Dear Breakup Girl,
I was told again today, in as blunt a manner as possible, that “no way will a relationship work between us.” According to her though, I should not change. All those times I made breakfast in bed for her, brought her flowers just because, opened the car door for her (which she totally loves), and respecting her wishes about not sleeping together before she was ready. All those things shouldn’t change. The reason being that the next woman would love to be treated that way. Am I missing something here? I did all those things, but I still get “no way will a relationship work between us.”
I know that I’ll have to get over it and move on. But my dilemma is this: If I do all those wonderful things, then why doesn’t it work? I’d like to think that it’s not me, but this isn’t the first time this has happened. I’m one of those so-called “nice guys” who never can seem to catch a break. I try to do the right things, but again I get “no way will a relationship work between us.” I’m just about ready to give up. I’m sure you hear it all the time, about how women like nice guys, really they do…. Well, I’ve never seen those women. And I’m starting to doubt their existence. I’ve also tried being a friend.. I just would like your thoughts on all of this.
You and all those things you do are, I’m sure, genuinely nice. But it’s wrong to base a relationship entirely on doing the right things. See, Alex, it sounds to me like you’re Doing Boyfriend on people. Muffins, flowers, courtesies — lovely. But when you brought her her breakfast, did you ask her what she dreamed about? Was it the prefab “Flowers for My Sweetheart” bouquet, or a fistful of sweet pea blossoms that reminded you of her laugh? When you close the car door, can you hear her voice through the glass? Your flourishes are important, Alex, but as demonstrations of a two-way bond; as the bond itself, scrambled eggs and baby’s breath will not hold. Do you see what I mean? So don’t stop with the gestures; just rejigger their job description for the next object of your affection. Pay attention to the man behind the curtain. Next time, offer her: yourself.
This advice was originally published November 16, 1998.