Have you met Mr. Wrong? He can look deceptively similar to Mr. Right, but behind his smile lurks trouble and heartache. When Christian nice Girls are single and dating, their people-pleasing tendencies can attract Mr. Wrong like sugar attracts flies. You'll learn in this chapter how to swat him away when he comes buzzing around, as well as dating tips that will help you find Mr. Right.
Doesn't it seem like Christian Nice Girls would attract Mr. Right? After all, CNGs are mannerly, appear ever-so-gentle and compliant, and smile until it hurts. Surely those qualities would attract a decent guy. Some CNGs do end up with Mr. Right—glory hallelujah!—but often, that's not what happens. Like the smell of blood for a shark, a CNG's passivity and inability to say no are powerfully attractive to Mr. Wrong. He's a "user." He may not be using illegal substances, but he definitely uses women to meet his own needs—for self-importance, money, sex, reputation, power, etc. And like a shark, he doesn't care who gets hurt when it's feeding time. He knows, from years of experience, that CNGs are easy prey who won't fight back, stand up for themselves, or maintain healthy boundaries.
Some married women are haunted by the ghost of Mr. Wrong. Whether they dated him once or for years, being used by Mr. Wrong can leave women devastated and vulnerable to further misuse. Even if you end up marrying Mr. Right, the harmful effects of previously dating a user can negatively impact your marriage.
All that is scary, isn't it? Rest easy, there are red flags that you can look for to help you identify Mr. Wrong before he sinks his teeth into you. Let's start with your first interactions with a potential dating partner, whether that's at work, in a social setting, at church, or on a blind date. Does he display any of these red flag behaviors?
~He talks quite a bit more than he listens, or he puts no effort into the conversation and expects others to do all the talking.
~His favorite topic is himself. He rarely asks about you.
~When the conversation shifts away from his life, he quickly brings it back to himself.
~He is often the hero of his own stories.
~He makes frequent critical comments about others or jokes at their expense.
~He laughs at, belittles, or ignores your opinions, ideas or activities.
~He is flamboyant, loud and boisterous in inappropriate settings.
~When his mistakes are brought to his attention, he gets angry or shuts down, even if the correction is done appropriately.
~When good things happen to other people, he seems to resent it or tries to "one up" them.
~He exaggerates his accomplishments and fudges the truth if doing so will benefit him.
~He flirts or acts seductively with many women.
~He frequently "checks out" women's body parts or makes lewd jokes.
~He spends his money to impress others.
~He regularly ignores laws and regulations even if doing so inconveniences or endangers other people.
~He gets offended easily.
~He gets angry quickly and without much provocation.
~Once he gets in a bad mood, he stays there, sulking and pouting.
~He dismisses other women's assertions that he is "bad news," a "player," or a "jerk."
The above behaviors are a shark fin sticking out of the ocean. They indicate danger—get away from this guy, even if his physical appearance is as unthreatening as Mr. Rogers, because Mr. Wrong comes in all shapes and sizes. He can be short or tall, well-educated or a high school drop-out, a city slicker or a farm boy, and yes, he can be a Bible-toting, Scripture-quoting churchgoer. Mr. Wrong can even be in the ministry.
Regardless of their outward appearance, Mr. Wrongs share the uncanny ability to manipulate Christian Nice Girls. These men know that some women won't push back, are easily led, and will gradually come to accept their selfishness, immaturity, and, in far too many relationship, verbal or physical abuse.
Some Christian Nice Girls naively assume that sensitive men are safe, but Mr. Wrong can use his sensitivity to help him be even more manipulative—so don't immediately entrust yourself to a guy just because he cries at sad movies. Some CNGs rule out masculine men because they think that manly strength isn't Christlike. Be careful with this mistake as well. Jesus worked with his hands as a carpenter. He spent a lot of time outside and on fishing boats. Jesus was plenty masculine.
