Beware The Tit for Tat Trap

by Brett & Kate McKay on April 10, 2012 · 48 comments

in Dating, Friendship, Marriage, Relationships & Family

As we talked about in a previous post, Kate and I have what might be termed a “Marriage Master Mind.” We share everything just about equally—the blog, parenting, household chores, and so on. We get along really well, especially for people who spend practically 24/7 together and have to balance issues involving both work and romance.

But like all couples, we occasionally have arguments. And a good percentage of them used to be over who was taking care of what, and whether one person wasn’t pulling their weight enough in the relationship.

We’re not alone in this: conflict over the division of domestic duties ranks second only to money problems in creating discord in marriages.

This isn’t just a product of the more egalitarian nature of relationships in our modern age—although that has likely intensified the conflict. Even back in the day when spouses had clearly defined roles–husband worked, wife stayed home—men and women debated who had the heavier burden; was it tougher to go to work or to stay home with the kids?

Concentrating on keeping the scales of a relationship exactly balanced can create animosity and discord between partners. This unhealthy state is what we like to call “The Tit for Tat Trap.”

The Faulty Calculations of Those Stuck in The Tit for Tat Trap

Couples who fall into The Tit for Tat Trap base their relationships on strict reciprocity. “I will only do this, if you do that. And if you stop doing what I expect of you, I will stop doing what you expect of me.”

Now relationships based on strict reciprocity can work well for say, two partners joined by a business contract. I give you money, and you give me a service or product. Quid pro quo.

The problem with using a framework of strict reciprocity in a personal relationship is that it is difficult, nay, impossible to exactly calculate the worth of each person’s actions and behavior.

First off, we still haven’t even resolved the debate over which is the tougher lot–working full-time or staying home with children (having had a hand in both, I’d say they’re equally difficult, just in different ways). And does cleaning the bathroom garner more points than mowing the lawn? Is folding the laundry harder than putting it away? Is installing a fan worth more than staying up with a sick child during the night? And that’s not even getting into weighing the emotional stuff. If you’re consistently the rock while the other person is allowed to fall apart, does that tip the scales in your favor? If one spouse is mopey and morose and the other optimistic and cheerful, does the latter get more marks on their side of the relational ledger book?

Compounding the difficulty in measuring the worth of such things is the fact that we are all terrible judges of just how much of the weight we’ve been pulling. This is because all human minds are subject to what is called the “availability heuristic.” Heuristics are problem-solving mental shortcuts our minds use to figure things out…but they’re not always all that accurate and are prone to biases.

In the case of the availability heuristic, we tend to believe that the easier it is to pull something from our memory (the more available it is to us), the larger the category and the more frequently the thing happens. So for example, since the media gives so much coverage to things like gruesome and unexpected deaths, people think that you’re more likely to die in a plane crash than a car wreck, and more likely to die in an accident than from a stroke, even though in both cases that’s simply untrue, and untrue by a wide margin of error. But since such vivid deaths are at the forefront of our minds, and are easy to retrieve from our memory, we believe they happen with greater frequency than they actually do.

One of the things that influences the availability heuristic is whether or not something happens to us personally, or to another person. Things that we experience ourselves are obviously more salient, and thus reside closer to the forefront of our minds—and this makes them easier to retrieve, which sways us into believing they happen with greater frequency than they do.

Which brings up back to relationships. Because it’s much easier to recall all the efforts we’ve been making from day to day, and it’s harder to remember what our partner’s been up to, we’re prone to think that we’ve been doing much more than the other person has. It’s easy to remember how we’ve been staying up late doing the taxes and spent all Saturday cleaning out the garage, but harder to recall that the wife spent Saturday doing errands, and was planning your kid’s birthday party while you were gathering together the year’s receipts.

In a study done by Ross and Sicoly, couples were asked to estimate what percentage they contributed to taking care of specific household chores. If the husbands and wives had been accurate in their assessments (say the husband said he took out the trash 60% of the time, while the wife said she did it 40% of the time), when they added up their respective percentages, each total should have come out to around 100%. But that’s not what happened; the totals consistently exceeded 100%. In other words, each partner overestimated their respective contributions to each chore. And the same result was found for other social contexts as well (such as group projects for school or work).

