My taste in men could be (and has been) described as bad—and that’s being generous. So when I finally met a guy who is best described as “nice,” I decided to see where things could go. Because kindness is an important relationship quality, right?
Well, right, but it’s also not the only important relationship quality. With this person—correction, this nice person—I had no spark; no butterflies keeping me up at night thinking about what he might be doing or thinking.
But nothing was wrong. In fact, on face value, it seemed that everything was essentially right. We went out on a few dates. Our personalities clicked. He made plans in advance. My texts never went unanswered. But still, no spark. I figured I’d wait to feel a flutter of something, but I wasn’t sure how long. All of the inner turmoil got me thinking: Is kindness the most important quality in a partner? And should it trump all other qualities? Obviously I don’t want to be with someone who treats me terribly (despite what my past choices seem to suggest), but where’s my baseline for what constitutes feeling fulfilled?
With each successive date I went on with this nice guy, I grew fonder of him and wanted less and less to hurt his feelings by breaking it off, especially given that nothing specific seemed to be wrong. I was growing to care for him—but enough to be with him? I wasn’t so sure. The only thing I was sure about, it seemed, was feeling confused—and according to a professional, it makes total sense why. “A nice person can be hard to find,” says therapist Aimee Daramus, PsyD. “It’s tempting to stay and either try to feel something for them, or learn to live without the sparks.”
“Nobody’s going to have it all, so understanding the difference between what you need and what would be nice can help you make tough decisions.” —therapist Aimee Daramus, PsyD
But, she caveats, staying in a partnership that isn’t great and fulfilling for you is also, likely, not great for the other person involved—even if they’re a Very Nice Person whose feelings you certainly don’t want to hurt. “It feels awful to hurt a nice person who really doesn’t deserve it,” says Dr. Daramus. “If you know you’re not right for each other in the long run, though, it can be kinder to turn them loose so they’re free to meet someone who will feel things for them that you don’t.”
And since the sparks you’re looking for are unpredictable and hard to come by, one way to take control of the situation is to audit yourself and learn what it is you do need from a relationship. These results, says Dr. Daramus will look different for everyone. From there, you’ll be better equipped to decide what constitutes “enough” in a potential partner. “Nobody’s going to have it all, so understanding the difference between what you need and what would be nice can help you make tough decisions,” she says. “If somebody has everything you need but the passion, it might be worth trying to develop it. But if time passes and the spark isn’t igniting though, you might have to decide how important that is to you.”
Ultimately, if you feel in your heart that someone isn’t right for you, breaking off the relationship is the nice thing to do. There’s a difference, after all, between allowing room for potential to develop and leading someone on. “They might be someone else’s dream come true, and you need to be free to find someone you really connect with,” Dr. Daramus says.
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