Our Mindful Man for the Month of May is Dr. Robert Glover, a pioneer in helping men recover from “Nice Guy Syndrome.”
Nice guys. I was one. Yet it wasn’t nice for me.
My nice-guy life was filled with frustration, inauthenticity, people-pleasing, lonely nights, regret and fear—until I read a book 10 years ago that opened my eyes to how I was deceiving myself and others.
The biggest authority on the Nice Guy Syndrome is Dr. Robert Glover, author of No More Mr. Nice Guy. This book is in my list of top three life-changing books. In it, he describes how men become nice guys, what challenges nice guys have and what they can do to get out the nice guy hamster wheel.
Dr. Glover himself is a recovering nice guy. He’s suffered the pitfalls of what it’s like to put other people’s needs before your own. To put women on a pedestal. To worry incessantly about what other people think of you. As a licensed marriage and family therapist for over 30 years, he’s helped tons of nice guys break free from their own self-defeating patterns. I love the fact that he’s been there himself and shares his own personal journey of recovery.
So What is a Nice Guy?
According to the book, nice guys have some or all of the following characteristics:
They don’t express their feelings.
They avoid any type of conflict.
They seek validation from others.
They relate better with women than with men.
They are known to fix and caretake.
They take pride in the fact that they are so “nice” and “good.”
The philosophy of the nice guy can be summed up like this:
“If I can hide my flaws and become what I think others want me to be then I will be loved, get my needs met, and have a problem-free life.”
So you can see how that is a pretty crappy strategy for the real world.
One of the biggest things that surprised me in Glover’s book is the claim that most nice guys are actually dishonest. It didn’t make sense at first and I really wanted to not believe it. But looking back, it definitely was true for me.
Let’s take the classic story of the guy who has a huge crush on his female friend. He desperately wants to date and have sex with her, but is so scared to make a move or be perceived as a pushy player or jerk.
So what does he do? He engages in what Dr. Glover calls a “covert contract.” It’s unilateral contract that the guy imposes on the woman.
In his world, all he needs to do is be super nice to her and listen to her talk about her problems with all those “jerks” she dates. He doesn’t ask for what he wants. Then, at some magical point in the future, she is going to wake up and realize how amazing he is, make him her boyfriend and have lots of sex with him.
Because the nice guy isn’t bold enough to put his own needs first, to express his true desires or to risk not getting what he wants, he pretends to be her friend; but really, he just wants to date her or have sex with her. And he’ll complain that she put him in the infamous “friend zone.” In actuality, he put her in the “girlfriend zone” without her knowledge and created expectations that she never even agreed to.
And then what happens? She starts to date a new guy—one who had the courage to ask her out directly—and the nice guy becomes resentful and condescending, vindictive and distant. He asks himself, “How can she date that jerk when I’ve been so good to her all these years?” And the cycle repeats.
I’ve been that nice guy dozens of times in my life.
The covert contract cycle is a large foundation for the pickup artist (PUA) movement. The nice guys now had new techniques to pick up the beautiful women who didn’t want to date them. They could now become another one of those jerks that they see as successful with women. So the pendulum swings the other way.
So what does Dr. Glover propose as a solution? It’s the integrated man. The man who knows how to set boundaries can ask for what he wants and needs; he lives with integrity and honesty, has healthy friendships with other men, accepts all parts of himself, is aware of and expresses his feelings and approves of himself as he is.
It’s not about being mean. It’s about being a good, solid man, but with an edge.
Dr. Glover’s book as well as his online and in-person courses are powerful resources for nice guys and recovering nice guys to transform into men that both they themselves and others can respect.
I would say that along with David Deida’s The Way of the Superior Man, Dr. Glover’s book is a must-read for all men. It’s packed with no B.S., practical advice and exercises. His teachings changed my life and it’s usually the first book I give to my male clients as homework.
Maybe you think you might be a nice guy, or your buddy, or your boyfriend. If so, check out Dr. Glover’s work. You might actually look forward to not being nice anymore.