Do Good Guys Always Finish Last?: Thoughts on Dating in the New Year

2 Jan

Happy New Year!

If you are over 30, highly accomplished and yet still single, perhaps you are breathing a sigh of relief at having survived another holiday season of prying questions, inappropriate remarks, and even, loneliness. This year, all of my aunties informed me at Christmas that they needed to know if I had a man, because they were diligently searching for one for me. Lol. Sigh. Where’s my drink?

Even as a New Year dawns and a brigade of single sisters marches forth declaring boldly that “this is gonna be the(ir) year,” I am easing in, like one dips a toe into potentially frigid water, hoping to find the dating scene warm and inviting, but fully prepared to bail if conditions are not favorable.

I really am an optimist, and I have never wanted to be a bitter black woman. But [you knew it was coming] after having my feelings hurt for the umpteenth time at the end of last year, I’m struggling to stay open.

I want to give brothers a fair shot, because I want them to do the same for us.  And I definitely believe there are some good brothers out there, just like there are loads of excellent sisters.

The problem, of late, however, is that good guys seem to be my problem.  Take my most recent prospect:

We met in graduate school, but lost touch after he moved away. When he found out I was in town for a conference, we met over dinner. At dinner he revealed that he had a huge crush on me in grad school, a fact to which I was totally oblivious. This interaction led to months of text-based flirtation (initiated by him), good phone conversation, and a very sexy rendevous the next time I was in town.  For several weeks after, he texted me every morning, followed by mutual texting throughout the day, long phone conversations on weekends—conversations in which he revealed deep hopes, dreams and goals. Conversations in which we talked about negotiating gender roles because he’s a self-avowed feminist.  I thought we were moving in a particular direction, not because of the sex, [we had agreed that the sex did not equal commitment] but because of all of the emotionally intimate interactions, which followed it.

Like a sucka, I began to feel something. And because we had a renegotiation clause in our verbal contract, I broached the subject, only to be quickly, if sweetly rebuffed. Dude did not want a long distance relationship, was emotionally incapable of it, he claimed.

What then was I to make of all his conversation about marriage and relationships, and personal likes, needs, wants?

When I explained that I felt misled, he was quick to whip out the terms of our verbal agreement. He cared about me, yes. But our deep emotional interaction should be understood only as friendship, not intimacy. When it came to anything more, he had stuck to our agreement. In fact, he had been explicit about the terms, because he didn’t want there to be confusion. He didn’t want to be in his words, “that n*gga.”

He’s a good brother. A good brother who suffers from what I call Good Brotha Syndrome. I have encountered two types of it.

Type A manifests in the dude who has degrees, a stable level of income, material means, and decent conversation. He knows that he is a commodity in this dating market, and based on the above assets alone, he feels that Black women should do his bidding. Since he holds a job, can take care of a household, and can be taken to professional outings without fear of embarrassing one’s colleagues, he does not believe that he should have to do much in the way of emotional work. He wonders why sisters aren’t falling all over themselves to be with him, although he might be totally emotionally effed up. He reasons that he’s a good brother and any woman that doesn’t want him has unreasonable standards or is herself emotionally effed up.  This dude looks good on paper, but his fatal flaw is that he tends to believe his own press release.

Type B manifests slightly differently.  This dude recognizes and doesn’t want to be a brother with problems. He acknowledges sexism, claims to like powerful women, and surrounds himself with a fair amount of them. He’s thoughtful, understanding, and can offer a certain level of emotional support. This is a brother that you can call and commiserate with, and he will listen, affirm you, and generally offer good reasonable advice.  He’s fairly self aware and gives the appearance of being introspective. Because he’s  committed to being “one of the good guys,” he often becomes decreasingly self-reflective, mistakenly believing himself to be incapable of the immature sh*t dudes often do. So when this dude engages in actions that are clearly problematic [treating you as a conquest, jumping ship in the middle of the ocean, blurring emotional boundaries and invoking y’alls “agreement” when he’s called on his b.s.] he refuses to acknowledge it. Why? Because he’s a good guy and good guys don’t do ish like that. So, in his mind, the problem must lie with you or your interpretation. This dude puts you in the mind of the classic white liberal do-gooder type who abhors racism, so much that they can’t see when they themselves are being racist.

