I'm a nice guy but I'm also a Nice Guy, to my detriment. If you've read the main blog long enough you'll know what I mean. I'm insecure and full of baseless anxiety. 

Now that I know what the problem is I know how to fix it- be assertive (easier said than done, but with everything else it's a process). But the problem is that my girlfriend isn't taking too kindly too that, which is to be expected I suppose. Now that I'm showing some backbone, though, she's rethinking everything and may just call it quits. Here's the background because I'm not really doing the situation justice. 

She and I haven't seen each other in upwards of a week, and the last time we did see each other it was for about an hour and she was with an old friend who she hadn't seen in some time. I just tagged along but it wasn't the kind of alone time that I think we need every now and then. I work about two blocks from where she lives, so normally it's not difficult to coordinate times to get together.  

Because it's been a while since we've seen each other I'm trying to be assertive and taking the lead in figuring out a time for us to meet. She's honestly busy with her job and she's finalizing the details of another job she'll be starting soon. Her new job will require her to move across the city and will be pretty time consuming- 7 hours a day across 5 days a week, plus (optional) programs on the weekends that she seems interested in. Needless to say, the distance and the time intensive nature of her new job will put a strain on the relationship. 

The other day she kinda hit her limit. I assume she's under a good deal of stress to begin with, between her current job and other tasks that need attending to. But I was trying to be assertive in figuring out a time for us to get together. I told her that she needs to find some time in her schedule and that getting together will be a team effort (I tried to avoid putting all the pressure/blame on her for the lack of dates. It is partially my fault too; after all, two people make a relationship). This was a grave mistake I guess. She "didn't appreciate being told what to do" and took major offense to my 'assertiveness'. Then she proceeded to say that if I can't handle the separation now she doesn't know how I'll handle it when she's working her new job. Finally, she said in no uncertain terms that her new job is on par with or exceeds our relationship in importance and she wouldn't feel guilty if the relationship had to be sacrificed for her job. That happened last night and we haven't spoken since (I texted her once to test the waters but she didn't respond). Sounds to me like the relationship could be in it's endgame, but without talking to her there's no way of knowing. 

So- am I being too needy and too pushy here? Am I practicing assertiveness correctly or not? Am I in the wrong or is she- or are we both? Give it to me straight guys. You always do. 

DJ

P.S. My apologizes that this is so long. 

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Probably a bit too pushy, depending on how you worded it. Scheduling issues can be an especially hard area to practice assertiveness, too.

"You need to" is the language of bosses and doctors and parents. Better would have been, "I want to get together next week, just the two of us. When are you free?" If she didn't follow up with when she was free, you could have followed up with, "I'm free x, y, z times. Let me know which one of those works for you." It's a funny thing about scheduling, often, the narrower the proposed parameters, the easier it is to work something out. She could have trouble being assertive and just picking an evening, too.

If you got a lot of, "I just can't know my schedule yet," it's a different set of issues. Some people just don't like to plan ahead, and then you'd need to say something like, "I have more ease of mind when there's a plan." Or it could be the prioritizing issues she's expressed. That's the tough thing about love, no amount of assertiveness can force it to happen.

Thanks for the reply. You got a lot of it correct, at least from her perspective. This part was dead on:

If you got a lot of, "I just can't know my schedule yet," it's a different set of issues. Some people just don't like to plan ahead, and then you'd need to say something like, "I have more ease of mind when there's a plan." Or it could be the prioritizing issues she's expressed. That's the tough thing about love, no amount of assertiveness can force it to happen.

She is definitely the type of person who doesn't like to plan ahead. That's why I was trying to plan things for the both of us. It didn't work like I had hoped though. Otherwise I wouldn't be posting here I guess. 

FWIW, my husband and I are like you, and my "family of origin" is like your gf. My work-arounds are: 1) Make plans, inform them, let them show up if they want but don't sweat if they don't, and 2) Allot extra time for visits with them, for example, entire afternoons rather than a couple hours. We may only actually spend a couple hours with them, but we can't tie them down to a specific time.

The first is for ordinary days; the second for things like Father's Day where we can't not sweat it if we don't see them. Obviously, these strategies work better for very long-term, committed relationships, but just giving ideas for going forward.

Two thoughts:

1) I hate to say it, but this relationship is already dead. Go find somebody who cares about you enough to make time for you and who doesn't put you behind her job in importance.