All of which is to say: when it comes to accurately keeping score in a relationship, we suck.

“Nice Guys” Are Scorekeepers

At this point you might be thinking to yourself, “Scorekeeping is something douche-y guys do in a relationship. But not me. In my relationships I’m an incredibly generous and giving guy.”

Unfortunately, if that’s what you’re thinking, there’s a good chance that you might be one of the worst offenders of all.

In the book No More Mr. Nice Guy, Dr. Robert Glover describes the problems of a set of men who are not simply “nice,” but who suffer from “Nice Guy Syndrome.” These guys never assert their own needs and let people walk all over them, all in the hope that shaping themselves into what others desire will win them love and approval. And yet such behavior inevitably leads instead to unhappiness, frustration, and barely suppressed rage.

Even though they suppress their needs, Nice Guys still want those needs met somehow, which naturally creates a real dilemma. Glover articulates the problem this way: “How can they keep the fact that they have needs hidden, but still create situations in which they have hope of getting their needs met?” Nice Guys accomplish “this seemingly impossible goal” by resorting to methods that are “controlling, manipulative, and unclear” and involve the use of what Glover calls “covert contracts.” These “unconscious, unspoken agreements,” Glover explains,

“are the primary way Nice Guys interact with the world around them. Almost everything a Nice Guy does represents some manifestation of a covert contract.

The Nice Guy’s covert contract is simply this:

I will do this ___________(fill in the blank) for you, so that you will do this_____(fill in the blank) for me. We will both act as if we have no awareness of this contract.”

Nice Guys give a ton of themselves to their partners, to be sure, but they give to get. Strings are strongly attached, and under the guise of doting generosity, they actually demand total reciprocity. They give as a way to indirectly get their needs met and in the hopes of getting something in return. And if their partners fail to pick up on this veiled message, and reciprocate in a way the Nice Guy deems equivalent, he grows angry and bitter towards them.

Avoiding The Tit for Tat Trap

So you how do you avoid falling into The Tit for Tat Trap? Here are some ways to steer away from it:

Squash the availability bias. The good news in all this, is that of the many cognitive biases that distort our thinking and decision-making, psychologists say that overcoming the availability heuristic is one of the most easily achievable.

In the study done by Ross and Sicoly mentioned above, researchers found that simply making the spouses aware of the bias worked to undermine it, so that they were able to more clearly see what their partners had been contributing, and not just their own contributions. After reading this post, hopefully the next time you’re prone to feeling that you’ve been pulling more weight than your partner, you’ll stop to put yourself in their shoes, and realize they’re probably thinking the exact same thing.

Quit mind reading. If you’re feeling under-appreciated and that you’ve been pulling more weight than your wife, don’t stew about it in silence. Say to her, “I’ve been feeling crazy busy lately. Is there anything you could help take off my plate?” She’ll either 1) Be happy to help and happy that you let her know how she could help you. 2) Let you know that she’s got an equally full plate, and all the things she’s been up to. At which point, if you calmly reflect on it, you’ll realize that the availability bias had steered you wrong. Or, 3) She won’t offer to help you even though she has the time to do it. See note about unhealthy relationships below.

Just by doing the two points above, Kate and I have virtually eliminated this source of conflict from our relationship. If you need further help, read on.

Take responsibility for your own needs. As we mentioned above, Nice Guys expect their partners to meet all their emotional needs, but can’t make those needs known, and so resort to “covert contracts,” in hopes their partners will take the indirect hint and reciprocate their “generosity.”

Dr. Glover recommends that recovering Nice Guys squash this unhealthy behavior by taking responsibility for their own needs. He exhorts the reader to remember that besides your parents, “No one was put into this world to meet your needs but you.”

