Nice Guys Don't Necessarily Finish Last
"Single File" - January 2024 Issue
by Susan Deitz
My wife and I divorced about six years ago. She initiated it and moved out shortly thereafter. After two years of having joint custody of our three children, she decided to "temporarily" move across the country to gain work experience. She asked me to take care of our kids full time until she came back. I happily agreed, but the kids were sad, though they still (like me) believed she'd return soon. Well, six months became a year, and then I received an attorney's notice that she was asking the court for full custody—plus permission to take the kids out of state to live with her. Long story short, she lost a ferocious and expensive court battle—and the kids are staying with me. (They can, if they choose, visit her in the summer and on holidays.) Lately, though, the eldest (14) has been asking why Mommy chooses work and money over being their full-time mom. I'm trying to give the right answers and not demean her, but to be honest, I have my own questions. Still, the most important thing is that the children don't feel abandoned. I can't help wondering, though, what society would think if the roles were reversed. Any advice? —From the ‘Single File’ Blog
Actually, this type of abandonment—where the mother leaves the children behind—is more shocking than the father's departure. Abandonment of the young ones by the woman who carried them to term ranks perilously close in society's mind to murder. It's rare and, for most women, unthinkable; they'd opt to stay in an unsatisfactory marriage rather than be parted from their children. After bearing three children, she suddenly opts to gain work experience. Her timing is a little off, I'd say. A little late in the day to be choosing work over her young and impressionable children. And try as you might, no way are you going to erase from your children's minds questions they themselves answer—that in some way, they're a disappointment to their mom and that's why she left them. A computer and time card rank higher in her values than they do. It's a credit to your parenting that your eldest child is wondering aloud about her mother's priorities and her own worth. Time to get them to a therapist, I'd suggest. And time to start family councils where everyone can be heard and the most honest words come tumbling out.
DEAR SUSAN: I've been reading with interest the letters in "Single File" about nice guys. For 22 years, I've been married to my high-school sweetheart. Being with him has taught me lessons and has made me a better person. I tell him that he's the best part of my day every day because of the kind of person he is. Those women who choose the "other kind" of men are just looking for a lot of problems, heartache, chaos and trouble.
—From the ‘Single File’ Blog
There are women who believe that love, to be the real thing, must include daily battles. That may be exhausting, keeping the female constantly on edge, but for some women, that's the price paid for the real thing. Yes, she'd consider loving a nice guy and his different set of values, but the nice guys she's known are bland. Peaceful, yes, no battling, but not very interesting, either. Which is why I remind nice guys that niceness doesn't have to mean colorless, that one way to be more interesting is to stay current on topics in the news—and express your opinions! If the talk becomes hot and heavy, I tell them, they shouldn't be scared of defining themselves by speaking up. They should show their true colors and speak their piece. They need to show women (and themselves) that niceness doesn't need to be a yawn.
As for women who equate love with roller-coaster rides and avoid the nice guys out there, I extend my sympathy to them and suggest they read your letter aloud. Many times, until it sinks in. Sharing life with a nice guy can be the most rewarding adventure of all. Mrs. Nice Guy, you've got a treasure, and you're wise to realize that. Bless both of you.
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