Why Nice Guys (Might) Finish Last

There’s an entire Youtube music video dedicated to the idea that, within a romantic context, nice guys finish last. I probably saw it for the first time early in my college years. The video depicts a bunch of corny guys trying to learn from an instructor how to be bad since “you only date bad guys.” In the end, the guys only end up alienating their loves with their obnoxious behavior and reject the instructor. They win the hearts of their women by treating them kindly. The video ends well for the “nice guys,” but, when I first saw it all those years ago, it left me with a twinge of discomfort. Why is it said at all that, within romance, nice guys finish last? Why is it said that women like the bad boy?

The video gave me discomfort because, well, I was a certified, Grade A, irrevocable nice guy – and I knew it!Β I loved Jesus, studied hard, cared about people, loved little kids, preferred reading over sports, and intended to pursue any potential girlfriend in an honorable, godly way. Yep. Nice guy. So if nice guys finished last and I was a nice guy, that didn’t bode well for me did it? It almost seemed as though getting a girl and having good character were at odds. I would wonder at the, shall I say, worthless guys on campus that had girlfriends while I was incurably single. Don’t women want a man with character? How the bad boy could get the girl while the nice guy was left to pine was something that quietly perplexed me for several years.

Pay attention, men, because I’ve solved the riddle! Do you remember a particular scene in X-Men when Jean Grey is talking with Wolverine about their relationship? She says something intriguing. She says, “Girls flirt with the dangerous guy, Logan. They don’t take him home. They marry the good guy.” Her comment holds a clue to understanding the dynamics of attraction surrounding bad boys and nice guys. See how she expresses attraction toward both the bad boy and the nice guy? Both are considered attractive, but in different ways. The bad boy is fun temporarily, but the nice guy is desired for the long term. Why? Why is the bad boy fun only for a time? Why is the nice guy not fun in the beginning?

In certain schools of thought on romantic attraction you will hear about Alpha characteristics and Beta characteristics. As a man, you can possess both sets of characteristics, either set, or neither set (but hopefully that’s not the case!). Alpha characteristics are those personal characteristics that are quickly recognizable and immediately attractive. For men, confidence, humor, and dominance are often considered the main Alpha characteristics. Confidence causes a man to exude strength and stability. Humor makes him fun and enjoyable. Dominance sets him apart from the crowd as unique and commanding. Guess what? Women find these characteristics attractive. These are the characteristics the bad boy possesses. Consider Wolverine. He never doubted himself, never hesitated to confront someone, and had fun doing whatever he pleased. Naturally Jean Grey found him attractive…for a while. Beta characteristics are those personal characteristics that are not as quickly recognizable and are attractive when considering long term involvement. For men, core Beta characteristics are care, provision, and character. Care means you are genuinely concerned for your girl and make her needs a priority. Provision means you can provide for her needs (not just financially but emotionally, spiritually, etc.). Character gives you the maturity and personal growth to be a reliable and trustworthy partner. These characteristics make a man desirable when considering the long term. The bad boy might be fun at the beginning, but he’s not very desirable when you’re thinking about settling down or raising kids. That’s what Jean referred to when she said, “Girls flirt with the dangerous guy, Logan. They don’t take him home. They marry the good guy.”

Bad boys are fun for a while, but character is what a woman wants when the commitment chips are down. Nice guys aren’t as exciting, but they’re much better to live with for a lifetime. That’s why it may seem that nice guys finish last. Women want a man who has attractive Alpha characteristics. That’s why the bad boy often gets the girl. In the end, however, the bad boy may watch her walk away when he fails to be worthwhile. The nice guy could maintain a happy, healthy relationship…if he could only attract the girl to the relationship in the first place. Men who possess Alpha characteristics without Beta characteristics (the bad boy) may be fun and exciting, but they’re liable to be self-serving, unreliable men without much consideration for others. Men who possess Beta characteristics without Alpha characteristics (the nice guy) may be able to maintain a healthy relationship, but they are liable to be timid, uncertain, and lacking initiative.

So what does that mean for the nice guys out there today? What do you do when you feel like women look at you as though thinking, “He’s a great guy. He’ll make a great husband…for someone else.” First, understand that you don’t need to toss your Beta characteristics! Those are valuable! What you want to do is develop your Alpha characteristics alongside them. You don’t have to attempt a personality transplant. Just give attention to how you can practice traits such as confidence and initiative in a way that matches your unique personality. Bad boys, if you want to capture a woman’s heart for a lifetime rather than a limited time then be sure to develop your Beta characteristics. If you possess both sets of characteristics then you’re a keeper!

Want to know something? Jesus possessed both Alpha and Beta characteristics. He was confident, never shrinking from his mission.Β He was dominant, never backing down from his critics or the challenge of his message. But he was also caring, genuinely concerned for the wellbeing of all. He was a provider, attending to the material, instructive, and spiritual needs of his people. He had perfect character, using his power only for that which was good and righteous. If you develop both your Alpha and Beta characteristics then you can be sure you won’t finish last in romance! In fact,Β you just might find yourself the type of keeper a woman dreams of!

Men, if you found this post helpful please share it and follow the blog! Ladies, if you want more keepers in the world please share it too! πŸ™‚

Coming next time: I Like Him…What Should I Do?

Oh, and here’s that music video… πŸ™‚




  • Monica says:

    Very well put. I’d also like to add that, while I don’t know about all/most girls, at least some of us are, on occasion, just looking for a good friend, and not attempting to be — or realizing if/that we are — flirty… until it’s too late. And I realize that can cause a lot of damage to both parties involved. Girls and boys (whether they be “nice” or “bad”) are both very different, and we’re very conscious of that, which is in many ways a good thing, but sadly, I think with that we lose the expectation or acceptance that guys and girls CAN, occasionally, just be good friends. People tend to jump to conclusions, and get very surprised if you’re not looking for a relationship with your guy friend (whether they’re the guy friend or not), and sometimes even look down on you for it, for whatever reason. This knowledge and awkwardness can make it very difficult and uncomfortable to maintain otherwise awesome friendships sometimes, which I think is too bad. πŸ™

    • Justin Megna says:

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Monica. Romance certainly creates a lot of space for uncertainty and confusion. It can be hard navigating the space between friends and more-than-friends. I haven’t figured it all out yet, but I hope that through these conversations we all might get a little closer. πŸ™‚

  • Chris says:

    I married a “bad boy” and he broke my heart many times over and caused much sadness and pain. The confidence that attracted me turned out to be insecurity disguised as machismo. Because we met at Bible school i thought for sure God brought us together. I left after years of bullying and alcohol abuse. My advice to all u awesome “nice” guys” …… Be yourself, be authentic and stay true to yourself. You might just need a wardrobe upgrade or a new haircut to accentuate those baby blues. Ask friends or family for their opinions. Image is not everything but first impressions are important. Good hygiene and well fitting clothes tell people you care about yourself. A woman may see a sloppy looking guy and think “if he doesn’t care about himself will he care about me?” . When u like yourself it shows and its a very attractive quality. And know this, bad boys may seem like they have it all together but most of them probably don’t. Ill take a nice guy over a bad boy any day! 😊

    • Justin Megna says:

      Chris, thanks for sharing your experiences and thoughts with us! Sometimes we guys need a woman’s perspective to help us see how to grow in different areas. πŸ™‚

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