I agree with this for the most part, but I do think all humans have needs for love and sex that cannot be met entirely on one’s own (trying to do so is like giving yourself a massage—not very satisfying). But the point is a good one: you can’t rely on someone else to make you a happy, healthy, confident, sane man; you take responsibility for becoming whole yourself, and you bring that whole self into a relationship with another whole self. When you don’t rely on someone else to meet your needs, you are then able to give to and do things for your partner…with no strings attached. Just because you genuinely want to.

Let it flow. At this point, I am sure some of you are thinking, “But, what if you give a lot to your partner, but she doesn’t reciprocate at all? Isn’t that a recipe for getting walked over and taken advantage of?

Certainly, setting some boundaries is important. Psychologists tell us that if you reinforce a person’s bad behavior with a reward, then they’ll keep repeating that bad behavior. So it’s definitely a bad idea to bring your wife flowers right after she spent a half hour berating you.

But in general, when you’re in a healthy relationship, things just flow naturally, without the need for scorekeeping or fears of being taken advantage of. You give because you love the person, and they do the same. Sometimes you’re doing less because you’re sick in bed with the flu or feeling down in the dumps, and sometimes they’re having a rough patch and you’ve got it together. Things may feel uneven in the short-term but they’ll inevitably ebb and flow in the long-term; the scale tips from one side to the other over and over. You just got to ride the waves. If you are both committed to the relationship and to loving and serving each other, it simply flows.

But what if I’m in an unhealthy relationship? My wife is so angry/stingy/crazy!

Well first off, as the saying goes, when you point your finger at someone, two fingers point back to you. Or as Glover puts it:

“Wounded people are attracted to wounded people. When Nice Guys enter a relationship, they frequently choose partners who look more dysfunctional than they do. This creates a dangerous illusion that one of them is sicker than the other. This is a distortion, because healthy people are not attracted to unhealthy people—and vice versa. I frequently tell couples that if you have one obviously wounded person in a relationship, you always have two. No exception.”

All of which is to say, the first thing you need to do is figure out what stuff about yourself you need to work on. Sometimes (certainly not always) changing yourself can cause the other person to change and the relationship dynamic to heal. Treating someone in a healthy manner can thaw the ice between you and soften their heart, which will change their behavior.

Oftentimes for couples stuck in The Tit for Tat Trap, a stalemate has been reached where neither partner wants to make the first move and do something for the other person. They feel that to do so would show weakness. And showing weakness in a relationship has become something of an all-consuming fear amongst men these days, since lots of “seduction” gurus make it sound like if you don’t always have the upper hand, you’ll be instantly transformed in a woman’s eyes from attractive hunk to simpering wiener.

So if you find that pride is getting in the way of making the first move, try looking at it not as some big, permanent change you’re making in your behavior or mindset, but simply as an experiment. You’re not capitulating—you’re just conducting an experiment, with a predetermined start and end date. You’re a scientist who’s simply going to test a hypothesis. Then for say one week, take the initiative in doing things for your partner—like leaving her a love note each morning.

At the end of the week, assess the result. Sometimes something like this is enough to shift the relationship dynamic to get you both back in a healthy groove.

But not always of course. If she’s the wrong kind of woman, it could very well increase her disdain for you, or not change her feelings about the relationship at all. If this is the result of your experiment, then if you’re dating, you should probably find another girl. And if you’re married, you might consider getting some couples therapy.

 

{ 48 comments… read them below or add one }

1 A6 April 10, 2012 at 2:52 pm

Good stuff, wasn’t aware that you guys were a couple until today. What about if you’re dating a lady with wait for it……..a child from a previous “relationship.” How does that tie into the whole Quid Pro Quo routine? Am I now expected to take a “man’s” role and assume responsibility for the child as well. And how guilty should I feel if I tell that it’s still her child at the end of the day. Thanks.

2 mike April 10, 2012 at 3:13 pm

A6, don’t date a girl with a kid. It’s terribly unfair to the kid if you break up with the girl. Kids have feelings too and won’t understand that you broke up with mom and not the kid.

