In dating, is it possible to be too nice? The answer is Yes! A male client was discussing a woman he had been out with on two dates. While he thought she was lovely, he was uncertain about his feelings for her. He and this woman shared a common love for dogs and on their first date he mentioned that he had gotten a new puppy. On the second date, she showed up with a bottle of champagne, a dog toy, and a card congratulating him.
While he appreciated the gesture and told her so, her gift made him feel uncomfortable. When I pushed him to understand why he couldn’t put his finger on it, but it felt like pressure. His date also mentioned that she loved pet sitting and would like to meet his dog in person. By the end of the date, he felt that she was over-committed to the outcome and worried she could be easily hurt. He was a confident man and wasn’t shy about letting women know he was interested. He ended up telling her by text that he didn’t see a future with her and wished her luck with her search.
So when can a good thing be too much? I teach my clients a big lesson in dating that I call matching pace. How do you rate your friendships on a scale of 1-10? An acquaintance might score a 3 while your best friend is a 9. If a friend is treating you like a 4, would it be appropriate to treat her as if she were a 10? You make bold gestures for your closest friends, not someone you scarcely know.
Think of dating the same way. Suppose a guy is showing you a minimal amount of interest. If he calls you at the last-minute for a date and asks, “Where do you want to go?” or better yet, “Do you want to hang out?” recognize that he is neither putting in much effort nor has strong intentions. Responding to him with greater intensity will likely chase him away.
Have you gotten feedback to ensure that your date feels as strongly about you as you feel about them? Slow down and try to read the level of interest correctly. While it may be in your nature to be thoughtful, your date doesn’t know that you give cards to everyone.
I recall being on the opposite side of a man being too nice. On our second date, he picked me up with a bottle of wine, flowers, and a CD he made for me. While I was flattered, he also told me that he had requested a copy of my dissertation through my graduate school and read it. All 100 pages! My own friends and family had never read my dissertation. Instead of being impressed, I felt uncomfortable that I could not match his grand gestures. It felt like he was trying too hard. Unfortunately being too nice can backfire for men as well as women.
SECURE note: In dating, save your nice behaviors for when it is appropriate. If partners are equally matched there will be lots of time for thoughtful gestures. If there is a possibility your gesture could backfire, don’t do it!