Dating in your 30s: Do nice guys really finish last?

In the era of online dating, where it seems we’re all playing a game of hokey pokey — one foot in and one foot out — how do we retrain our brains to go for the people who are actually good and good for us?

I often say “I just want a Nice Guy”. But what do I do when he shows up and I don't have that instant spark?

I generally only date men who make my pants miraculously fall off at first sight. Fact. Physical chemistry is one of the top five things I look for in a partner — always has been. (Along with loyalty, respect, a killer sense of humour and an aversion to chinos and boat shoes).

But, approaching my mid-30s, with a divorce and a couple of relationships that “failed to launch”, I’m beginning to wonder if putting all my eggs in the primal attraction basket — at the expense of deeper more lasting connections — is an approach that’s destined to fail.

Let me illustrate for you… I’ve been on a couple of dates recently with a man I would describe as “nice, kind and incredibly thoughtful”. Let’s call him ‘Mr Nice Guy’. He’s the kind of man who notices you’re cold in the middle of the night and gets up to put an extra blanket on you (true story). The kind of man who remembers what type of wine you like and has it on hand when you come over for a home-cooked meal (also a true story).

So, of course, when my friends ask me about him all I can do is kind of shrug in a non-committal fashion.

Friend: “Soooo, what’s he like?!”

Me: “He’s super nice… which just makes my lady parts dry up like the Sahara. Why can’t he be distant and unreliable and a bit unsure about me like all the others?”

Which is absolute madness because not only was he wholly unreliable with a tendency to disappear for days at a time, but the sex wasn’t very good either. But there’s my brain and lady bits being all, “Oh my! A guy who’s lukewarm at best, practically waving red flags in your face, and who is also a selfish lover. Challenge accepted! Let’s win him over!”

I remain convinced the motto, ‘Treat ‘em mean, keep ‘em keen’ was written by a man I once dated and circulated widely around the Northern Beaches of Sydney.

So it begs the question, “Is the spark overrated?”

In the era of online dating, where it seems we’re all playing a game of hokey pokey — one foot in and one foot out — how do we retrain our brains to go for the people who are actually good (and good enough) for us?

I find that thought terrifying when dating as I know I’m often being weighed up against multiple other women — and not just my personality or intelligence, but also how I look in a swimsuit. (I’m solidly in the Mum Bod camp FYI). And women are guilty of this too — assessing a man based on nothing more than his height, profession or the circumference of his biceps.

Yes, it’s important to be attracted to someone and be seen as attractive by your partner — that’s a no brainer. But should it be at the expense, or in place of deeper connections like trust, empathy, respect and loyalty? Oh, and the ability to make the other person laugh. I can only sit and stare at someone’s biceps for so long before I get bored (it’s 45 minutes for the record) — but make me laugh and you’ll have a piece of my heart forever.

I don't have the answer. I’m muddling through with the rest of you superficial bastards. But what I do know is that I’ll be giving Mr Nice Guy every chance to change my mind… instead of my usual approach of giving Mr Wrong all the chances to prove himself — and coming up short.

Chronic over-sharer. Graphic language lover. Aspiring coffee addict. Highly functioning single person. Mum. Animal enthusiast. Don’t like much music post 1989.

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