If you do date a girl with a kid, do so away from the kid – like when dad has custody, go over to girlfriend’s house. Otherwise, meet her somewhere else. Also, do you really want to date a woman that would take time from her kids on days she has custody. If she can ignore someone that she carried inside her for 9 months, imagine how emotionally distant she can be from you.

3 Taylor M. April 10, 2012 at 3:19 pm

Dr. Glover’s book changed my life. Seriously.

I’ve been giving out copies of that book to friends as much as I can. When I first read the opening chapter, my jaw dropped because he was describing me. Not just kind of describing. That was me.

Once I finished the book, reread it twice, and did all the exercises, many changes precipitated in my life. But the biggest one is that I’m a happier, confident, generous person who does suck the value of every relationship he’s in. I highly, highly recommend it to everyone!

Good post! Thanks for sharing!

4 Btownswnd April 10, 2012 at 3:27 pm

This post was very enlightening, I have inadevertantly rouined evey relationship I’ve been in being the nice guy. Giving and giving and not getting back what I thought I had put into the relationship and it made me resent every woman I’ve been for no reason but my own selfishness. I wad startIng to do it again with someone I really care about but this article opened my eyes and helped me greatly. Thank you aom

5 Btownsend April 10, 2012 at 3:29 pm

This post was very enlightening, I have inadevertantly rouined evey relationship I’ve been in being the nice guy. Giving and giving and not getting back what I thought I had put into the relationship and it made me resent every woman I’ve been for no reason but my own selfishness. I wad startIng to do it again with someone I really care about but this article opened my eyes and helped me greatly.

6 Fern April 10, 2012 at 3:36 pm

Mike’s right – never date a girl with a kid. Of course, if you are a man and not a boy, you shouldn’t be dating girls, you should be dating women.

7 Nick April 10, 2012 at 5:50 pm

Great article…take responsibility for your needs. Allow your significant other to do the same. If you are never the least bit selfish, you will become a dick and nobody will like your passive aggressive bullshit.

@A6 Of course some men will have to date women with children from a previous relationship. Just make sure you have your shit together, and that she does as well…the stakes are much higher. And remember, at least in the beginning, you are not their dad…you are just the guy dating their mom…take it slowly, and don’t spend the night at their house…it’s creepy for the kids, and their real dad may be paying the mortgage!

8 The Geographer April 10, 2012 at 6:23 pm

Tit-for-tat is the only winning strategy in an iterated prisoner’s dilemma.

9 Zacharia Karami April 10, 2012 at 6:44 pm

@The Geographer

Let’s just hope that neither of the prisoner’s will sell the other out in this scenario, hm?

10 Jude April 10, 2012 at 6:57 pm

Single mothers are screwed. Pun intended.

11 Josh April 10, 2012 at 7:10 pm

Game theory tit-for-tat is all I could think of with that title… Of course, extending the connotations to a serious relationship likens it to a prisoner’s dilemma, which seems unhealthy and cynical.

12 LG April 10, 2012 at 8:51 pm

A6 et al., don’t date a woman with kids unless a) you want children, b) you are generally mature enough to be a father, c) you enjoy and are interested in her particular kids, and d) you’re not dating her to fool around but with some intention of discovering if you’re marriage-compatible. There, I said it. Don’t jerk a single mom around, dudes. My brother married a girl with kids, and he waited until he felt reasonably confident that the two of them could have a future and that he could be a good father (in theory) to her children — and this was before they were “official.” A single mom and her kids are a package deal. You don’t get one without the other. That can be fantastic if you’re up for it, but its misery for everyone involved if you’re resentful of the kids or unwilling to be a parent.

WRT the article, this is so applicable to friendships and other kinds of relationships, not just marriage. Great stuff.

13 A6 April 10, 2012 at 9:01 pm

@Mike Thanks for the heads up. Sadly, I already have dated a woman with a child before but Thanks for the advice nonetheless. I agree with you that It’s unfair to the child if things don’t work out, but ironically enough our arguments have never really been about her child.

