard who is really only happy having things his way and to hell with what anyone else thinks or wants.  They just “don’t understand him”, after all, because he’s such a nice guy.

3.  They haven’t figured out that “nice” isn’t always enough. Let’s face it: the nicest guy on the planet is not going to hook up with the girl of his dreams if he’s overly fond of Big Macs, doesn’t brush his teeth daily and is completely content with working a schlep job for the rest of his days.  A woman worth her salt is going to want a man who cares for himself – and that means taking care of himself, inside and out.  She’s going to want someone who is willing to learn and expand his mind and grow as a person throughout the years.  The whole “take me as I am” thing is fine to express as an intention of being okay with yourself, but no one is going to be okay with you staying exactly as you were in high school.  (All those people who wrote “never change” in your year book?  They were full of shit.)

It’s not like there’s any kind of reasonable excuse to not take care of yourself these days except maybe laziness or fear.  There is more information about healthy eating and the benefits of exercise and the power of positive thinking and how great it is to have friends than ever before – thank you, Intarwebs.  You can’t possibly miss this wisdom.  If it’s laziness, then what kind of a mate are you really going to be able to take care of?  If it’s fear, then you need a therapist more than a girlfriend.  In any case at all, though, the responsibility is yours and yours alone.

Consider the problem of Harry.  Harry is 28 years old, lives with his mom again after graduating college, and when he’s not working tech support, he’s playing World of Warcraft.  Harry has a Level 57 Paladin with all the perks (this is his third character, the others being so broken that they weren’t really fun anymore), and he’s well-known for helping lower-leveled characters get through various instances.  He’s built a heck of a reputation, in fact, as a “nice guy”, and a girl-gamer in his area is so grateful for his help and so entertained by his witty banter that she asks him out.

Perfect scenario, right?  Wrong!  Harry shows up to meet this dream girl, and when she sees that he weighs three times what she does and didn’t think to iron his job-interviewing shirt and might need to get shoes made more recently than the Reagan administration, it’s going to go downhill fast.  Sure, there might be a girl in a billion who doesn’t mind all those flaws, but that’s probably because she’d have them, too – or else she believes that she can “fix him”, that she can “change him”, and then poor Harry is finding his situation spinning down and out fast.

So, you see, guys, it’s not that nice guys finish last – it’s that not every Tom, Dick and Harry is truly “nice”.  I hope this little chat was enlightening.

* The blue text is an alt tag – hover for the message.  Monkey taught me that trick.

Dawn Written by:

One Comment

  1. Dan
    March 8, 2011

    Great post! Though i cannot help but wonder if this holds true in less westernized countries. Your writing is so good that im slightly intimidated commenting on anything! ::insert witty::

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