Why Do Nice People Attract Jerks?

Boundaries in DatingThe question that many people wonder is “If I’m nice, then why do I keep attracting such jerks?” They think that something is inherently wrong with them, and sometimes they can begin to get quite hopeless over their chances of finding good friends, someone good to date, or building a great marriage.

The key to remember is that the reason why nice people attract jerks is that they are too adaptive in the beginning. If that person had had boundaries, the problem never would have happened. Or if it did, the problem would have been fixed first.

People who are selfish and controlling can only be that way if they are in relationship with someone who is adaptive. If someone stands up to them and is honest about his or her wants and desires, then the controlling person has to learn to share or gets frustrated and goes away. Take these steps to avoid ending up in relationships that attract unhealthy people:

  • Be honest about your preferences and desires.
  • Don’t act like you like things other people like just so that you will be accepted.
  • Being liked for who you are requires that you be that person.
  • Tell the truth about where you want to go and not go, or what you want to do or not do.
  • Don’t be afraid to share your desires and wants for fear of conflict. Find out early if you are with someone who can share equally.
  • Get feedback from honest friends to tell you if you are really being yourself and seeing the relationship realistically.
  • Remember with each decision that you make you are giving the other person an impression of what you like in life and in a relationship. Be careful—he or she might believe you.
  • When you give or serve, let it be honest and purposeful.

You are a person, and you cannot go throughout life without pursuing your own wishes, needs, and desires, nor should you. Your needs and desires are going to come out, and you had better find out early in a relationship where the person really stands with the idea of sometimes having to adapt to them. You don’t want to be telling some counselor the following things ten years from now:

  • She seems to have to have her way.
  • I am afraid to let my real feelings and desires be known.
  • We have so much conflict over such little things.
  • We always spend our money on what he wants.
  • She doesn’t care about me and what I want.
  • Why can’t he ever go to the places that I want to go to?

Issues like these are usually discovered later in a relationship where one person has adapted for a long time, and then tries to make a change. The lesson is to be yourself from the beginning, and then you can find someone who is authentic as well. A relationship like that has mutuality and partnership. It has give and take. It has equality. It has sharing and mutual self-sacrifice for the sake of the other and the relationship.


Click to Tweet: The little things in life are where you can spot the big things.


If you are a real person from the start, a relationship of mutuality has a chance of developing. If you are not, then you might be headed for trouble.

The little things in life are where you can spot the big things. If you are with a self-centered person who cannot give to your desires, you will find out soon enough by being honest and straightforward about simple things, for that is where day-to-day life is lived. You will quickly find out if you are with someone who is able to share, or someone who has to have his or her way all the time. This knowledge will be helpful now and essential for the future.


Get more helpful advice to build the best dating relationship and find the love of your life by reading Boundaries in Dating.


  1. Betty says

    Thank you so much for posting this! I took the Yerkovich’s test that revealed I am predominantly a pleaser and an avoider. It makes perfect sense that I ended up married to a controlling, self centered, abuser. I am just so relieved to know how I got here. Now I can make sure it doesn’t happen again. I am going to order Beyond Boundaries right now.

    • Tanya says

      Hi Betty-
      I too have been a pleaser, or adaptive as this article defines. But I have been working a few years on what I term “ getting my voice back.” It is not easy but it sure is freeing. What I have found is that I have had many controlling, manipulative relationships, including my close family. As I have chose to have boundaries now (I am in my 40’s), I find they don’t like me and say mean things, but I feel so good and I’m not being mean. I am living my life for the first time.
      I am a woman of God so I am seeking to do what the Lord leads and it is fun and fulfilling.
      I hope that encourages you.

      • Debbie says

        @ Tanya

        I identify with what you were saying so much Tanya. I was brought to believe being a pleaser is good or ok. I find it so difficult to speak my mind and my wishes at times. But I go realise the need to, now that I’m pushing 40. This season has been family clashes and me trying to keep ppl at arms length. I’m still struggling to deal with all the issues and controlling ppl in my life.

      • Momma says

        This is how I feel with my close family (divorced parents, sibling, and grandparents)… unable to be myself. I finally gathered enough strength through learning what a boundary was at age 35, but even 4 years later me speaking up hasn’t been received well. I still need a lot of reminders of how to be myself in a culture of strong personalities, control, and the like. It’s hard to challenge a system.

      • Martha says

        I had the same question…
        The test is a the top of the site where you will see ‘quiz’.
        I scored a 12; I have some work to do!
        I hope this is helpful to you!

  2. Wanda says

    Your books are such a blessing to many choosing a mate for life. We will celebrate 50 years of marriage this month and it is exactly the two personalities you describe. If I had known. but I wouldn’t trade my precious children for anything… I said till death do us part before God and I am in it for the long haul even if it isn’t happy, healty. .

    • Dusti says

      I have the same story Wanda….I committed 33 years ago & in it for the long haul. Only God’s grace can help us work through these differences.

  3. Karen says

    So true. My daughter was a peacemaker and an extremely adaptive person. She married a man she loved very much even though he turned out to be a controller and manipulator (con-man); she just didn’t realize how much until he abandoned her on her death bed because he could no longer control her or the situation. She died with a broken heart.

    • Monique says

      I am so very sorry to hear this ❤ It breaks my heart tremendously how cruel people can be amazes me and torments me to my very core; may God bless you

    • Maha (Egypt) says

      I realize this comes almost 2 years later but it’s tough, I pray God would have eased the pain a little. May He fill you with His peace

  4. Jane says

    Thank you for this post. It was timely for me as I’m hurting right now after a failed dating relationship. I was always the one who had to compromise, at least on the big issues. I cared about him and the relationship, and am afraid of being single the rest of my life, but am seeing more clearly now that it wasn’t healthy, and may have gotten even worse as some of the other comments have described.

  5. Jean says

    Seems you know my husband very well, on the flip side you know me also.

    Every year or so I reread Joyce Meyer’s How to Succeed at Being Yourself. For at least a few weeks, I remember to use Scripture to define myself…..

  6. Rosanne says

    When I do as suggested and display/express boundaries it often leads to abuse from the person not getting their way and has put me into some dangerous situations

    • Jojo says

      After 17 years of marriage, I FINALLY had enough, am setting boundaries and guess what, threatened with divorce he is changing, however, IT IS TOO LATE. Don’t lI’ve life in fear, you deserve better, I pray that you have the courage to leave a dangerous situation, as the fear I have been living under is lifting I am beginning to feel that I have a future to look forward to, you can have it to, make a plan, get prepared and make the break, it’s so scary but if I can do it, so can you.

  7. Jessica says

    This is the first time I have to disagree with your advice. There are people who are very good at deceiving others initially and will hold up to boundaries very well in a new relationship. Once you’re in a committed relationship though with them, they start to show their true colors, and by then you feel trapped in the relationship.

    • Becky says

      Yes, the narcissists will show their true colors only after you’ve been in the relationship and committed to it…then the trauma comes when they’ve grown “bored” with you. It’s been difficult, to say the least.

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