Remember: people teach you who they are, so stand back and observe a guy over time, without trying to change him. Dating is the time when you are supposed to examine men and discover both their strengths and weaknesses, so don't feel guilty or judgmental when you begin to recognize his problem areas. That's how dating is designed to work.
Read over the red flag list again, but this time, imagine that it was someone else's boyfriend who was displaying those behaviors. Wouldn't you think he was a jerk? Often, Christian Nice Girls can identify Mr. Wrong when he's attached to another woman, but have difficulty identifying users that swim into their own dating pool. This is partly due to the cultural pressure women experience to be nice, accommodating, and never angry in their own personal relationships. The Nice Girl culture trains them to ignore the subtle (and obvious) cues they pick up that this is Mr. Wrong.
God gave women brains that can quickly read danger signals. Christian Nice Girls tend to ignore those "something's not right here" signals they get from their intuitive brains because they mistakenly believe that those signals are "being judgmental" or are somehow unchristian. Ironically, because Jesus commands Christians in Matthew 10:16 to be "as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves," CNGs are actually being unchristian when they ignore the red flags and intuitive signals that could lead them to wisely discern that a Mr. Wrong has just surfaced in their dating pool.
Christian Nice Girls also forget that they can and should leave dating situations that are quickly becoming volatile. And the media—a huge part of the Nice Girl culture—doesn't help them date more wisely. Movies and television repeatedly portray female characters remaining in foolish, dangerous situations and trying to reason with men rather than getting out of Dodge and to safety. Don't follow the typical movie heroine's example—if you sense danger in a dating situation, get out. Don't worry about appearing rude or hurting anyone's feelings. Just get out of there.
If you are frustrated that you're consistently attracted to the Mr. Wrong types lurking in your dating pool, take a look at your childhood. As discussed in chapter 3, being raised by people who were emotionally distant or abusive can leave you vulnerable to relationship problems later. Sometimes women unconsciously choose Mr. Wrong because being misused is all they know. These women don't enjoy being taken advantage of, but being misused is familiar at least, a known quantity. Sadly, being attracted to Mr. Wrong often results when a woman feels defective at her core: if she believes that she is unworthy and unlovable, then she won't expect men to treat her with dignity and respect, and she will accept poor treatment as her due. If any of this is ringing your bell, please go talk to a trustworthy counselor or minister. Just make sure that you talk to someone who respects women, highly values human dignity, and shows mercy and grace while also taking a firm stance on sin. If this counselor or minister shames you for wanting to be treated with dignity and respect, wave goodbye and find a more mature Christian to talk to. You deserve to believe, deep down in your bones, that you are a treasured daughter of the King. And once you believe that, you'll be more likely to be attracted to a prince than to Mr. Wrong.
If Mr. Wrong asks you out, don't be a Nice Girl and say yes to avoid hurting his feelings or making him angry. If you don't want to go out with a guy, even a genuinely good guy, don't lie to him. It's lying to pretend an attraction that you don't feel. Speak the truth in love. Say something like "Thank you, but I'm not interested in dating you." You don't need to try and let him down easy by adding in the dreaded phrase "Let's just be friends." If he's a good guy, you'll be friends anyway. If he's Mr. Wrong, he may misinterpret that phrase as "Keep pursuing me, and eventually you can wear me down, and I'll go out with you." Also, don't tell a man "I like you, but it's not God's will for us to date/God doesn't want me to date you" to avoid taking personal responsibility for your own choices. It's cowardly to make God the bad guy, plus your pious excuses could mess with his faith.
Next time: Tips for Dating Mr. Right.
Paul Coughlin is the author of numerous books, including Unleashing Courageous Faith, No More Christian Nice Guy and No More Jellyfish, Chickens or Wimps. He also co-authored a book for married couples with his wife Sandy, titled Married But Not Engaged. Paul is founder of The Protectors, the values-based and faith-based answer to adolescent bullying, which provides curriculum for public schools, private schools, retreats, and individuals who want to diminish child-based bullying.