My former “friend” is definitely a type B.

Reader, I know that I am not without responsibility or agency in this matter. I recognize that I agreed to nebulous terms and that I allowed the emotional engagement to continue long after it was productive for my needs. I have rectified that.  But the problem does not lie entirely with me.

I love myself. I know I am worthy of being treated well. I didn’t play games, but communicated my specific needs and desires to this brother explicitly.  I think there are good guys out there who I can reasonably expect will treat me well.  I, in turn, treat brothers well, am thoughtful, willing to grow, emotionally generous, respectful of boundaries, etc. And I have enough sense to walk away if I’m not getting what I need.

I have done and am doing the work.

And yet, I’m still a magnet for knuckleheads. So before I don my blind optimism and charge boldly into the New Year, I need some help figuring out what to do differently.

In the words of Iyanla Vanzant, “What’s the lesson when you think you have figured out the lesson, and you really haven’t?”

I’d love to hear your thoughts…

17 Responses to “Do Good Guys Always Finish Last?: Thoughts on Dating in the New Year”

  1. Gina January 2, 2011 at 9:34 PM #

    My sister in the struggle,

    I feel your pain. Be true to yourself. You know what you want. Stick with it! This is a new year, however. You might just want to revisit what you are looking for in a relationship. You are wise to take it slow. I am doing the same thing. For advice, I emailed a male friend that I have known for over 10 years and asked him for some honest feedback. Perhaps you can do the same.

  2. kb January 3, 2011 at 1:51 AM #

    I’d say try laying it all on the line from the beginning. You meet a guy that seems pretty great, say look–I’m looking for a long term serious relationship–or whatever it is that you’re looking for. That is how my relationship started with my husband. We had that serious ‘this is what I want from life’ conversation early on and then said, great lets see if we work together. That way from the start there isn’t any confusion, and the guy has to decide where he is at and what he wants to do. I can see how this approach could backfire with a really great guy that is just shy of commitment but has the potential to come around, but hell, why do you have to be the one hoping it will turn out the way you want it. There is this whole negative stigma associated with women who want to get married and have kids juxtaposed with men allegedly wanting to avoid the whole marriage situation for as long as possible and its just nonsense. There is nothing wrong with wanting to get married and there are lots of men who want to get married.

    I have a friend that is in a similar situation at the moment–she is really into this guy and he is great when he decides to call her back, but he is aloof and doesn’t want to define their relationship and she dances around the subject instead of just asking outright. Now she admits that she doesn’t ask outright because she is afraid that the answer won’t be what she’s looking for, but shit get out while your heart is still partially intact!

    Much luck!

  3. Ace Brown January 3, 2011 at 7:15 AM #

    This is going to sound jaded. I will try my best. First of all “good” and “bad” is relative. Bill Gates thinks Oprah is broke. 3rd world families think Oprah is rich. Relative Perspective. Using phrases like “verbal contract” “negotiation” “commodity” “dating market” immediately let me (me, myself & I not all brothers)know that there is over thinking going on. Spiritual beings having a human experience and that experience has left everyone emotionally “effed” up. This whole paradigm (america, dating, taxes, wealth etc…) is coming from an oppressive energy. Throw out the rule book because the other side is making it up as they go while you reading line for line bragging about the big words you know. Just my thoughts.

    • Nyorai January 3, 2011 at 12:09 PM #

      What on earth are you talking about? Wheel and come again.

  4. Nyx Rizing January 3, 2011 at 3:07 PM #

    Dear, dear sista in the search for soul-sharing I just wanted to offer some thoughts. You asked a key question: What’s the lesson when you think you have figured out the lesson and you really haven’t? The lesson is get a mirror…it all starts with you.

