the “nice guy” syndrome in marriage and relationships

“Nice guys finish last.” is an old adage.

A behavior pattern of many men that is discussed on a few marriage and relationship blogs is that of the nice guy (often abbreviated as “ng” or “NG“).

The nice guy is the man who will be considerate of his wife and her wishes to the point of suppressing or sublimating his own needs and desires.  Nice guys do not like conflict with their spouse and will make conscious efforts to avoid conflict.  (They aim to please.)  Nice guys seem to be okay with a lose-win relationship with their wife.  Such men are described as being “sensitive” and considerate.  Needless to say, there are (not a few) women who like such a man, a nice guy – but not necessarily for who he is.  They like someone who gives in all the time and gives them their way almost all the time.

Some men do not realize they are playing the role of the nice guy.


One blog comes to my mind whose author is a “nice guy” in that he dares not disagree with his wife on anything.  He is afraid to offend his wife by asking for anything (in any area of the marriage), and he abdicates his responsibility, his role in joint decisions of a serious nature.  I stopped reading his blog several months back as I just could not relate to his approach.

In a perfect world, being considerate and giving would be appreciated and respected and reciprocated by others.  It is not a perfect world as humans are not perfect.  And, yes, there are marriages where the man is more the taker and less the giving spouse.  But, we address our remarks in this essay to husbands who may unwittingly be doing themselves a serious bad turn.

So, does being a nice guy work out well if your wife is primarily a taker?

The answer, of course, depends on what you are willing to accept (or put up with) in the marriage.

Nice guys may avoid open disagreement and conflict for fear of offending their wife and because open conflict is stressful and distasteful to them, but many carry the heavy burden of unresolved conflict and unmet needs deep inside (which is not healthy).

Those individuals, male or female, that by nature are takers and are not very giving of themselves will continue to take from a spouse, a partner, a friend, for as long as the other person continues to be giving to them.  One might say that the giving party is an enabler, is enabling the taking behavior – and that is true.

(Guys:  Be on the lookout for such self-centered behavior when you are dating.  You do not have to keep seeing someone who wants an 80-20 or a 90-10 relationship, where she has her own way and you make the lion’s share of the efforts and sacrifices in the relationship and your needs go unfulfilled. And, in fairness, ladies, you do the same.  If you are more giving, be on guard against the man who will not or cannot reciprocate your giving efforts and sacrifices.)

It seems that many women do not respect “nice guys”.  Now, they may claim that they want a man who respects them and treats them well – a “nice guy”. But, consider who many women run after.  Often, it is the man who treats them poorly or even abuses them that they want to stay with.  (Why do women choose to remain in abusive relationships?)  Nice guys are seen by some women as being weak and being “wimps” and thus are not respected. Such contradictory signals from women are baffling to many men.

Pity the husband who is in the double bind here.  He is married to a woman who wants her own way most of the time (a taker by nature) and he, being a nice guy, gives her her way most of the time.  When he does so, she considers him weak and does not respect him.  When, albeit infrequently, he makes a stand and says no to her, or insists that she work with him or give in now and then, she resents him for being so bold and not giving in to her.

(Oddly, it may be that some men subconsciously seek such a woman to marry. They want a domineering, less giving woman for a wife.  There are a few husbands I know personally where this appears to have been the case.)

Goal congruence between the spouses is not present in all marriages.

It is important to honestly discuss your values, goals and priorities with the one you are thinking of marrying.  Certainly, at the time of engagement, if not before, you need to talk about the important issues with your fiance.  If you are not on the same page as to values, goals and priorities, it is better to break off the engagement than to go into a marriage likely to be unhappy and likely to fail.

My counsel for husbands is that only you can look out for your interests. There will be times that you will have to be firm on matters that are important to you and where your wife disagrees with you.  Being a nice guy just to keep the peace is a losing proposition.  You have to decide which matters are worth making a stand over.  But, consider that constantly giving in to your taking wife only reinforces her behavior pattern of not viewing the marriage as a partnership – one that needs to be win-win to be happy and lasting.

Beware the refuser or gatekeeper wife who uses sex (withholding it) to punish her husband when she does not get her way, or to bribe him in order to get her way.  Wives who play this game, and sadly many do, are not honoring their marriage vows.

As noted at the beginning, there are a few relationship and marriage blogs that address this subject of the nice guy.  Some bloggers recommend husbands assert themselves more, and take the initiative more often in the relationship.  For nice guys, this can be a real challenge but is one worth facing sooner rather than later.

other related thoughts

Not being a “nice guy” myself, I feel I am free to post these other thoughts.

One may not be faulted too severely for wondering – just what do women really want?  Alternatively, one could venture to ask:  Do women know what they want?

Women:  Do you want a “yes man” who spoils you, or a man of strong enough character to say “No” to you when it is appropriate and necessary?

Feminism, since the 1960s, has messed with the minds of many women in the western world.  Human relationships are tough undertakings.  Sowing enmity and mistrust between the sexes is not constructive here.

A question to consider is:  Do women really have to adopt the character traits of men (become more masculine) to live happy, productive and constructive lives, to have happy, lasting marriages?  (There are men who respect and value women who are less combative, less competitive in a relationship.  These decent men of strong character do not take advantage or “use” a woman with a giving nature.)  Wives, if you feel you have to act like a man in your working career, out in the business world, then remember to be more feminine and more giving in the home with your husband and children.

I cannot speak for all men here.  Truth be told, I never wanted to marry a woman who was a taker by nature.  Successful relationships cannot be one way streets.  Give and take are in play, not solely taking by either person.  As well, I sought to court and eventually marry a woman who would complement me rather than be in constant competition with me.  Marriage ought not be an ongoing power struggle, and it appears that in some marriages today that is what is happening.  As mentioned above: Nice guys may avoid open disagreement and conflict for fear of offending their wife, but many carry the heavy burden of unresolved conflict and unmet needs deep inside (which is not healthy).

copyright 2014 –


heart in the open 2



Celebrating 30 months of blogging.


  1. “Nice guy’s” are not victims of their partners. … they are responsible for their choice to behave like door mats, and everything else that they also choose to do. It is incredibly frustrating to be in a relationship with a “nice guy” if you are a genuinely good woman, interested in a healthy relationship. Despite what seems romantic and caring behaviour at first, you soon learn that it was just a ploy. Once the “nice guy” has you, the thing the he wants, the relationship becomes shallow. They refuse to be honest or make decisions, including major life decisions, they lie to avoid outcomes that they extrapolate from their imagination of perceived reality…. and worst of all, the build up resentment for complaints that they never make, and allow their resentment to entitle them to indulge selfishly. When called out on their nonsense, the excuse is usually something to blame the spouse, or includes manipulative self loathing commentary. They can not accept rejection or criticism, and feel that their “niceness ” entitles them to a free hall pass to actually act like an insensitive jerk when it actually matters.

    1. Thank you for your comment.

      It is sad that nowadays there is such enmity between the sexes. Men ought not be door mats. They need to be firm when that is appropriate in their interactions with their wives or girlfriends. Being a “nice guy” is not good for the long run success and happiness of a relationship.

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