On a nice guy vs a good man

What’s the difference between a nice guy and a good man? I was dating a guy who cheated on me, and even after that I was still convinced that he was a nice guy, but I know he’s not a good man.


See. You already know the difference, but let me make it clear. Being a good man is a matter of morality, and being a nice guy is a matter of etiquette.

Calling a guy “nice” doesn’t speak to his character. It just means he knows how to act, usually when he wants something. Nice guys know how to behave, but they typically have ulterior motives, and their true character is often revealed when they don’t get what they want.

On the other hand, calling a man “good” speaks directly to his character. It means that he lives up to a value system that you both share, which typically means he is both reliable and trustworthy.

A nice guy and a good man will often behave in the exact same manner to acquaintances at the surface level, which is why they’re hard to distinguish when you accept people at face value, but when you drill down and get to know either one, you’ll find that only the good man has integrity.


29 thoughts on “On a nice guy vs a good man

  1. Kimberly says:

    Last week I was ghosted by a nice guy I mistook for a good man. This isn’t the first time I’ve been surprised at the end of a relationship – I seem to be not great at drilling down.

    What’s the key to getting beyond the surface? I think I rely on time alone, which isn’t cutting it.

    • Rose says:

      It kind of sounds like you ignore a lot of red flags, maybe? It takes some time for “nice guys” to show their true colors, but not that long.

    • daisy says:

      Get into a frustrating situation together. That will show you immediately where his priorities are – and where yours are, for that matter.

      Assemble Ikea furniture together. Take public transportation in an unfamiliar place while you’re both hungry. Try to cancel your Comcast subscription. It doesn’t have to be life or death – as soon as you both start getting mad, you’ll know.

    • Sel says:

      The fastest way to know the difference is to tell him no, particularly to something sexual (or something that could lower your inhibitions, for example, “Would you like another drink?”), and see how he reacts.

      A good man will accept your boundaries without question. A nice guy will try to convince you to say yes.

      Alternately, you can disagree with him about a matter of taste about something meaningful to him (a favorite book, for example). If he gets offended and tries to explain why, no, actually, your taste is wrong and his is impeccable: nice guy.

      • Manda says:

        Yes! I agree. With my husband, I knew he was something special on our first date when I teased him a little about something he said, and instead of getting offended, he laughed at himself and kicked it back to me. A good man is secure in himself and doesn’t have to pretend to be the “nice guy,” because he really is.

    • Rimi says:

      Hi Kimberley,

      If I’ve got the definition right – isn’t being ghosted a good thing in this case? Some gross little flake isn’t after your attention any more? Good riddance no? I think as long as you feel comfortable and exercise your agency, does it really matter about broken little assholes? I think you can spot a good man when you stop ignoring red flags and decide ‘hey, I don’t need to acquiesce to a piece of shit!’

    • Rasta Ray says:

      Def true. I’ve seen guys falling all over themselves to make amazing first impressions, saying unreal shit that simply couldn’t be, and never is.

  2. grouch says:

    “Nice” is probably the worst adjective to be described by. It has goals and motives behind it, while being utterly banal. Never trust anyone who calls themselves “nice”.

  3. CharChar says:

    Coke, you’ve always had incredible insights into the problems people share, but I have to say that you’ve been hitting it the fuck out of the park lately. You’ve gained so much wisdom over the years I’ve been reading your advice. Thank you.

  4. kittygrrrrl says:

    My hubs isn’t always a nice guy, but he is a good man. Prime example, threw a fit because he can’t figure out what hours the butcher works at our grocery. Not nice.

    There is a very high percentage of chance that I may die from a very serious heart condition/surgery next month, when we were discussing what to do if I don’t make it, he asked me if he needed to stick around and take care of my Mom, since my other family is unreliable. Good man.

    • daisy says:

      I wish that were a question you could ask someone early on in the dating process –

      “If we were in a long-term committed relationship and I died, would you take care of my mom?”

      You’d weed out a lot of nice guys if you could get a sincere answer.

      • kittygrrrrl says:

        Thanks – me too! Fortunately I have an excellent surgeon, cardiologist, therapist and my chosen family (not the DNA kind) will be coming in from out of town.

  5. daisy says:

    I had a history of dating nice guys who were not good men, so I decided to switch it up and date an asshole who was fundamentally a good man.

    That wasn’t great either but I learned a whole lot about the difference and I’m sure his new girlfriend is better at dealing with his attitude.

    Now I’m with a good man who is also a nice guy. Sometimes he blows me away with how good he is, because I’m so used to the nastiness that lies under the first few layers of nice on so many people.

  6. Giuliana says:

    I think people show who they are right away. One must simply be observant. Everything one does in life indicates something about one’s personality and motives. The first time you meet someone, are they listening to you? Do they ask questions that indicate they were listening? Do they appear to be waiting for you to finish only so they can talk? How do they get the barkeeper’s attention? What do they think is funny? Do they make jokes at the expense of others? Why? Is it a rapport with an old friend or do they treat everyone this way? How do they react to different kinds of people, a homeless person, a man in a hooded jacket walking towards you on an empty street? What kinds of observations do they make? What is their commentary on life like? What is their response to seeing a group of drunk young women? How do they react to disagreement, to being told no? How is their temper when driving? There’s all kinds of situations where people can demonstrate who they are. Be observant, think about what people’s actions and words could be indicating about their character, and it might be easier to weed out people who are no good. I think it requires a bit more attention and responsibility to cull one’s society, something many of us are perhaps not used to giving any thought, but I don’t think it’s so difficult once one resolves to be more onservant and less passive about what one observes. Also having a good sense of one’s own values, so that one can easily spot a person who violates their own moral code.

    • Bruce says:

      If you scrolled past this comment, go back and read it. Knowing some “nice guys” myself, I could not give better advice on how to spot them.

    • Kris says:

      I am an incredibly judgmental person. I have very critical thoughts of people all the time.

      But compared to you, I am nothing. You are an incredibly judgmental person. Some of your questions are good (the young women bit), but others? The road rage thing? Some people only ever lose their temper when they’re driving because driving can easily become life or death situations. How he gets the barkeepers attention? Are you in a flashing club with over two hundred people making noise?

      Really? You judge people like that all the time when you meet them? You go into every date hoping to turn it into a relationship?

      My fucking God. I’m glad I’m not dating you.

  7. Ben says:

    I’m probably haven’t been a good man in a number of scenarios I can think of. I believe everyone has the potential for good and bad. Realistically, no one will pass any “good man” test 100% of the time.

    I will say that I want to be a good man, and I want to have the humility to admit when I miss the mark.

    People mess up, that’s what it means to be human. I do try to evolve in a “good” direction.

  8. Ben says:

    I think the hardest thing for men – boys? – in our culture to accept is that you need to be willing to take No for an answer, that no one owes you anything, and that a girl – woman – must be respected foremost as a human being without any value judgments based on sexual desirability.

    Our culture makes an enormous amount of money by convincing young men to expect instant gratification from women, and on training young women to expect to provide that to men. It’s de-evolved to such an extreme that young men lose their sense of identity when they don’t get instant gratification, and they unconsciously blame whatever or whoever they can find.

  9. Pingback: Stop being a nice girl. | Less is More

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