    You said a couple of things in your post that I want to comment on and hopefully you will find something in these words that are helpful.

    1) “I really am an optimist, and I have never wanted to be a bitter black woman…”: Don’t empower bitterness—it is the festering of anger. You have a right to feel anger, but try to figure out what caused it. You’re statement suggests that you’re teetering on the edge…you don’t have to forsake the sweet for the sour. The hurts help you identify what you don’t want—you fight the bitter when you start to acknowledge what you do. Fortunately or unfortunately, most people can only begin to identify the what-I-wants after they have the experienced the what-I-don’ts… Optimism is not equal to the repression of being pissed or disappointed.

    2) You refer frequently to these “agreements” that you made with your [former] friend—have you thought about what parts of the “agreements” that you may have misunderstood? Were the communications as clear as you thought they were? I encourage you to consider the purpose of making the “agreements”—they placed some overarching limitations on the possibilities of the friendship/connection at its outset. It sounds like great effort was made to keep emotion contained within predetermined boundaries—even your most intimate conversations were informed by this desire to keep emotion in check (at least that what it seems like from his end). For you, did you knowingly or unknowingly make some tradeoffs that you were not really comfortable making in the hopes that the connection would override what was “agreed upon”? I also encourage you to consider what his true motivations may have been in not telling you that he was not down for a long distance relationship to begin with.

    3) “And yet, I am still a magnet for knuckleheads. So before I don my blind optimism…”: No blind optimism… :o) Your question from Iyanla leads me to believe that you are familiar with Iyanla’s inner work exercises. If so, you know that we attract and recognize energy and/or qualities that live within us. What is it inside of you that beckons the “knucklehead” or misguided good guy? Dig deeper.

    I agree with kb—there is nothing wrong with putting on the table what you’re looking for when you see the possibility of connecting with someone. To say, “I want a long-term relationship…” is clear and leaves no room for ambiguous “agreements”. You can take it slow or let it move rapidly along—the other party is already aware of your intended destination. It doesn’t sound like that was the case with your [former] friend. What you can take from that interaction is that if you don’t feel comfortable being yourself and honest completely, then you have not come across the right situation. Since your most recent situation is still marked by fresh hurts, use this time to unpack what’s really going on with you.

    All best… Buena suerte… Peace… and Happy New Year. You’ll be fine, sis…

    • Chrysanthemum February 9, 2011 at 2:41 PM #

      Yes, be up front in the beginning about what you want. If the other does not want it, then don’t waste each others time. You can’t go into the potential relationship with hopes of changing someones views. Also remember, he wont buy the cow if he gets the milk for free…so be careful with the ‘agreements’

  5. Grace Under Fire January 3, 2011 at 3:16 PM #

    This is a great article and you had a great description of the different types of guys. I’m taking all of this in!

    The dating/trying to get to the relationship/trying to get to matrimony is frustrating as hell. However, I am trying to learn about how to approach things so that I won’t get hurt.

    The dating game is tricky in that sometimes, you don’t know outright if the guy is taking you on a date or just being nice. There’s dudes who will outright say that they were never trying to holla at you but will take the bill after an outing. There are dudes who get mad if you try to pay your bill as well.

    Then there’s those guys who make it seem like they really want to be with you and then leave you hanging without even a “this is not working out”. There’s those that outright lie and say, “I have too much going on right now for a relationship” and you see them in one OR MARRIED a few weeks later.

    It’s frustrating as hell. But, I refuse to give up. What I’ve learned is to take your emotions COMPLETELY OUT OF IT. From the roota to the toota. Until you see a ring…and even THEN stay guarded!

