“What’s wrong honey? What’s wrong honey?” frantically repeated by every panicked nice-guy when she is upset, distant or moody.
My journey to becoming a well-adjusted and charismatic man has many challenges.
As one is overcome another emerges. “New level. New devil” as Faisal always says.
In the last article, we looked at a general overview of nice guys in relationships and how our upbringing makes us above all else: people pleasers. I want to hone in on that today and explore it further.
For the most part, the previous post about focussing on and eventually valuing yourself makes for good solid advice, but sometimes there are the finer details to work on.
Like sharpening the knife, you start with a lower grit sharpening stone which breaks down the more significant impurities, bumps and nicks i.e. self-worth via doing habits, gym, healthy eating, no fap etc.
Then you move up to a higher grit where you focus on the finer details so the knife comes out a mirror shine and can cut a leaf landing on it like in those samurai films. Like sharpening a knife, the journey requires a consistent commitment before it bears fruit.
So on to my ‘new devil’: Caretaking (the uncontrollable and uninvited need to fix women)
In every one of my relationships, I give up the previous good habits. Mainly due to fear of not rocking the boat or not wanting to deal with pushback.
I once argued with a now ex because she complained that the gym was taking me away from her. Eventually, I was worn down that I gave in and went less and less until I was back to being overweight.
Having a smooth relationship was the game plan and it came at my expense. Spoiler alert: This didn’t make her that much happier.
As a side note, I completely detest the phrase “Happy wife, happy life”. Not only does that phrase imply the man’s happiness is based on making his wife happy, but it is always used in the context of sacrificing yourself to keep the peace.
Notice how it’s to keep the peace as it never truly makes the woman happy. Not to mention it’s always spouted by tired middle-aged men who seem to have given up all sense of agency and believe it means an easier, happier life for themselves.
Getting back to it, now I’m finding this trait is ingrained in me, this need to not rock the boat, to just be smooth sailing, sacrificing myself for the good of the relationship, happy wife happy life eh! What a martyr, what a saint!
She’ll surely appreciate that!
Even if the partner is fine for me to work out or do my habits when I’m around her place, I still don’t budge and pretend like it’s fine. Then I go away angry, mainly at myself and the cycle continues.
This is also evident in how I check in with her every so often, partly because I care but mainly to manage my own anxiety about the relationship.
I’ve been in toxic relationships where I had to manage their emotions and was called uncaring if I didn’t ask. So rather than ask out of caring I was pre-empting a possible partner meltdown. All of this and more is caretaking
So what is caretaking and why do we do it?
Essentially, caretaking is not caring for a partner but rather an immature and indirect attempt to try to get one’s needs met.
Caretaking always consists of two parts: Focusing on another’s problems, needs, or feelings in order to feel valuable, get one’s own needs met, or avoid dealing with one’s own problems or feelings.
This is the very definition of codependency which nice guys are guilty of being. Codependency, as a quick reminder, is an anxiety and shame-based disorder. You manage people and situations to avoid anxiety or feelings of worthlessness.
One thing to remember! Caretaking =/= Caring:
- It gives others what the giver needs to give.
- Comes from a place of emptiness and anxiety within the giver.
- It always has unconscious strings attached.
- Gives others what the receiver needs.
- Comes from a place of abundance from the giver.
- Has no strings attached.
We can also call it people pleasing but this is more to do with intimate relationships rather than all social interactions.
Now there is a lot more on caretaking that I can take talk about, such as the covert contracts which is a massive part of being a nice guy: The idea that if they give so much i.e. back rubs, washed dishes and doing stuff for their partner without asking, so they will get their needs met.
This was definitely me in my first relationship and I’ve thankfully come out of that. But we’re focussing slightly more on emotionally managing your partner.
So let’s work through it, logically.
I, as a recovering nice guy, feel the need to check in with my partner when I have a feeling something may be up.
Maybe something is up, maybe something isn’t but I’m doing it out of anxiety. Why? Because I’m afraid that I will be perceived as uncaring. Keyword: perceived.
With all this work I have done with and without Faisal, I know for certain my heart will always be in the right place. I may make mistakes, but I know I am man enough to own up to them and try to make amends. Therefore I know that any bad reaction I get isn’t mine to manage.
Like in the book ‘Courage To Be Disliked’, it’s the separation of one’s tasks: it’s not your job to control/manage someone’s reaction. You do you. If that ‘you’ is a dick or the greatest man alive, you never try to manage that. It is out of your locus of control.
Managing also is our need to falsely protect women from their emotions or negative feelings as we assume they cannot handle hard situations and making them feel bad makes me feel bad or appear to be a bad person.
There have been times when I didn’t want to say something, as I assumed they would end up in such pain that it would be too much for them and their life would fall apart. Very extreme I know, but it always felt like that.
An example would be an ex who got very emotional over little things and breaking up with her seemed like something I couldn’t do to her despite not wanting to be with her.
The problem with that thinking is women, in actuality, are stronger at dealing with difficult emotions in the long run than men.
Because they feel more range of emotions and embrace them rather than suppressing them as we men do, they can ultimately feel it all, process it and come out of it resolved; ready to move on with their life.
This is why you hear tons of stories and even films depicting women being absolutely devastated during the breakup and the man not feeling much, if not seeming uncaring.
Then a month or two down the line, the woman is back to normal, out with friends and enjoying life. The man, however, didn’t deal with it and his pain deepens and doesn’t leave him for ages, still hung up about her and not dealing with it in a healthy way.
This is why you see so many guys thinking the ex is cold-hearted as she moved on quicker than him. It’s not that, buddy. It’s just that they’re built differently when it comes to this.
So to put it succinctly: trying to manage their emotional fallout only serves to insult them as women and make you not face your own needs and reality.
Ultimately this leads me to false intimacy or not a true connection with my partner. My anxiety makes me want to caretake and fix problems instead of truly being there for them. I’m not actually there for them but for my anxiety. I’m doing that as a form of control.
Furthermore. Think about the signal this sends when you don’t want to be your own man in front of your woman.
A charismatic man would do his own thing and not worry as much when it comes to rocking the boat. Being a spineless slug constantly checking in with them is not only unattractive but insulting.
If it really is causing an overreaction to something so simple as going to the gym or doing your own thing for a bit then you might have bigger problems within your relationship and each other’s needs need to be discussed.
So now that we know it and recognise it in ourselves, we can be conscious of these thoughts and pattern break them by not rising to them.
For people in a relationship, you know the feeling when you’re with your woman; watching that show or just chilling and it’s too relaxing to now go do what you need to do despite being disciplined through the week.
That is the point at which you should be conscious of it and take action. It’s in our weakest moments that we let things slide and then later we realise and regret it.
I’ve challenged myself to set out to do my habits in the morning and let my partner know when I’m with her. Her reaction? positive and even encouraging! Where was this overreaction I was expecting? All in my head, dear readers! All in my head.
Lastly, as a personal challenge suggested to me by Faisal, for 14 days (and continuing on for a month soon) I am not to ask how she is. I may ask what she’s up to, but I can’t have the caretaking intention in me with anything I ask.
This allows space for her to tell me how she feels if she’s upset or whatnot and to fully listen. This is to also get used to sitting with this discomfort and realise this feeling isn’t real or justified.
All of this is tough as a nice guy, but like any muscle, it needs to tear to repair and get stronger. I invite you, the reader, to give it a try.