14 A6 April 10, 2012 at 9:07 pm

@Nick Thanks man. I feel like you’re reading my mind. I agree with you 100% and have practiced ALL of the above.

15 A6 April 10, 2012 at 9:22 pm

@LG. Duly noted. Thanks!! This woman has single-handedly been the best thing to ever happen to me (OK minus the NY Giants repeating this year). I get the whole “package deal” but I guess my thing is that I’ll have to eventually take on a lead role sometime in the near future. She’s brought up marriage before and has PRESSED me about it on several occasions. LG, you sound like a gentleman that is in tuned with current events so I need not explain how abysmal this economic climate is. Financially, I feel like this couldn’t be a worse to get married. I want us to have a relatively good life, not struggle from day to day.

16 andres April 10, 2012 at 10:26 pm

Mike’s right

17 Single mom April 10, 2012 at 11:12 pm

First, AoM, I love your blog. You offer great insight into the male dynamic. I am a mother of two boys, one is now a man, 23, the other a man in the making. He’s 5. Secondly, I’m a single-mom and it’s ok to date us. Most of us are healthy, mature, intelligent, sensible women who merely desire companionship, not surrogate fathers for our kids. In fact, quite the opposite. I’d rather you didn’t try to foster a relationship with my kids right away. We SM’s need and want quality, kid-free adult time too. Focus on the relationship with the woman, not her kids.

18 MIkeX10A April 10, 2012 at 11:16 pm

Good post. I think some of this can be applied to friendships as well.

19 Wesley April 10, 2012 at 11:17 pm

Crud…chalk me up as another guy in need of that book. Those comments described me quite well.

I don’t think of myself as a “Mr Nice Guy”, but apparently, I am. I have the exact same problems described in the article (which are mostly in my mind).

I really need to break out of that cycle if possible. I’ll get a copy of that book. Thanks for the article!

20 GWH April 11, 2012 at 5:23 am

@Single mom
How right you are. Don’t date a mother with a child? Where did that come from.
@ mike
And why should it be a bad thing that a single mom dates while she has custody? When did she stop having the right to have a life.
My wife’s best friend is slowly getting back on her feet after an ugly divorce and we are happy to take her kids in whenever she wants some alone time.

21 Matthew April 11, 2012 at 5:28 am

Very good article. I’ve been a “nice guy” in the negative sense in the past. I understand the concept of “covert contracts”. These ruined the chance for a good relationship I had. These concepts don’t just apply to male/female relationships, for sure.

22 englishmuffin April 11, 2012 at 6:05 am

A very interesting article and it makes me wonder if I suffer from ‘nice guy’ syndrome too. I’m certainly keeping a lid on the inner rage most of the time whilst thinking of myself and a kind and considerate husband. May well check out that book!

23 Josh Knowles April 11, 2012 at 7:47 am

True words.

24 Chase Christy April 11, 2012 at 8:45 am

Great article! This was a major issue for my wife and I during our season of intense marital strife.

From my experience, the best way to deal with this is to strengthen your relationship past it. You have to build trust and mutual respect past the point of questioning at every turn whether your spouse will ever pull his or her weight again. In our situation my job was exhausting me to the point I was having trouble contributing much at home. Our counselor helped us see that we were not as close to the end as we thought, and helped us to see how much we really loved each other through the difficulties. From that point we were able to hang on and make the changes needed to put it all back together again.

25 Jordan April 11, 2012 at 9:15 am

Wow! One of those things that God puts right down in front of you when you need it. Thank you. My wife and I have been at odds for a lil bit now and I could not figure out why, and this article was a dose of hard medicine. THANK YOU!

26 Lalo April 11, 2012 at 9:18 am

I have heard people use the motto, “bless to be blessed” as a way to live. But I would rather live by this motto, “bless to be a blessing”.
It is important to do things out of your own good will and not do things to expect something in return. Life has a funny of way of paying you off anyway, your good attitude and sincere effort to be a good husband or wife will pay off when the time is right.

