What is a Nice Guy? Nice Guys and Addictions (Part 2 of 2)

nice guys and addictionsIf you didn’t catch my previous post, you might be wondering, “What’s a ‘nice guy’? A “Nice Guy,” according to Dr. Robert Glover as he writes in his book No More Mr. Nice Guy, is a man who seeks the approval of others so that he can feel okay about himself. Nice Guys tend to believe that if they do everything just right, if they’re good and caring toward others, they’ll be happy, get their needs met, and live a problem-free life.


But as we discussed in the post, it doesn’t work out that way. In fact, nice guys tend to have a lot of problems. They have problems in their relationships, with sex, setting boundaries, taking care of themselves, and very often, with some form of compulsive behavior or addiction.


Why do nice guys and addictions go together like peanut butter and jelly? If you’re a nice guy, understanding the relationship between your nice guy tendencies and your addictive behavior can really help you get to “the root” of your addiction.


So let’s dive in.


Nice Guys Use Addictive Behavior to Escape

Nice Guys tend to keep a lot bottled up inside. They repress feelings that aren’t acceptable to others or to themselves. Over time, this creates emotional “pressure” internally that leaves them, often without realizing it, seeking a release. And because they have trouble being honest, they may seek that release in secret.


The nice guys I talk to in my practice frequently struggle with addictive behavior. When we talk about a relapse or a return to a problematic behavior, they sometimes have no idea why they watched porn again or poured a drink, despite all of the problems that doing these things has created for them. With help, they come to see that they’ve held in a lots of feelings inside (usually resentment), often without being fully aware of it.


So, when a triggering event happens (e.g., a fight with a girlfriend, or a suggestive scene in a movie), they’re already looking to release this pent-up emotional pressure. In these moments, they’re very vulnerable to using the addictive behavior to do just that.


Nice Guys Turn to Addictions to “Meet” Their Needs

Nice guys became nice guys because their needs were not met in consistent, judicious, and timely ways when they were growing up. Maybe Mom and Dad were overwhelmed with life, or depressed, or working too much, or stuck in their own addictions.


Over time, nice guys came to believe that it was their fault that they did not get their needs met; something was wrong with them that they did not get what they needed. We saw in the last post that this is how their toxic shame comes to be.


Because of their toxic shame, nice guys also believe that they don’t deserve to have their needs met, which is why they generally suck at self-care (even though they’re great at self-sacrificially taking care of others’ needs).

Because of their toxic shame, nice guys also believe that they don’t deserve to have their needs met, which is why they generally suck at self-care (even though they’re great at self-sacrificially taking care of others’ needs).


So what’s a nice guy to do? They often unconsciously create harmful relationships with a substance or behavior (i.e., an addiction), as if to say, “You’re not meeting my needs, so I’m going to take care of these needs myself. I’m going to be with something ‘better’ than you.”


Nice Guys Seek Comfort (and Use Addictions to Get It)

This one parallels closely my previous point in that nice guys turn to addictions to provide themselves with temporary and shallow way of comforting themselves, even though addictions are anything but nurturing. What I want to highlight here is that nice guys will always gravitate toward comfort rather than challenge, and they’ll use addictive behavior to comfort themselves.


Nice guys tend to be passive. That is, they rarely act with intention or proactively, choosing instead to react to life and those around them. They shy away from challenges at home, work, and really any other area of their lives. Instead, they stick with what is familiar and comfortable.


Often, this means that nice guys use comfort-seeking activities to avoid challenge and taking responsibility for their lives. They’ll watch TV, play video games, surf the internet, play games on their phones, snack too much, or engage in other activities that provide comfort.


This tendency to seek out comfort can mean that they turn to, very commonly, porn and alcohol. Nice guys’ addictive behavior can also include other forms of substance misuse or problematic sexual behavior, such as compulsive use of escorts, massage parlors, masturbation, affairs, and sexting.


Speaking of which, why do nice guys most commonly get tangled up with sexual compulsivity, out of all of the forms of addictive behavior?


Why Nice Guys Tend to Have Problems with Sexual Compulsivity

“Why did I do this?” It’s a question I get all the time when talking with men about their sexual addictions, especially nice guys. They want to understand their behavior, because with more awareness comes more choice about how we act.


So why do nice guys get in deep in sexually addictive behavior?


The Usual Suspects

Yes, nice guys have problems with boundaries, and sexually addictive behavior represents a huge boundary failure.


Yep, nice guys don’t take responsibility for their sexual needs and avoid talking about anything, especially sex, with their partners. It’s easier for them to avoid bringing up anything that may create conflict and to meet their needs in secret.


Yeah, nice guys seek comfort, and often they return to what they know brings that comfort. So if they were exposed early on to porn, they’re going to be hard-wired in their brains to remember how good that felt. They’re likely to return to it again and again.


But the real reason nice guys get tangled up with sexual compulsions has to do with how they meet their needs for intimacy.


Nice Guys, Intimacy, and Sexual Addictions

Nice guys are terrified of intimacy as that means being vulnerable and letting another person really see them. Since they have toxic shame and believe deep down they’re unlovable, intimacy feels exposing and terrifying.


Since they again and again received the message that they’re unlovable from the earliest times in their lives, nice guys, as we talked about in the last post, repress their needs and feelings to avoid risking rejection and more shame. So their deepest longings for connection, to be known, loved, and understood, go underground.


When nice boys grow up to become nice guys, these intimacy needs are sexualized and are fulfilled sexually. That’s why a nice guy thinks that if a woman is nice to him or touches him, she is interested in him sexually. Nice guys can be preoccupied with their partner’s approval or do “all the right things” in order to be sexual with their partners. Or they’ll avoid sexual (and emotional) intimacy and choose porn instead.


Sex becomes the currency of emotional intimacy, only the sex they do have is really devoid of true intimacy because they’re still hiding parts of themselves.


So What’s a Nice Guy to Do?

If you’re a Nice Guy and you struggle with an addiction, the first step is to begin working on the addiction. Connect with safe people, go to a support or 12-step group, find a therapist, and work on changing your relationship with your addictive behavior.


This may create a crisis for you, especially if you’ve been secretive about your addiction. Create a network of support to help you work through these issues. You’ll probably feel scared and ashamed at first, but as you work on your healing, you’ll begin to feel empowered and much better about yourself.


If you need help, please let me know. I’m more than happy to connect with you and talk, if only for a few minutes, about what’s on your mind. Reach out today and contact us. We’re here to support you.


**By the way, the link to Dr. Glover’s book in this blog post is an affiliate link.


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Jeremy Mast

Jeremy is a licensed marriage and family therapist (CA LMFT90961) in private practice in Ventura, California. He helps those struggling with drugs, alcohol, and out-of-control sexual behaviors awaken to new possibilities for their lives. He lives with his wife, son, and cat in beautiful southern California.

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