The other day my wife and I were having dinner with friends at their home. A fun night of pizza, laughs and sharing our upper respiratory colds. When it was time to drive home winter finally hit! I am a Michigan driver and sometimes find it an adventure to drive in the snow, like you accomplished something and having the feeling like you are Indiana Jones for a moment. This was not one of those times when I felt like Dr. Jones. I was just trying to keep my car on the road. When we finally made it home my wife let out a big sigh in the garage and said “Thank god. That sucked.” My corny therapist self thought “There is an analogy here.” This must be how many of the couples I work with feel in my office — sometimes you just can’t see that far in front of you, hope in the relationship looks bleak, and it seems like you are driving in a snowstorm.
I work through many different “snow storms” with couples and in individual counseling. A common negative interaction cycle or snow storm I see in relationships is when the male in the relationship often abandons his needs. Dr. Robert Glover (2000) identified that this paradigm is called the “Nice Guy”. Nice guys are often socialized to prioritize meeting others’ needs as their main priority while forgetting about their own. Dr. Glover states “These men have been conditioned to believe that if they are “nice”, they will be loved, get their needs met, and have a smooth life” (Glover, 2000, page 24).
This type of thinking can really cause stressful and manipulative communication in a relationship. Some of these may include increased passive-aggression and not communicating directly. They often struggle with boundaries and implementing the word “No” or “I can’t”. Setting boundaries and direct communication can often seem like an impossible task for an individual who has abandoned his needs for some time. As a therapist it is important to meet someone with both compassion and empathy when discussing these struggles. If done well this can start a spark for change.
Not communicating directly and not setting boundaries in intimate relationships can manifest itself in many communication struggles. This can be seen with frustration, anger, and resentment that can deteriorate both physical and emotional intimacy.
In both couples and individual counseling it is often a focus to change the individuals running narrative from “I need to meet others needs to be loved” to “My needs are equal to others and I can love and affirm myself.” Two common fears I hear when beginning to change this narrative are: “If I make my needs a priority, others will be angry with me and not like me” and “If I do that I will be selfish. Nobody likes selfish people” (Glover, 2000, Page 88). Here are five core paradigms that Dr. Robert Glover identifies to help change this narrative. (Glover, 2000, Page 89)
- Having needs is part of being human
- Mature people make meeting their own needs a priority
- They can ask for help in meeting their needs in a clear and direct way
- Other people really do want to help meet their needs
- This world is a place of abundance
If you find yourself as a couple or individual in this communication snowstorm, couples counseling or individual counseling may help you navigate to the safe garage. Have you been putting your needs on the shelf in intimate relationships and increasing resentfulness? It may be time to take a step back look at your relationship patterns. Are you viewing yourself and your needs as equal to those around you? Counseling and engaging in the therapeutic relationship can begin to shape healthy communication patterns and core beliefs. If this article was helpful for you, or made you wonder, a great book to follow up and read is No More Mr. Nice Guy by Dr. Robert Glover. You might also consider setting up an appointment for some therapeutic services.
Glover, Robert A. No More Mr. Nice Guy, Hachette Book Group, 2000.