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No More Mr. Nice Guy

Tom Chapin
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1990-02-15

> I relished the idea that, without risk to my ego or emotions, being the Nice Guy could bring me close to Susan.
> "Do something! Say something!" I implored myself

Gee, this sounds familiar. All of it. And of course I took hope in the words of women who spoke of how they had been friends for many years and suddenly realized it was "LOVE!"

But it never happened to me.

And over the years, I realized that's not how it worked with me, so why should I assume it works that way for others? When I am a friend to someone, either it means I don't want them to be a lover, or they don't want me, or circumstances (like marriage to someone else) prevent it. But if I am their friend because I don't want to be their lover, I'm not going to simply change my mind. And neither should I live in the expectation--or even hope--that *they* will.

And they didn't. They just cried on my shoulder, and healed enough to go back to the same sort of guy who had hurt them before. And I kept on being hurt, constantly giving them my time, attention, assistance, and love, and getting nothing beyond a few kind, but empty, words in return.

But I've come to see how I cooperated in my pain. I chose to avoid telling them that my feelings were romantic, hoping my adoring looks were enough, and would eventually be seen and acted on rather than pointedly ignored. I didn't tell them because I feared they would avoid me rather than deal with my true feelings for them, and so I wouldn't even have the hope they might see my inherent wonderfulness and change their minds and accept me. And so I stayed quiet, and gave and gave, and got nothing of what I needed in return.

I suppose I could blame them for using and manipulating me, but all that really happened was that their manipulation was more skilful than mine.

And I realized that their manipulation was more successful because I wasn't being honest to my own principles. I always claimed openness and honesty were my most important traits, but I was avoiding openly stating my feelings for them. And that was playing a game. And I lost.

I'm not being manipulated in that way right now. I have several friends who use my shoulder regularly, but my love for them is not romantic and I'm not giving more than I can afford in the vain hope of future return. But the situation could easily come about in the future and I will discover if I have learned anything. If I have, I will respond by telling them that my friendship for them arises from my romantic feelings, and they will have to confront the issue directly so the friendship will not begin on a false basis. If they can't return the feelings, such is life. I've learned how to move from adoration to friendship as long as the groundrules are clear. But if I'm going to preach open expression of feelings, I'll have to practice it even if it means losing possibilities because I spoke too soon.



Tom Chapin -- tjc@mvp.net
rev: 2005-May-25