Someone being nice to you doesn’t make them the perfect partner for you

Rip the bandage off.
Rip the bandage off.
Image: Reuters/Eliana Aponte
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One of the trickiest relationship situations you can find yourself in is when you know that you need to break up with someone but, instead, you stay together—or keep coming back together—because you feel that the person is “too nice” to break up with. If they were treating you badly, or if there wasn’t something beneficial about remaining with them or the relationship, you would have finished it a long time ago—but they don’t and there is, and so you feel caught between a rock and a hard place. As I said to a close pal earlier this week, you end up feeling as if you’re kicking a puppy in the face and of course, no one wants to think of themselves in this way!

But, here’s the thing: You’re not doing yourself, never mind the other person, any favors by remaining in the relationship.

It’s one thing to stay because you want to and because you genuinely love and accept the person, but it’s another when fear of looking like “the bad guy”—or enjoying aspects of the relationship while gritting your teeth and vacillating between breaking up or staying—is blocking you from making the right, albeit uncomfortable, decision.

My friend is used to doing what I used to do: metaphorically torching the relationship à la Angela Bassett in Waiting To Exhale, or exiting with stealth moves to avoid dealing with the person and the situation.

Neither option, while they might feel good initially, results in growth, because if the only way that you can break up is with lots of drama or by trying to pull a Houdini, you won’t know how to do the grown-up thing and admit when something isn’t working, discuss it, and make a clean break.

When you’re faced with a relationship that doesn’t call for drama or disappearing, you end up doubting the validity of your desire to break up.

  • “But they’re such a nice person.”
  • “I don’t like _____ and _______ and I know that this isn’t really going to work long term but I really like the affection/sex/not being alone {or insert benefit of choice}.”
  • “In comparison to [your ex], they don’t do _____ and they’re good at _______.”
  • “I don’t want to break their heart.”

Next thing you know, you feel trapped, guilty, and eventually resentful.

When you know what it’s like to have your heart broken—to feel disappointed because of that gap between your hopes and expectations and reality—or you know that something isn’t right but still hope things will work out, it’s easy to see why you would be reluctant to break up with someone. However, it’s critical to recognize that as painful as past breakups might have been, it was the right thing for the relationship to end if it wasn’t mutual.

You have to be careful of projecting your past experiences and fears onto someone else, blinding you to what you need to do.

This relationship isn’t the same as your last unsuccessful relationship, although it will end up that way if you try to avoid the inevitable.

The danger we run when we are not honest about how we feel—and when we delay doing what we need to do—is that we do more damage than we would have if we’d acknowledged and shared our feelings, even though it might not have been very pretty, even though it might have led to some awkward or even painful discussions, and yes, even though it might have led to the end of the relationship.

By putting ourselves in a situation where we are going through a cycle of feeling temporarily re-invested in the relationship, only for the same old feelings and the realization that it isn’t working to return, we get into the habit of repeatedly calling the relationship into question.

We cannot be committed or intimate if, as much as we might get on with someone and like aspects of the relationship, we’ve broken up with them many times in our head, maybe a few times in real life, or dropped numerous hints in the hopes that they’ll spare us the task or that they’ll, at the very least, figure out what they need to get right so that we don’t have to leave but we also don’t have to get really vulnerable and be direct. Of course, what’s likely to follow is that you’ll subconsciously act up so that they’ll do what you won’t.

One of the things we have to recognize when we go out with that nice person who isn’t quite right for us is that, as disappointing as it is, finding out that this person isn’t the right fit is also progress.

If you’ve gone from being involved with folk who mistreat you but you struggle to break away from, to folk who, while they’re nice in a number of ways, are incompatible with you in others, it’s progress.

Just because someone is nice, lovely, etc., doesn’t mean that they’re the person for you. It doesn’t.

It’s a bit like having a few bad jobs, being unemployed for a bit, and then getting a nice job that, while it provides you with a bit of money and some areas of satisfaction, is still not the perfect job for you. It’s not the best use of your talents and you’re not growing.

As lovely as this person might be, if it’s not a mutual relationship with love, care, trust, respect, and shared values, you’re both inadvertently hiding out in a relationship that isn’t the best expression of your respective selves.

Remember that incompatibility means that you both want different things, and that can happen even when two people feel a great deal for each other.

And, just because someone is nice, lovely, etc. and you still want to end the relationship, it does not mean that you like being treated badly or that you don’t like “nice people!” You also don’t owe someone a relationship just because they’re nice, or because relative to your exes, they seem like Mother Teresa!

Don’t choose a partner based on your ex; choose them for them.

You need to love and respect that person (accept them for who they are, and be able to live harmoniously with your shared values) for it to go somewhere good.

It doesn’t make you a “bad person” for wanting to end it with a nice person. The honorable, loving thing to do when you know that a relationship isn’t it for you is to set you both free so that you’re not blocking each other from being with the people who will make you happy.

This post originally appeared at Baggage Reclaim.