Nice Guys see accepting disrespect and lack of boundaries as an expression of love.
Nice Guys want to be recognized as nice and good men.
It's their bandaid against the existential fear of rejection, abandonment, and social exclusion.
For Nice Guys, Setting Boundaries is difficult.
Because it requires stepping into emotional tension:
- Calling out disrespectful behavior towards them
- Saying NO
- Protecting their needs when someone is exploitative
- Cutting off toxic conversations
- Protecting their personal space
Without boundaries, Nice Guys' relationships are doomed.
Because boundaries are the basis of trust, mutual respect, and psychologically healthy relationships.
If you protect yourself every time I cross your boundary, over time, we'll have a relationship with clearly defined rules and expectations. From there, we can get to continually know and learn from each other.
Our mutual awareness of our boundaries keeps both of us psychologically safe to explore ourselves and share vulnerability.
If you don't protect yourself when I cross your boundary, you will unconsciously create a sense of entitlement to cross mine. It's based on a Nice Guy's belief:
"If I meet your needs without you having to ask me, you will need my needs without me having to ask you for that."
So if I protect myself by setting a boundary, you'll put guilt on me:
"How dare you, after what I've done for you?".
Well, this is what Nice Guys are doing all the time, completely unconsciously.
They believe that's how the world works. They sacrifice their needs, wants and boundaries to prove to themselves their good morality. That's why they're feeling entitled to put guilt on others.
(Not everyone, though. Just on the ones in close relationships, where the sense of entitlement is bigger than fear of rejection.)
In their world, someone always has to sacrifice a bit in order to maintain peace from the selfish ones - that's what they've been doing.
This belief is coming from early childhood experiences, where their boundaries weren't honored and protected, and they normalized this way of navigating the world.
So now they believe in sacrifice as an expression of love because that's the only thing they know. They sacrifice their needs and wants to give everyone what they want.
But here's the problem:
What they call "Sacrifice" has nothing to do with love.
This "Sacrifice" is a lose-win strategy that is a covert transaction:
"Now I sacrifice my needs for you, next time you do it for me."
So if someone steps over Nice Guys' boundary, he sees that as a transaction.
"Oh, okay. So this time I do it for you, next time you'll do something for me."
But, just observe what happens if you don't return the favor to the Nice Guy:
Resentment and bitterness.
Some of the many forms of anger.
In his mind, he's a righteous victim:
"Look at how much I suffer because of you!" (...not sticking with your part of the transaction!)
And under the surface, he gets quite nasty:
"What a selfish, arrogant, narcissistic prick!"
"After all I've done for you, this is what I get in return?"
"You have no empathy, you are only focused on yourself!"
But of course, Nice Guy will never say that out loud, because being seen as angry is too dangerous for him.
So he will repress all that anger.
And he'll keep repressing it until he can't do it anymore, and then he explodes.
And with that, he will cross EVERYONE's boundary.
He will be stuck in this cycle where he tolerates everyone stepping over his boundaries and every now and then, hypercompensates all that with one massive anger explosion.
The balance is restored.
Working through the Nice Guy pattern can be a complex process. If you want to get the basics, watch my Free Masterclass.