FLORIDA, October 3, 2012 — Some people believe that nice guys really do finish last.
Others say that this is nothing short of preposterous. After all, won’t nice guys eventually be recognized for their good deeds? That’s the way it is supposed to work in a society which rewards personal merit, anyhow.
Robert Glover is a certified marriage and family therapist whose book “No More Mr. Nice Guy: A Proven Plan For Getting What You Want in Love, Sex, and Life” has taken the world by storm. In this first part of a candid discussion with me, he explains his views about the essential aspects of human relationships.
From how men and women differ in expressing their feelings to whether or not chivalry is a thing of the past to why “Nice Guys” become too focused on the needs of others, nary a stone is left unturned.
Joseph F. Cotto: Women, generally speaking, are thought of as being indirect about expressing their feelings. Men, meanwhile, are often portrayed as being blunt. In your experience, are either of these stereotypes true?
Dr. Robert Glover: This question has several nuances.
While in general, I have found women tend to be very expressive of feelings, they are often not direct in asking for what they want. When relating to men, I believe women often think that men will intuitively know what they are wanting, in much the same way their female friends understand and “get it” without them actually having to “say” it.
Another generalization is that I have often found that women will assume that what they are feeling is being caused by something outside of them (as opposed to seeing that their feelings originate inside of them and are the product of their “story” of what is happening outside of them). Because of this, I find that some women tend to take other people’s actions very personally and ascribe evil intent to those actions.
In general, the men I work with tend to keep their feelings inside, especially when dealing with a woman. In a safe environment, with other men, they often open up and are very expressive of their feelings.
Many men report being careful of expressing their feelings with women because they don’t want to be criticized, make the woman angry (or sad), have an argument, have to defend themselves, or have what they say brought up and used against them in the future.
Cotto: Over the last several years, many have come to believe that chivalry is no longer a social norm in America. Do you agree with this idea? Why or why not?
Dr. Glover: I believe chivalry is making a comeback. I think many men and women who grew up in the 60s and 70s internalized the belief that was insulting and demeaning for a man to do something for a woman (that she could for herself).
I hear more and more women reporting that they want to have men open their door and show up with a plan, rather than leaving everything up to the woman. Of course, the average woman can open her own door and figure out where she wants to go for dinner, but many feel burdened by always having to do this.
I teach the men in my dating and relationship courses to “set the tone and take the lead” in their relationships with women. This has nothing to do with being controlling or getting their way. It is about being conscious, consistent, and showing up with a plan. I find that many women like this kind of consciousness and attention from a man.
I teach men to always open the door for a woman, not because she can’t do it herself, but because it shows consciousness and presence. I stress doing it consistently. When I teach these principles I have found that women are much more receptive to them than are men, who fear that a woman might not like it.
Cotto: In your opinion, do most failures in romantic relationships result from bad communication skills? If so, how can men prevent this problem?
Dr. Glover: I actually think that communication, especially verbal communication, is over-rated. I’m sure that sounds odd coming from a marriage and family therapist. But over the last 30 years I’ve watched countless couples talk about issues endlessly without finding resolution to their problems. I believe “reflective listening” is one of the most artificial things you can teach a couple and often just results in people getting pissed off when they hear their partner repeat over and over again, “So, what I hear you saying is….”
I believe what cause greater problems in relationships are the defense mechanisms we all form in childhood to protect us from our vulnerability of being dependent on imperfect parents.
For example, if a child (who is always helpless), feels smothered by one or more parents, he will put up some kind of emotional or physical wall to guard against being smothered and losing self. If a child is repeatedly abandoned or neglected by one or more parents, she will try and find ways to prevent these painful events from occurring.
There are as many defense mechanisms as they are people.
When children grow up to be adults and form relationships with other adults who also developed defense mechanisms to protect themselves as children, the closer these two people get to each other, the more their childhood defense mechanisms will kick in.
Most people don’t know what they are most afraid of in relationship (getting abandoned, getting cheated on, getting smothered, getting criticize, getting controlled, etc.) and they don’t know what they do to unconsciously try and protect themselves from these fears. What causes problems in relationships is when these defense mechanisms kick in, as if controlled by an unconscious “anxiety management thermostat” whenever a partner gets too close.
While most of us crave closeness and connection, we are all scared to death of what we desire the most. So most couples spend most of their time staying close enough to each other to not feel lonely or abandoned while making sure they don’t get close enough to have their intimacy fears come true. Fun!
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