Why Being Caring and Honest Matters In Relationships

Photo Credit Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

A lot of men who grew up in my generation have a problem with toxic mascunlinity. We were taught to pursue women, to be the aggressor in the relationship. I want to explain why all that is so wrong.

In the past ten years, I have had two significant friendships with women I cared a lot about. Cared enough to have a relationship with. I’m not a bad looking guy but the chemistry just wasn’t there for us to take the friendships to the next level.

In the case of the first relationship, I went all-out for the person I was dating, but it seemed to go unappreciated. Time and again she would find herself in bad situations and would call me to rescue her and I did. It hurt when I saw her start relationships with men she barely knew. Then one day, we were sitting on my front porch and she started kissing me on the neck and telling me she loved me over and over. Then I made my biggest mistake. I misread her intentions and made a move on her. What I didn’t realize was that, as her friend, she needed me to be there for her as more than a physical partner. She needed me to be the one person who didn’t only want her for sex. As a result of my mistake, she lost all trust in me and the friendship ended. A few years later her and I spoke over Skype while she was in Thailand and she told me she thought a lot about our relationship. It hurts to look back now and see how my desire for simple affection may have harmed her and ended a great friendship. I am so glad we were able to talk and that she was able to forgive me.

In the other friendship, which was also with a person younger than me by ten years (I am 50, she is 40), I have had some wonderful times. This person is an intelligent, funny, caring person. We play chess together, she has helped me with Grant applications and other things regarding my work. I feel as though I truly love her while understanding that she will never love me in the way I want her to. We have become so close that even if I wanted to, it would be hard not to have her in my life. Being a writer can be a very lonely and empty existence, but having her as a friend and as a fan of certain parts of my work (the non-misogynistic stuff) has really gotten me through some tough times. No one can force a relationship on someone who just doesn’t feel the attraction and I have come to understand that once again, this is the reality I have to face. But having a real, true friend who goes beyond looks or sex or social status is so much better than having some intense relationship based on nothing that burns itself out after a short time.

I have been friends with this person now for years and when we can spend time together it is magic, and it is based on mutual respect and caring, not a desire to have some arm-candy or to brag to my friends about sexploits. The other thing that I know is that if I continue to show respect to the women in my life and continue to be a good person, generous and sensitive, I will one day have the relationship I wish for, and it will be so much better than something you see in mainstream movies or TV where people screw instead of making love and relationships are based on looks, power and money.

The best part of all of this is that I learned almost all of this by being in a friendship with a woman I met over 30 years ago and still consider to be my best friend. The funny part of it is that she is married but because of the fact that I have known her forever and I care about her and treat her with respect, her husband has no problem with me spending as much as two hours a day talking to her on the phone.

I hate losing friends, especially close, true friends who know enough about each other to comfort them when they are in pain and cheer them up with private jokes and always consider the other person’s wellbeing. If I keep on being the ‘nice guy’ I don’t think I will finish last, I think I will have people surrounding me who will help bring love and happiness into my life. And I will never have to wonder if anyone will show up for my funeral. As far as the end of life goes, I am of the firm belief that nice guys do finish last, namely they grow old and stay happy and live longer than people who only know how to use and abuse others.

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Leif Gregersen

Leif Gregersen is an author, teacher and public speaker with 12 books to his credit, three of which are memoirs of his lived experience with mental illness