  6. Nyorai January 3, 2011 at 10:35 PM #

    I had to sit with this since I first read this and I hope I’m as coherent as I intend to be. So here goes… it seems to me that when this verbal contract was made, he set out the terms and you agreed to them. Obviously I don’t know the terms that YOU outlined, but it seemed that they ended up having less primacy than his, so that he knew the loop holes to shimmy through and he was able to articulate that nonsense about not wanting to be in a long-distance relationship when it sounds like he pretty much had begun to participate in one.

    I know my own existential struggle is figuring out how to value myself – in the TRUEST sense of the word and in a way that goes beyond typical issues of self-esteem – and I’m wondering whether figuring that out might be useful for you too. In hindsight, can you think of any places that you compromised something ( a conviction, a standard, a belief)? Is there something in you that relents and authorizes “knuckleheads” think it’s okay to say crazy ish like a deep emotional connection isn’t intimacy? (I’m sharing your incredulity on that one). It seems that thinking well of the other person is important to you- and rightfully so – but did you at least equally think well of yourself as well?

    My other thought is while thinking about your role in this is crucial, I’m wondering whether you’re taking too much responsibility for dude’s actions. Your distinctions between Types A and B was really fascinating and smart, but I think that they share one important trait: they both think that they’re a commodity. Type B just uses denial to cloud the fact that he too believes that of himself and so can benignly deny awareness that he is using basically the same methods as Type A. Freud (I know, bear with me) said there are no denials in the unconscious so applied to this, his claim that that he didn’t want to to be that n*gga means that he knew he kinda was, just that he didn’t want to be and was defended against being so. Which is why you were so on point with your take of Type B. Trust your thinking, and trust it in the moment/while things are playing out. You are not off of your rocker. In terms of what to do differently, don’t allow yourself to be loaded up with other people’s stuff! It sounds like he loaded you up with his guilt about the possibility of not being “a good guy”, he handed you his bag of contradictions so that he wouldn’t have to challenge or resolve them, and you are kinda left sorting out your stuff and HIS (as exemplified by your wonderful analysis).

    Finally, from one optimist to another: hopefulness always makes sense. Continue the work of holding on to it. Best of luck to you.

  7. Corazon January 3, 2011 at 11:32 PM #

    @Grace Under Fire
    “What I’ve learned is to take your emotions COMPLETELY OUT OF IT. From the roota to the toota. Until you see a ring…and even THEN stay guarded!”

    If this is really the way you will proceed in your dating life, I guarantee you that you will NEVER find happiness and peace with another human being. Ever.

    Keep treating love like it is a game to be won or a battle to be fought and you will continue to get played.

  8. naima January 4, 2011 at 1:18 PM #

    my comments are few: while healing your broken heart and self critiquing your part in the failed romance, revisit your definition of “good guy.” way too narrow, as you have just found out! people, most people, are simply not what they say they are. nothing and no one is ever all that it seems. life is process and discovery. look farther, look elsewhere for the good for you.

  9. Bruce January 4, 2011 at 2:37 PM #

    Your former friend’s primary goal was sex. Some men will say what a woman wants to hear to get it. Expand definition of what a good guy is, current definition is narrow. That is your only mistake.

    You said:

    I want to give brothers a fair shot, because I want them to do the same for us. And I definitely believe there are some good brothers out there, just like there are loads of excellent sisters.

    There is an equal amount of good brothers as there are good sisters.

    You will find the love and relationship sought and deserve.


  10. Rochelle January 4, 2011 at 11:47 PM #

    Or maybe, in addition to A and B, there’s option C: people who have different expectations for a relationship. From what I can tell from the post, it seems you two may have communicated different ideas about what you wanted.

  11. Sheri January 5, 2011 at 3:50 PM #

    I don’t remember crunkessence ever saying that she was trying to get married, so all the matrimony comments are puzzling. She writes…

    What then was I to make of all his conversation about marriage and relationships, and personal likes, needs, wants?

    Where is the discussion about the fact that Type A and Type B are being manipulative and refuse to be accountable to their emotions and those of the people they are intimate with (calling intimacy by another name for semantic loopholes)? Lack of reflection and willingness to engage on an emotional level with others, friends or more, is a problem that I think many men have and refuse to acknowledge (because that would require being reflective and open to criticism).

