Emma Tonny continues her column with a word to the wise about one of the most powerful dating myths: ‘the nice guy.’ All too often, this is synonymous with boring and at a certain point you simply have to cut your losses and leave. Be as nice as you can be but please don’t stay in a boring relationship.
When the best you can say of someone is that they’re a ‘nice guy’ then it’s time to end it. When you only really have fun with them when drunk, it’s time to end it. When you’re more entertained with the conversations in your head, than the conversations you have with him, it’s time to end. Bite the bullet, seize the moment, grab the bull by its horns… pick your metaphor and (one more for good luck) rip the plaster off.
After months of dating disasters post graduation, it was oddly reassuring to date a ‘nice guy’ at first. He wasn’t going to set my world on fire, but he was sweet and attentive, and I really liked his friends. To be fair to the bloke, our first date was honestly pretty great. He’s grown up in Pakistan and we debated the value of Islam and organised religion. My experience of faith had been far more positive than his and I defended things he thought I was naive to view with trust. My experience of Islam, largely came from powerful and articulate Muslim women and campaigning against Islamophobia, so it was interesting to have those views challenged from within.
Our second date was equally promising. We watched Much Ado About Nothing and, while I translated from Shakespearean English to modern vernacular, he translated back into Urdu for me. We had sex in front in the fire, and that is where it all went wrong: he told me he loved me. On a second date, after the first time we’d had sex. I laughed and told him he was being ridiculous.
He’d grown up in a society with strict rules around dating and gone on to study engineering where there were problematically few women anyway. He’d had little experience of relationships and I could tell that he was already getting carried away. It was then that I started to notice how different we were and how opposite our outlook was on certain things.
The other thing that quickly became an issue was the language barrier. This is a strange thing to describe because on the surface level, he spoke perfectly good English, but you could tell he was always translating in his head.
I don’t mean in some psychic, creepy way but, most of the time, you can tell what others are thinking. You can predict roughly what they’re going to say next, so you get into the flow of conversation and become close with them. The cliché of being ‘in sync’, is true: when you are close with somebody you really are in sync with their thought processes. You understand how they feel, can follow their thoughts and intuitively understand what’s going to happen next. That was missing. Everything was being filtered through a translation system, so it felt as if there was a barrier I couldn’t penetrate into his actual thought process and I couldn’t fully connect with him.
Or at least, that’s what I thought it was. For weeks, I analysed the ‘language barrier issue’; treating it with almost academic interest. Then, one day, it clicked: he was dull. He actually just didn’t have a lot to say. He was quiet. Really quiet; and I am really not. Even with his friends, even when speaking Urdu, he didn’t contribute anything to the conversation.
Quite suddenly, I realised that the real issue wasn’t the language barrier or being in sync or anything high flown, it was just that I didn’t find him interesting. Months later, I would meet another man whom I didn’t share a first language with and fell completely head over heels… but that is the story of a whole other dating disaster. Language barriers exist, but they aren’t the real barrier to love in my opinion.
Don’t: make excuses for boring men, however nice they may be.
Do: be honest about your feelings for people.
What I learnt: you can’t create a spark when there isn’t, it’s better to just be friends.