2) I'm not sure exactly what words you used, so take this advice with a grain of salt, but being assertive does not mean you should tell your SO what you expect or to be pushy in trying to get something accomplished. Assertiveness in a relationship, done properly, is about being unafraid to communicate your needs and desires to the other person in a respectful, calm, honest, and frank manner. A "nice guy" will gloss over the fact that he was hurt that his SO didn't see him in a week (or whatever) and keep up a pretense that nothing is wrong with the relationship because he's either too whipped, too scared of confrontation, or too dependent on the girl and scared of losing her. A guy handling the situation properly will say, in a respectful manner, something like, "Being able to spend time alone together is really important to me, and I've been disappointed that we haven't been able to do that much recently. What can we do to make sure we get to have some time to just enjoy being with each other?" Finally, a jerk will say "I want to see you this week, so you need to figure out how to make time."

In broader terms, the "nice guy" decides that the girl's needs and desires are all that matters in the relationship, which is unattractive to the girl, and ultimately makes him bitter and resentful. The jerk decides that his needs are all that matters in the relationship and that the girl is just there to fulfill him. The real man recognizes that the needs of both parties are important and probably even that the relationship has its own needs that must be met if it is to survive. There's a ditch on both sides of the road.

1) I hate to say it, but this relationship is already dead. 

I'm getting that feeling too. 

A "nice guy" will gloss over the fact that he was hurt that his SO didn't see him in a week (or whatever) and keep up a pretense that nothing is wrong with the relationship because he's either too whipped, too scared of confrontation, or too dependent on the girl and scared of losing her. A guy handling the situation properly will say, in a respectful manner, something like, "Being able to spend time alone together is really important to me, and I've been disappointed that we haven't been able to do that much recently. What can we do to make sure we get to have some time to just enjoy being with each other?" Finally, a jerk will say "I want to see you this week, so you need to figure out how to make time."

Good insight. Thanks for this. 

If you have to ask if you're practicing assertiveness correctly or not, the answer is already no.

If the new job is more important to her than you, you have your answer.  If she only likes you when you're compliant (whipped), you have your answer.


You may have phrased it poorly -- clumsy assertiveness can come off as being a jerk -- but I'm not sure that's the problem.  Thing is ... if she's used to you one way, and you're looking to change ... you might ought to mention it to her rather than just springing it on her.  Tell her you're looking to improve yourself, and that you're aiming to sprout a spine.  First, she can take it or leave it.  Second, if she stays, when you muck-up being 'assertive' the first few times, she'll know what you're doing ... rather than just thinking you're being an ass.

You're changing the rules of the game in the middle.  If you want to try to keep her around, keep her in the loop ... and let her make up her own mind if she wants the new you or not.  If not, there are plenty of options for a guy with a spine.


JB

You may have phrased it poorly -- clumsy assertiveness can come off as being a jerk -- but I'm not sure that's the problem.  Thing is ... if she's used to you one way, and you're looking to change ... you might ought to mention it to her rather than just springing it on her.  Tell her you're looking to improve yourself, and that you're aiming to sprout a spine.  First, she can take it or leave it.  Second, if she stays, when you muck-up being 'assertive' the first few times, she'll know what you're doing ... rather than just thinking you're being an ass.

I'll tell her... if she ever feels like talking to me again. 

The problem overall is viewing this problem as you gaining more assertiveness, and that when you "demonstrate" said assertiveness, that her push-back is an attempt to quell your masculinity. Built in to that paradigm is an adversarial relationship between you and said named woman.

From your posts on women and relationships, I have a sincere doubt that you're actually a nice guy, in either the common sense of the phrase or in the pejorative meaning of a man who makes friends with women but is unable to form romantic bonds. I don't doubt that you perceive yourself to be, but from the evidence on this site (admittedly limited), I don't get that impression.


From your posts on women and relationships, I have a sincere doubt that you're actually a nice guy, in either the common sense of the phrase or in the pejorative meaning of a man who makes friends with women but is unable to form romantic bonds. I don't doubt that you perceive yourself to be, but from the evidence on this site (admittedly limited), I don't get that impression.

Fair enough. I'm sure some people I know would agree with you; others won't. You're just going off the information I provide, which usually isn't a lot. 

Give it to me straight guys.