27 Gabriel April 11, 2012 at 10:02 am

Great Article! For everyone who enjoyed this I STRONGLY Reccommend the book “Love and Respect”.

http://www.google.com/products/catalog?hl=en&q=love+and+respect&gbv=2&um=1&ie=UTF-8&tbm=shop&cid=1988463458415252497#

This book explores the idea that Men would more often than not want to be or feel RESPECTED, whereas Women would more often than not want to feel and be LOVED. It’s truly a marriage changing book!

28 JonL April 11, 2012 at 11:04 am

A very good article, especially about “nice guys.” There is certainly a syndrome among many men, myself included, where the real needs are hidden away but are still expected to be addressed by some kind of magical understanding by the romantic partner.

It is easy to fall into the trap of “nothing you do is as difficult as what I do”, but that’s not the sign of a healthy relationship. It’s like the article says – it’s about giving fully and trusting the other person to give fully without using a checklist to determine who is working the hardest at all times while also being open an honest about what you want.

Very good article that reminds me of what I’m doing better, and what needs more work.

29 Wag April 11, 2012 at 11:31 am

My wife and I have been married just shy of 23 years and this article hit home on a lot of points. We started out with several of these issues and I recognized many of them right away as I read through the article here. Over the years, my wife and I have stumbled along, much of the time in the dark, and have resolved most of these issues on our own. But I think that’s rare and people should get the advice they need before they get into a long-term relationship.

That said, I see that there are some refinements that we can put to good use to make our already wonderful relationship even better.

–Wag–

30 Matt April 11, 2012 at 11:43 am

Great stuff as always. I just wanted to plug another great relationship book. The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by Dr. John Gottman. My wife and I were going through a rough patch, and this book helped us communicate better and realize how good we had it already.

31 Kathryn April 11, 2012 at 12:21 pm

And people say “nice guys finish last” – I guess they finish last because they’re not actually nice!

32 AyCe April 11, 2012 at 12:45 pm

Enjoyed the article and find the advice applicable and helpful. However, this bit from the Amazon blurb is more than a little bit troubling: No More Mr. Nice Guy! landed its author, a certified marriage and family therapist, on The O’Reilly Factor and the Rush Limbaugh radio show.

33 Ice April 11, 2012 at 12:46 pm

Wow. Perfect timing. My girlfriend of 2 years and I have been having some conflicts of this nature over the past few days, and this article has given some good pointers as to setting things right. Since we’re both in college, we spend a lot of time stressing over homework, and tend to forget each others’ needs while we focus on our needs and work.

34 Kurt G Gustafsson April 11, 2012 at 6:50 pm

To draw the baseline: We’ve been married for 40 years. Yes, we’re a bit astonished, too. Guess we didn’t REALLY expect that, when we moved in together six weeks after we’d met. Three kids now, and three grand kids so far.
1. Money counts, a lot. We’ve always had a joint economy, totally. All income goes into one kitty (i.e. according to ability) and expenses are taken out according to need. The first is easy, the latter takes working out. So we sat down and worked it out. Especially during seven years, when the kids were small, and we had decided to power through on one income.
According to ability, according to need. Does it sound socialist? We are not socialists in a political sense, but in a family sense we are.
2. The same goes for work, chores and the rest of family life: Give according to ability, take according to need. If you’re in the game for the long haul, it’ll balance out. The trick is to be sensitive about your spouses abilities and needs, to give what she needs and not crave more than she’s able to give.
As for the question about dating a woman with a kid, the answer is simple: The only difference between her and a woman wihout a kid is that she has one. Hence, if dating results in a more serious relationship, it will inevitably involve, include the kid. So before you make any commitment in that direction, you simply have to get to know the kid and then make an honest decision whether that’s really what you want to do.
At this level life is really straightforward. The devil is in the detail.

35 Chris T April 11, 2012 at 7:59 pm

Wow. I am ordering this book tonight.

