Why Women Want Nice Guys Now

The pandemic changed what many women want out of relationships. Flakes and bad boys are out, nice guys are in.

March 9, 2022 7:10 am
A mock dating profile features Pete Davidson
Nice guys like Pete are cleaning up.
Bobby Bank/Getty

Marie* just learned she was pregnant a couple months ago — news that brightened another Covid winter in New York City, where she lives. Even though she met her boyfriend Alex* only last summer, and the pregnancy was unplanned, the 29-year-old marketer is thrilled about becoming a mother. She calls Alex, who’s 32, “the sweetest guy,” and says he’s equally enthused at the prospect of parenthood. 

But if you told Marie prior to the pandemic that this was how her life would unfold over the course of the next two years, such a forecast probably would’ve been more upsetting at the time. Marie describes her old self as a workaholic. Her job centered around “people-facing gigs,” she says, which meant many of her interactions with men were “much more spontaneous and by chance and in public.” She says she wasn’t “crazy” promiscuous, but, as she puts it, “Shit happens?”

Like so many others, Marie was in panic mode with work once the pandemic hit, and isolating lockdown conditions also meant she wasn’t getting the attention from men that she was used to. However, she also suddenly found herself craving more out of relationships with the opposite sex. She says she wanted something “stable,” and if anything was going to change in that category, she needed to be proactive.

“I wasn’t just swiping right on the next bad decision who I knew would just want to fuck and ghost me,” Marie says, describing her revamped Tinder habits.

The alternative approach quickly paid off. By the summer of 2020, Marie was in a relationship that lasted nearly a year. “It was honestly the first time I slowed down and met someone and could process it all,” she says. But in what she calls a “heartbreaking” twist, the man she was with decided to move back home, out of state. A long-distance thing wasn’t going to cut it. 

Enter: Alex, the sweetest guy. 

Marie says she and Alex are as happy as a couple could be while expecting a baby less than a year into a relationship — one that’s on the way thanks to apparently ineffective birth control pills. “It has its bumps honestly,” Marie says of the relationship, “but we’re doing well. We’re accepting the consequences of our actions and it’s honestly exciting.”

To all the other Alexes out there who are more “nice guy” than “bad boy,” it’s your time to shine. After historically finishing last, nice guys are becoming an increasingly coveted item for women on the dating market. 

A recent Dating.com survey found that 85 percent of single women polled report they are now seeking a steady partner post-pandemic. Before the pandemic, 60 percent of single women on the platform were “open to short-term flings,” but 30 percent of Dating.com’s single ladies have since “changed their relationship goals because of last year’s dating experiences.”

“[S]ingle women shared that they are now more attracted to dates who are consistent and dependable,” the company said in a statement. “Women expressed that a relationship with someone who guarantees stability is key amid Covid and ongoing uncertainty.”

“Nice guys” are coveted at the moment, according to Dating.com, because with them, women “never feel confused about whether their prospect is interested, the status of the relationship and where it’s headed — whether or not labels have been specifically discussed.”

A year ago, Hinge also reported a general uptick in overall users seeking long-term relationships, while in May 2021 the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships published a study concluding that “a partner’s stability and family commitment” had become more important to singles of both sexes amid growing pandemic concerns. But this trend of women, especially, seeking more serious male mates isn’t just playing out on dating apps; it’s something dating and life coaches have noticed as well.

“The shift was so sudden,” says Adam Jablin, a certified life coach with at least three female clients who radically altered their dating outlook, all within a short time period, due to the isolation wrought by Covid. One woman is in her early 20s and building a successful ecommerce makeup company. Another is a 46-year-old divorcée with three children, while the third is an actress whom Jablin says boasts a high profile. The young entrepreneur told Jablin that interacting with new people on a regular basis through work during the pandemic “opened her heart” to deeper romantic connections. The latter two clients were both coming off difficult breakups, with a husband and “controlling” boyfriend, respectively. For a while, neither were eager to commit, and even swore to Jablin they wouldn’t ever again. The pandemic-era alone time, Jablin says, gave all these women a few beats to mentally step back, “just be,” reflect and reassess. 

The actress has found a new partner and, according to Jablin, is “having the time of her life.” The divorcée is dating again, “which is a big step for her,” he says, and though the young business owner is still single, she’s also more actively dating and seeking a partner for the first time as an adult. 

“She’s thriving, she’s kicking ass,” Jablin says. “She’s willing to be vulnerable; she’s willing to open herself up. She’s now looking for the right one.”

Markie Damiana, who coaches through the Growing Self counseling center, and whose work frequently involves helping people find long-term partners, says in pre-pandemic times she counted more men seeking relationships than women who were among her clients. Over the past couple years, though, she’s observed a growing number of women pursuing her services in just that area. 

The pandemic, in Damiana’s mind, has generated a renewed focus on “the preciousness of time in relationships, and how limited we are when it comes to actually finding your ‘one.’” She says single women now want to spend their time with someone who is “really valuable,” as opposed to someone they might “play around with.” This is at least partly due to dating having become more of a health risk with Covid lurking. In the pandemic’s early lockdown stages, people had to “close themselves off,” Damiana says. But as we’ve eased into our new normal, Damiana says the prevailing attitude among many women has become: “I’m not really willing to invest that much time in someone who isn’t going to invest back in me.”

This is precisely where “nice guys” have an advantage. Not only does the effort they bring to pursuing relationships become a more valuable quality, but Damiana notes nice guys will also earn points for being more mindful of the dangers involved with seeing someone new and in certain settings, like enclosed bars and restaurants. 

A guy who’s not exactly nice-guy material won’t “be really concerned with your decision to mask on the first date, or your decision to maybe hold off and wait until exposure [risk] is less,” Damiana says. “This idea of ‘the nice guy’ has come to the forefront [as] someone that is really willing to commit back to you and invest more, maybe earlier on.”

Peering back at “nice guys” from the opposing side of the personality spectrum are, of course, the “bad boys.” Damiana says bad boys have an “allure” to them, but it’s all tied to wildness, unpredictability and, thus, anxiety. With women’s emotional thresholds already overwhelmed by the pandemic, relationships that might have felt extra passionate with bad boys are now just draining.

“We’re more likely to be able to say, ‘I’m not really interested in someone who’s not going to respect my boundaries,’” Damiana says on behalf of women, “because we’re getting better at boundaries and… really living through them.”

Damiana’s advice for nice guys? 

“Lean into your nice guy-ness,” she says. “Lean into being yourself.”

The reason nice guys have traditionally been underappreciated in dating, Damiana explains, is because they can be too deferential. Ironically, while acting in the exact opposite way of the bad boy, that kind of disposition is equally exhausting. 

“They’re not putting any restrictions, any boundaries in their relationships; they’re leaning on the woman to set all of that for them,” Damiana says of nice guys. “Women do like boundaries, structures in relationships, to have a man say, ‘You know what, here’s how I feel about this relationship.’”

It’s incumbent on the nice guy, then, to find a happy medium between “pushover” and “controlling douche.” If they do, they’re sure to have much better luck out there right now.

“Everyone should keep their hopes up,” says Jablin, optimistically. “Love is in the air.”

*Names have been changed for privacy

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