Will do. It's not my nature to criticize. Take this as friendly, fraternal advice, despite its frankness:

These two statements are contradictory:

I'm insecure and full of baseless anxiety.  Now that I know what the problem is I know how to fix it- be assertive

Assertiveness is not a cure for insecurity and anxiety. Fix those first. Being insecure AND assertive sounds like a recipe for trouble.

I'm not sure what you mean by "a nice guy" but if it's an obsession with trying to please others, there's a name for that: "anxious attachment" Odd name but that's what they call it.

The way to cure it is to sit down and convince yourself that it almost always backfires horribly. Instead of pleasing others, it ends up convincing them that you're a loser--otherwise, they figure, you wouldn't have to try so hard.

You need to distinguish between being polite and being a doormat. Polite is good. Doormat is bad.

You don't need to be "assertive" to avoid being a doormat. In fact, you need to STOP being pushy because it just reinforces your own neediness. Look what you said:

I told her that she needs to find some time in her schedule and that getting together will be a team effort

SHE needs? Apparently she didn't need. YOU are the one who "needs" to get back together, and you pressuring her to commit just reinforced your dependence on her to say or do something to make you feel whole again.

Nobody is going to relate to you the way you want her just because you want her to. She has to want to on her own behalf. You don't change hearts or minds by being assertive or putting pressure on.

Ever been accosted by a beggar? Ever notice that he is more anxious to talk to you than you are to him? That's because he gets more benefit out of the interaction than you do. All successful, fulfilling relationships build net value; they're not just a transfer of value. If she chooses not to find time to spend together, then she's not finding as much value as you are. If that's the case, then you are like the beggar. You need to turn that situation around. You need for her to be the one who wants more of you.

The way you keep 'em coming back for more is when they feel GOOD around you, because of the way you treat and talk to them. You should be POSITIVE (not assertive), happy, and "comfortable in your own skin".

Finally, she said in no uncertain terms that her new job is on par with or exceeds our relationship in importance and she wouldn't feel guilty if the relationship had to be sacrificed for her job. 

There were already problems. If being excessively needy and deferential convinced her that you are a wimp (no idea--I can't read her mind--just laying the possibility out for you), then trying to be assertive doesn't fix the problem; it just annoys her. Asserting your need for her time and attention does not mitigate that you are needier than she is for yours; it makes it worse.

I suggest you stop trying to be assertive, and just work on BEING HAPPY without needing someone else's approval.

I texted her once to test the waters...

Why did you do that? If she wants to reconnect, she will. Unless you had something particularly compelling to say--which apparently you didn't--it just reinforced the fact that you have more invested in the relationship but less leverage than she does.

A Greek salesman once told me: who can afford to walk away from the deal wins. Apparently she won.

P.S. My apologizes that this is so long.

Mine too. (wink)

BUY THIS BOOK--it's out of print so buy it used--READ IT COVER TO COVER...it will save you much grief in the future, and you will be glad you read it and applied it to your relationships:

Creating Harmonious Relationships: A Practical Guide to the Power o...

That was frank and perhaps even a bit harsh, but well-intended. Hugs, bro.

Thanks for the response. It wasn't harsh; I did ask to hear it straight after all.

Interesting points you brought up. I wanted to hit on a few of them.

The reason I said that assertiveness was the fix for insecurity and anxiety is because I'm a "nice guy" (you defined it well) that seeks to please everyone. The solution to that is to be assertive. But the psychological roots of being a "nice guy" are insecurity and anxiety issues.

You suggested that I stop being pushy because it reinforces my own neediness. I would agree- however, was I truly being pushy in this situation? In context I would say no. We haven't had alone time in over a week, so I think I was in my right in trying to be more assertive in figuring out when we could see each other. I would otherwise agree with you- that being pushy is bad- but like with most things, there's a time and a place for it.

You also bring up the point that I need to be happy and comfortable in my own skin. That's a good point and something that I really should be striving for. It's easier said than done, though, at least for a recovering nice guy such as myself.

I like the quote from the Greek salesman. It's useful not just in sales but in this situation as well it seems like.

One question though: I have yet to hear from her (it'll be 36 hours soon...), so how should I play that? I suppose I have two options: no contact or I can break the ice and try to set things straight. It seems to me that you would say that I should let her contact me lest I look weak (wimpy) or something of the sort. What's your answer though? Contact her or wait it out?

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