36 Ben G April 12, 2012 at 12:44 am

Nice work Brett and Kate. I’ve been married for almost 13 years and I learned the “nice guy” lesson several years ago through some counseling. It’s tough to look yourself in the face and admit you’ve been basically lying to yourself and the people most important to you in order to get your own covert needs met, but once you do (and continue to do!) man, does your heart open up. You get to be who you were always designed to be–a person with needs, that your spouse and friends can help you meet. It is real freedom. Thanks again for the post.

37 Leigh Ratcliffe April 12, 2012 at 2:31 pm

Or get a divorce. If you man up, as they call it, to fix a problem and she still treats you with contempt then it’s time to bail out.

I’ll give your readers one bit of advice: If you have an argument keep it civil. Don’t ever let it escalate into a row. Row’s are death on a relationship. Have a time out and give yourself time to have a think or rethink.

38 Chris April 12, 2012 at 5:30 pm

Hi. I read your article with great interest. I’m 46 years old and I recently made the decision to walk away from my marriage of 21 years.

You are right when you talk about wounded people attracting wounded people. The thing is generally, people are just NOT willing to go THERE with themselves. They will go there with there spouse, kids, parents and other family members, but never with themselves. I’ve had time to reflect and I’ve gone there with myself. I REALLY screwed this up unfortunately.

Fundamentally, the biggest mistake I made was my mindset in choosing my marriage partner. We were never a team. In our marriage there was this dynamic of me vs. her. That’s how the tit for tat or “scorekeeping” starts.

The mindset of that is SO wrong. We are a TEAM. When one of us loses we both lose. When one of us wins we both win. We men sometimes need to be held accountable and we need to be able to listen and go there with ourselves if need be. What are our goals as a couple? as a family? Do you know each others business? We are a team and there is no need for secrets. If one of us screws up, the other needs to listen, love and help. We are a team and no one enjoys pointless criticism. Don’t do it.

Anyway, good article and best wishes to all. I believe I WILL find the partner of my dreams when I am ready.

39 Andrew April 16, 2012 at 5:32 pm

Thamks for the great article!

40 St. Vital April 17, 2012 at 9:42 pm

From a website replete with good stuff to read week in and week out comes this post. Talk about an eye opener for me! I went straight to ebooks and purchased Dr. Glover’s book. It may turn out to be the best ten dollars I’ve spent in a very long time. Brett and Kate, thank you, thank you, thank you!

41 Phil April 18, 2012 at 12:52 pm

Great post. Looks like I’ve got another book to read. I am at the end of an almost 10 year marriage where I did a lot of that “nice guy” stuff and my biggest complaint was that it wasn’t received or valued as loving or sacrificial. I didn’t often recognize the efforts she was making. There were other factors involved in our marriage that made it unhealthy, but I would have to agree with the idea that unhealthy attracts unhealthy and that the rescuing mindset, which I tend to have, is also unhealthy because it’s really just an unconscious manipulation tactic to get my own needs met. I think I’ve got some work to do on myself before getting back into the arena.

42 Curt October 3, 2012 at 5:22 pm

I have read Dr. Glover’s book, No More Mr. Nice Guy (aka NMMNG), and I was profoundly struck by how well it described me. Problem was, he was wrong about me. Dead wrong. And it nearly cost me my relationship.

I have no doubt that the book is very valuable for many men. And I recommend that everyone read it, if only to develop their own attitude about the Nice Guy phenomenon. But there is a type of man out there–and I am one of them–who is committed to a deeper quest for psychological wholeness. That work can happen only beyond the limits of the ego mind (and I use that term psychologically, not as in “egotistic”). The book deals only with ego-level solutions, that is to say, through thought and action training, not through the deep psychological exploration as, say, one might find in the book Magician, Warrior, Lover, King, Rediscovering the Archetypes of the Masculine.

For those who genuinely are Mr. Nice Guys as described in the book, then by all means, work with Dr. Glover’s techniques. But don’t be too quick to judge yourself so harshly. I certainly fit many of the characteristics of the Nice Guy, but I did not act out of a “give to get” mentality. So astounded was I that Dr. Glover described much of my personality that I assumed he understood my motivations as well. My motivations are unique to me. Some I’m proud of, others, not so much. But only after a long, deeply personal, symbolic quest to understand my unconscious motivations, my dreams, my moods, and my fears, have I been able to love myself and others unconditionally. That could not have come from any book, nor from any man other than myself.