    Male privilege works in ways that men are able to get their emotional needs met at the expense of others and without regard. At the end of the day it boils down to the fact that some men are more honest about their feelings of entitlement to this privilege than others. Type B feels that they too have been mistreated and therefore cannot mistreat others even while they maneuver to get what they want from a woman they claim to support.

    The good guy is reflective. Hell the good person to be in a relationship with is reflective. Reflection is necessary for collective growth, I know because my partner is really good at it and I admire him for it. It sounds like crunkessence is and has been reflective about this person, herself, and (het)dating in general, but it is time to shift this weight off her shoulders and back where it belongs.

    My momma always says…”when there’s a lesson to be learned, a teacher will appear.”

    Karma is great and he will have his own teacher–trust.

  12. Rose Tattoo January 8, 2011 at 3:53 AM #

    As someone that has been, very recently in fact, in the same position, I completely feel where you’re coming from. I would like to think that you just eventually hit a point where you just get tired of the mess and refuse to settle and that along the way the universe aligns with that decision. There are good brothers out there that respect and desire real intimacy, companionship, etc. Truthfully, I’m still growing in this area myself, but I have at least hit the point, like a lot of people have mentioned, of not being afraid to say what it is I want and am looking for. Life is just too short for us to waste time on hurt feelings, misconceptions, and assumptions.

  13. Alex January 16, 2011 at 8:35 AM #

    Yeah, I think guys just want to get laid. And if they can string a lady on by talking about stuff ladies like to hear — about marriage potentially — emphasis on potential — just so they can keep on having sex, especially long distance where you don’t see them that often, well they’re playin’ It’s not your fault you were suckered in. Men seduce us with dreams. They build up this whole dream world fantasy about how our life’s gonna be when we’re married to them. And there’s so few guys out there that we can really connect with, the ones who spin the dreams are the ones we go for. Because Cinderella was written by a woman probably — she wanted the handsome prince (a guy with a job and someone who’s decent and cultured qualifies, dresses nice and is attentive) those are the guys who get laid. And the problem is if you don’t sleep with a dude you don’t get to have a relationship. Somehow the guys make the rules. Used to be us girls did, there was a time when women didn’t fall into bed so easily. And in order to get laid a guy had to put a ring on it. We all need to change the rules. If we want commitment we gotta stop giving it away. We all got this problem, guys just have to spin the story and you made what you thought was an intelligent agreement, and he got a friend with benefits. But meanwhile, us girls, we fall in love with the dreams and when we have sex, our hormones of love start going and they got us…. human nature…. Basically dating sucks and your heart’s gonna get broken, but right now there’s not another way to go about it.

    • sharpie March 20, 2011 at 7:13 PM #

      I used to think all men just wanted to get laid. Then I grew up and fell in love with a man who shattered my ill-conceived and sexist notions. Some men want to be held. Some men want to be loved. Some men want to share their inner world with you. Some men want to clean your apartment when you’re too overwhelmed with work to do it yourself. Some men want to take care of you when you’re sick. Some men want to make your life easier, better, more exciting and fun. Some men want to pray with you. Yes, these men typically want sex too, but it doesn’t drive them like the wild dogs many women portray them to be. Don’t put EVERY man into the same box, even if MANY do fit the bill.

      • Ed March 22, 2011 at 9:41 AM #

        Great comment…

        Really nice guys don’t invest a lot of time chasing women. So if you want to find one you might have be the initiator. Being emotionally available makes you vulnerable to rejection, making a nice guys hesitant to put themselves out there. If they are single and moving toward middle age he might be even more reserved than a younger nice guy. Women would be well served by hunting. Waiting for men to introduce themselves to a strange women has always seemed bizarre and one sided. The power is in choosing not waiting, take control and grasp what you seek.

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