Should You Breakup with a Good Guy? Sure

Just because he’s a good guy doesn’t mean you’re good together

If you’re a woman of any dateable age, you have probably heard some version of this: have fun with the bad boys but marry the good guy. Women are constantly told we should want good guys, nice guys, and really — who doesn’t want a good guy? But what if he’s a good guy but he’s just not your guy? What happens if you no longer want to be with a good guy?

That’s what journalist Kelli María Korducki wanted to explore after having broken up with a good guy herself and beating herself up for it for a long time. The result is her new book, Hard To Do: The Surprising, Feminist History of Breaking Up, which delves into the history of how hard it traditionally has been for women to leave marriages and romantic relationships.

Now, in the age of no-fault divorce and educated, financially established women, it shouldn’t be. Still, leaving a good guy remains fraught with anxiety. As she writes:

In the face of perceived scarcity, opting out of a stable partnership with a Good Man carries a weight of ethical frivolity. Breaking up with a man who actually wants to be there, and who is good and decent, seems irresponsible at best. It’s like scoring big in the lottery and torching your winnings for sport. Of course, the perception of scarcity is just that: a perception, a myth. It is facile and essentializing to paint any gender as more or less willing than others to engage in the labour of a relationship. Yet for women who date men, in the context of a patriarchal society, life isn’t short on reminders that a Good Man can be hard to find.”

All the good guys are not taken

Very true — it’s certainly what young women hear and it’s something I hear at midlife, that “all the good guys are taken” and middle-aged men only want to date younger women so there just aren’t enough good guys around. That’s not quite accurate.

But here’s the thing: I had a good guy. We dated for a few years and then, last summer, I broke up with him. And I, too, beat myself up. I had been ambivalent for a while but couldn’t quite put my finger on just what wasn’t working. But something wasn’t. I kept obsessing, what’s wrong with me? Because there was nothing wrong with him; he was a good guy in all the right ways. But still. It was painful to say the words but one day I did, as gently as I could. And I will admit; there were moments when I thought, but what if you never find a good guy again? You’re not getting any younger!

And indeed I am not. But it’s not OK to be with someone if you’re not all in, good guy or not. It’s cheating him and yourself.

As Korducki notes, there’s a lot of pressure to keep a relationship together, and studies confirm the “push” factors — societal and family expectations that then get internalized — to keep a relationship going no matter what.

Hurting a good guy’s feelings

In the research she did for her book, How Not To Marry The Wrong Guy, Jennifer Gauvain discovered that among the top reasons the 30 percent (wow!) of women who admitted to knowing they were marrying the wrong guy on her wedding day, but married him anyway, was this: “He is a really nice guy; I don’t want to hurt his feelings.”

Yikes! Women are often raised to be “nice” and considerate of someone else’s feelings … but that shouldn’t be at our own expense!

As she writes:

It is really hard to break up with a nice guy. … It’s often easier to break up with a cheater or a liar (although far too many women don’t do that when they should either!) But when it comes to nice guys, it can be hard to figure out why you aren’t happy together. The reality is, he may be a solid, good guy on his own. But as a couple, the equation does not add up. The idea of ‘two becoming one’ should not equal instant discomfort. However, when the relationship is solid and true, there is very little doubt, internal conflict or questions.”

And there you have it. When you’re with the right person, things feel pretty good as a couple and there isn’t much doubt (there is always some, though, and that’s OK). When you’re not, leaving — even if he’s a good guy — may be the best thing for everyone. Oh, and that “women prefer bad boys” thing? Don’t believe it.

Want to create the right marriage with the right person? (Of course you do!) Find The New I Do: Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels (Seal Press) at your indie bookstore or on Amazon; follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook.

Originally published at




Award-winning journalist, author of “Not Too Old For That: How Women are Changing the Story of Aging,” coauthor of “The New I Do,” mom

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Vicki Larson

Vicki Larson

Award-winning journalist, author of “Not Too Old For That: How Women are Changing the Story of Aging,” coauthor of “The New I Do,” mom

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