Most girls want a nice guy. Someone who treats them well, caring, loving, affectionate, understanding. Unfortunately we often confuse Mr Nice with Mr Right, or is it the other way around. I know very little about relationships, and the only things I do know are the advice I’ve heard from some much trusted people who got it ‘right’ (that’s my disclaimer!).
Niceties are nice. A man who opens the door, a man who says please and thank you, who calls to say he is coming late, and doesn’t wipe his nose on his sleeve. Yes, these are all nice things. The reality is that many men are ‘nice’ – most of these things come standard. In the Jewish communities it’s part of a standard upbringing. It is important that you’re comfortable with the day-to-day ‘picture’ (i.e. you’re not too disgusted by your husband’s habits), and from this perspective of finding Mr Nice, there are many eligible bachelors who are ‘marriage material’.
There’s also more to people than their niceties, their being ‘polite’, and it’s often what’s underneath the surface that matters (and which we have least access to prior to marriage). For this reason if you’re willing to stake it out, to ‘take your chances’ you may be able to wait around, spot Mr Right and marry him. While it may be the optimum to find Mr Right instead of Mr Right ‘Now’, it’s not always possible. I’d say that most people don’t manage this and they settle. Finding the right person is a much greater challenge than finding someone nice. Judaism would probably say “that’s ok, Mr Nice will do – he’ll treat you well, be polite, say please and thank you, etc. etc.” I’ve found that a person can be lovely on the outside, polite, sociable, have a stable career, and yet be missing in something that is essential to what you need – to what Mr Right would have. But that’s life – and sometimes we do have to settle.
Expecting Mr Nice to be Mr Right
So how do we settle? Some can do it fabulously without the blink of an eye. Others can’t and it’s visible every single day. Sometimes compromising by marrying someone nice can do a lot more damage both to you and Mr Nice if the marriage is entered into expecting it to be right. It’s very hard to be in love with someone who is not right for you, both in trying to convince yourself that he is Right and in trying to convince him. The result is frustration and rejection. Unless both of you are happy to stay in a marriage that will turn ‘nice’ into ‘right’, you’re standing on thin ice. And this change does happen often, but both parties have to enter the marriage expecting this to be a slow process of many ups and downs. The success of such relationships is especially visible in the more orthodox communities where kids grow up knowing that love is about building and sustained giving over the long term, not a feeling of current gratification. The couple enters into the relationship both expecting this and are not swayed by the bumps or lack of ‘passion’ that those of us coming from secular backgrounds expect. Unfortunately we often trade long term love for passion or the desire to be satisfied right now – we choose to leave relationships with great potential because Mr Nice is not Mr Right (and therefore not satisfying our ideals or the illusion (and disappointment) that he was Mr Right). As a gentile friend pointed out to me recently – this seems to be a blatant distrust in Hashem. And it is. If a person really trusts that Hashem does things for the best then they would accept that although their partner doesn’t seem Right for me now, they must be Right for me in the long term. And in the long term it seems that people do adjust and build strong bonds over years of experiences and building together. Love becomes a long term proposition based on committment and effort, not a transient feeling of satisfaction of self acceptance.
It may be rare to find Mr Right, but don’t marry Mr Nice thinking he is Mr Right or wanting him to be that. Accept him as he is and pray that he also understands that he will become Mr Right only after years of trial and error, pain and mistakes, and also the good and the joy. Building in the real Jewish way means knowing who we are, what we have in front of us, and accepting that it takes years to turn a seed into a fruitful plant, needing work from both sides, and just as you need to accept Mr Nice’s errors while he grows into Mr Right, he will need to accept your errors while your grow from Mrs Nice to Mrs Right. When both parties are willing to dedicate years of effort to one another and accept reality – then getting Mr & Mrs Right can start with just being Mr & Mrs Nice.