As important as Dr. Glover’s book is, I encourage every man who reads it to push back a bit against the incredibly strong urge to swallow its diagnosis with one gulp. Chew a bit on it. The taste may grow sour after awhile.

43 Mike October 9, 2012 at 8:53 pm

A well written piece on the tit for tat issue, which is definitely one that we can work on

44 Jonesy January 19, 2013 at 12:49 pm

re: mike- don’t date a girl with a kid.
Seriously? Because girls with kids don’t need, and can’t give, love and sex and relationship? Because the only child worth loving and teaching and contributing to is your own? Gimme a break!

& thank you, single mom and GWH-
single mothers are better mothers when they are getting their needs [outside of the relationship they have with their child] met.

45 Vic Torino January 22, 2013 at 6:56 pm

I believe in tit for tat. In fact whenever I meet a young buxom lady, my first question to her is “Do you believe in tit for tat? If she says “yes”, I reply “Ok then, TAT”
They love it

46 Sarah April 18, 2013 at 9:24 pm

First of all: I know I’m a lady, but I love AoM because every bit of advice, every story, every article applies and appeals to anyone with good character. I’d like to think that I try for good character. I try.

Second: This is an excellent article.

Okay, here’s my comment: My husband and I are moving to France in August–a move that’s been almost four years in the making. Many of our arguments (aka, my extreme lectures) about our move have been about me feeling that I’m doing all the work/my husband isn’t doing anything/”How lucky you are to just get to relax on my visa”/[fill in the blank comment I'll resent later]. My husband, ever the gentleman, ever supportive of his wife’s professional development overseas, ever loving of an occasional monster of a wife, was patient with me and carefully chose the words he’d say back to me, avoiding the tit-for-tat argument and remembering always that he loved me and, frankly, that I was temporarily crazy and, in general, wasn’t a bad gal. It wasn’t until recently, as in three-months-ago recently, that I stopped the tit-for-tat arguments. They weren’t good for our relationship and, at the end of the day, my husband is a great guy and France has been our shared pipe dream since forever–what was I doing with the tit-for-tat traps?! By stopping the tit-for-tat arguments, telling my husband (in a logical, calm way) how stressed out I was with planning (visas, etc.), and giving him responsibilities based on his strengths we are able to accomplish a lot together than I ever could alone. We’re officially moving abroad in August and we couldn’t be happier about it. This article serves as a gentle reminder to husbands (and wives!) that tit-for-tat arguments are, essentially, traps.

47 Luke May 14, 2013 at 4:52 am

Well, I suppose I feel a bit out of place with this comment as I’m not married or in a relationship at the moment. I think the article is super even for someone like me, (25 yr old single male). My interest here is concerned with a different sort of negative effect. Perhaps it’s not necessarily Tit for Tat, but in a way it is. The way that I read it in this article in relation to my tendencies is in the sense of strict emotional reciprocity . I often find myself in “relationships”, or nearly, in a situation where I feel like I may be giving more of an emotional signal or offering myself up more vulnerably than the other. In this sense when my actions then fall under the “reading between the lines category” I feel like I need to distance myself from this person, and act as “detached” as I percieve them to be. I am fully aware of this tendency, yet I just can’t seem to have it not affect me. I’m usually a super open individual in relationships, so it’s likely that this negative aspect is connected to my fear of being vulnerable and singularly so. When I start to react in such a way it only makes matters worse as it starts a steady deterioration of sharing and connecting. I guess I would ask what’s a good way around my seemingly “petty” emotional immaturity? Tips on how to forget about it? Thanks!

48 Ryan June 17, 2013 at 10:35 pm

I’m a nice guy and I have to apologize to someone for it from a year ago. She deserved better when things weren’t going like the plan I had in my head as far as a timeline to be in a relationship. Sucks to know you’re wrong

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