Finding Someone to be happy with in a Relationship? Quit Avoiding Nice People.
Are you attracted to people who eventually don’t let you in?
Many of us have learned to become emotionally attached to people who claim to love us but mostly act in ways that veer more towards the opposite—people who don’t really think about us but think about the ways in which we complete them, perhaps because they feel incomplete.
These people need and crave our approval and attention, but they give us no validation nor attention in return. In addition, their view of us tends to be unstable (due to their own unstable self-concept). As a result, you end up being devalued soon after being idealized, and this happens quite often between the two of you. But don’t worry, the emotions they feel about you are based merely on their projections of you. Just like in people with Borderline personality disorder, they not only feel empty—they also do what is called “projective identification”, whereby “aspects of themselves or an internal object are split off and attributed to an external object”. It basically means that they don’t see you: they see what their parents saw in them, something great at one moment, something terrible at another moment, but all in all, something, not someone.
Technically we should forgive such people since they most likely obtained their sometimes off-putting behaviors, expectations, and defense mechanisms from what they experienced growing up: they didn’t get the unconditional positive regard, empathy, and approval they very much needed. Like, perhaps their parents were emotionally unavailable. Controlling. Judgmental. Critical. All of the above.
But there should come a point in which we give them an ultimatum. A point in which you tell them nicely, hey, I am not willing to tolerate XXX. Another caveat is that we ourselves may struggle with the thought of leaving them because let’s face it, we have gotten used to people like them, due to our own experiences growing up. Plus, we feel like we are like them too, and so we need people who can tolerate the equally-anxious us: that is, people who are quite un-self-aware, on auto-pilot, motivated not by the best values, fault-finding; who don’t share much at all about their inner struggles and who never seem to listen to nor care about how we feel. The thing is, if you are willing to take small steps to improve your mental health and inner world but they aren’t, you have to move forward because your mental health is at stake. Healthy detachment is a way to save yourself from (the consequences of) emotionally invalidating relationships, according to Ariel Leve.
The scary thing is that even if you leave, your past may cause you to please and win over the hearts of the kind of people who bring you down and need you to feed them but won’t be there to feed you—just like the person you just left. In the end, you select the same kinds of people for yourself because deep in your psyche, they remind you of the people who raised you.
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Why We Avoid Nice People
Why do we let ourselves get stuck with such people? According to Alain de Botton, we tend to choose people who we find difficult and annoying because those people seem real—whilst nice people, who see us with rose-tinted glasses, seem scary. Out of fear, we “might feel an impulse to punish those who are nice to us for misreading our true characters”.
Ultimately, we avoid nice people.
Especially to those of us who aren’t totally convinced of our likability and lovability, who grew up with the understanding that love is far from something warm, accepting and present, nice people seem scary. Deep down, we have learned to perceive nice people as unreal. After all, who could love me? You’re not real, you nice person. You’re just lying—that’s what goes through our minds.
Although some nice people could indeed be charming only at the courting stage, by avoiding nice people, we are preventing ourselves from the possibility of meeting an actually nice person. That’s why Alain de Botton thinks we should start seeing nice people as being genuine in their niceness. They are nice because—perhaps they see something in us that we don’t see. Unfortunately, since we can’t imagine why in the world they would be nice to us, we reject them, we insist they are unreal.
We then go back to people who fit into our expectations of what is real. We continue to give our time to people who aren’t able to love — people who instead judge, withdraw, gaslight, control, patronize and seem to be emotionally stable only in times when they feel good about themselves.
We are wasting our time, especially those of us who are willing to put real effort into loving. There are some nice people out there who are willing to be more emotionally available to us and it’s up to us. We have more choice than we think in terms of the kinds of relationships we end up in.
A happy relationship is one of our genetic needs, according to William Glasser, the founder of choice theory. So then, choose someone who is capable of treating you nicely. Quit avoiding nice people, who may actually be nice.
One more thing: make sure the nice people you are dating aren’t trying to impress you. For example, people high in narcissism are charming at the beginning just so they can win admirers.
And be sure to treat others nice too. You shouldn’t be the person someone is conducting a healthy detachment from.