How I Learned to Love Dating Nice Guys

jason segel nice guy in forgetting sarah marshall
Universal Pictures

I'm a woman who's all about going out with nice guys. Shocking, I know -- but it shouldn't be. I'm not an anomaly of the XX chromosome, I'm not boring, overly domestic, and certainly not a prude. I'm just a girl who's done putting up with the BS and douchebaggery of bad boys.

Don't get me wrong; I've dated my share of jerks. That's part of how I got here. But after kissing a few frogs, I've learned the benefits of always choosing a heart of gold over a tall, dark, and handsome jerk.

Here's how I learned to love dating nice guys.

Dating bad boys amplified my insecurities

People tend to want what they can't have, or be attracted to a challenge (bad-boy appeal in a nutshell). You think it's the heart talking, but it's not -- it's actually the ego; and it wants to you to think you're special, or that you can tame him and handle him like other girls couldn't. Please.

I definitely lived in the fantasy of falling in love with a deeply misunderstood soul, and believed for a while that I was the only extraordinary person who could get through to him. He was a man I should have stayed away from. And if I couldn't have known that from the initial bumps we ran into early on, his multiple angry exes should have been strong indicators. But I was young, insecure, and still pretty fresh on the dating scene. I couldn't believe this slightly older, charming, and successful guy was giving me -- an awkward young girl who hadn't quite figured out the right shade of foundation -- the time of day.

I wasn't confident to begin with, but my Mr. Big equivalent basically helped me implode into an even bigger self-loathing mess over a couple years; constantly comparing myself to the other women he wouldn't stop chasing. It took a long time, but I eventually realized he was the problem -- not the other women, and not me. I was deferring my happiness by not dropping the creep and finding a nice guy who would just treat me better.

"Thanks to Tinder, women are more aware than ever how many bad matches are out there."

Dating emotionally healthy men moved my life forward

I knew I had to do something when I had no energy for anything else in my life. Friendships, and even my career, took a dive.

It was after all that insanity and a few months of being pleasantly alone, that I met Mr. Nice Guy. Dating him was enlightening -- it had the totally opposite effect. Being respected and listened to helped me become a bigger person. I suddenly felt like traveling again. I was more independent in my own life. I acted braver at work. My overall quality of life soared while I dated the good guy.

My everyday was free of any drama and turmoil. It felt good -- and it let me focus on what is truly important to me.

Mr. Nice Guy wasn't Mr. Right Guy. It was hard, but I still came out of that relationship in one piece -- a big difference from the chaos that went down before. Love can make us all bitter and irrational sometimes, sure. But at the end of the day, a good guy will always be there for you and want what's best for you. It's impossible to be upfront and honest with someone who's being cryptic and weird. I've tried it. You just get shut down so many times, you start to edit what you're saying.

I was never able to let my guard down with or seek solace in Mr. Big. But that nice guy accepted me, even in our breakup, exactly as I am.

I learned not to waste my precious time

Being a millennial is all about the hustle. I'm a typical 20-something juggling a gym membership, career networking, hanging out with friends, family, and, OK, I admit it -- a crippling wanderlust and over-the-top addiction to Netflix-and-chilling.

Dating requires time, effort, and money. So if anything or anyone is going to cause me to divert funds from my South American travel fund AND make me skip an evening watching Orange Is the New Black, it better be good. A date with a nice guy is worth it... even if we don't hit it off. Somebody who goes on about himself while I drown myself inside a cocktail? Not so much.

Men with manners, compassion, and sweetness are gems. I appreciate that. Seriously, I swipe left on at least 50 photos a day of cocky men posing with guitars, next to waterfalls, and looking pensive on boats. Thanks to Tinder, women are more aware than ever how many bad matches are out there. But we're also getting better at weeding them out for the good ones.

"Today, we know there are better roads to self-discovery than dating someone who's obviously not good for you."

Screwing around with jerks needs to be a thing of the past

My mother dated a pathological liar all through her 20s (no, not my father) as her way of escaping pressures to be and act a certain way. Dating bad boys felt rebellious, and I guess still does for a lot of people. Except that women now (thankfully) have ever-fewer boxes to break out of.

Today, we know there are better roads to self-discovery than dating someone who's obviously not good for you. Go skydiving! Backpack through Asia! Buy a utility belt and some lingerie and head to Burning Man! Point is, I know can find myself in better ways than dating a guy who doesn't listen to and respect me.

I've dated nice guys where it just didn't work out -- but I never once regretted seeing them. And even if the above examples of gratification are cliché, they're still way better than heartbreak.

Projects aren't partners

Too many of us have been with people whose greatness we waited for. "Once we move in together" or "as soon as he's done with his master's program" or "he's just really stressed at work right now" -- NO. Relationships can't be propped up on the promise of things being better some day. They need to function in the here and now. Rough patches or dealing with normal, everyday hazards is one thing. But relationships need to be you and your mate taking on the world together -- not in spite of each other.

I know that nice guys aren't always born that way, and most certainly aren't made overnight. I've known plenty of men who changed their heartbreaking ways for a wiser, more mature stance on the dating game. Neil Strauss wrote The Game about gleefully chasing tail as a pick-up artist, and grew stoic years later when he admitted he was a sex addict. I can appreciate a nice guy with a dark past, but not one who's still up to the same old tricks and could maybe, possibly, change in the future -- sometime. You don't date a guy and wait for him to turn nice -- you find nice guys who've already done the work, and you date them.

Changing people just doesn't work. And with a nice guy, you don't even have to try.

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Sophia Glass is a San Francisco-based writer who's still looking for the nice guy that's also Mr. Right.