Okay, let’s get one thing straight: I love nice people. The last thing I want is a total asshole with no consideration for my feelings stomping all over my life and leaving me to pick up the pieces. Been there, done that. Most people have. But in my opinion, there’s a fine line between being a nice person who respects other people and having a full-fledged, no holds barred, savior complex. Based on my mostly heteronormative experiences with men, here are a few ways to identify which type you’re dealing with.
1. The immediate need for self-identification
Guys with savior complexes are quick to identify as “Nice Guys.” They want to draw a clear, distinctive line between themselves and the “Bad Boys” of the world; the ones they assume will break your heart to pieces without a second thought. They do not care to acknowledge that they ever have a selfish thought, feeling or action. A self identified Nice Guy wants you to know that he is not like the big, bad “other boys.”
An emotionally healthy guy doesn’t feel the need to identify with the “Nice Guy” stereotype. He is aware that he has some qualities that make him socially desirable and some that make him kind of an asshole. If you were to ask him what kind of a person he was morally, he would most likely give you an answer that places him somewhere in the middle. This is an incredibly important trait when it comes to absolving mistakes. Those who acknowledge they have flaws are usually the most willing to work through them. The ones who can’t acknowledge flaws are most likely to blame other people and then go cry about their feelings in a corner.
2. Rabid history probing
Guys with savior complexes often have a particular interest in a person’s romantic history. They want to know everything about each boy who has disappointed, hurt, or never called back the person in question. They are proud to assert that they are better than these boys, and can heal the emotional wounds they have caused. They take a weird sort of pleasure in discovering another’s “emotional wounds” even when the person in question is uncomfortable discussing them.
Healthy guys are not obsessed with their romantic interest’s exes. In fact, they would probably prefer to not hear about them. An emotionally healthy partner understands that while past traumas of any sort may arise in a relationship, they should be dealt with as they arise, when the partner experiencing them wants to work through them. A true nice guy is not interested in “saving” someone from their past. He supports his significant other, but understands that only they can heal their own wounds.
3. Reading too much into behavior
Guys with savior complexes seem to have specific ideas about how other people should act. Any behavior doesn’t fit into this ideal is chalked up to an ulterior cause: the career-obsessed person is trying to distract themselves from loneliness. The sexually explorative person is looking for a surrogate father. It is never a possibility that people are complex enough to embody both ideals: compassionate sometimes and crude sometimes by nature, just like everybody else.
An emotionally healthy guy knows that some people are compassionate and feeling-focused and some people are cold, insensitive powerhouses and the majority of them are a mixture of many different traits, which fall together with no specific pattern or purpose. He accepts the person he’s interested in as they are, without ulterior motives or justifications.
4. Wanting to be the hero of the story
Guys with savior complexes want the story of your life to go like this: you put your heart on the line for bad boy, you get hurts, you crumple into a useless heap of feelings, nice guy comes along, nice guy saves you, you thank nice guy and realize how lucky you are to have him, you become a productive member of society thanks to the power of nice guy’s love and from that point on, your life means something again (Alternate ending: You gets pregnant with nice guy’s babies, thanks your lucky stars for the excuse to retire from the ever-so-harsh work world and stays home doting over babies forever).
Emotionally healthy guys want the story of your life to go like this: You are born. You have a bunch of experiences, some of which are good and empower you, some of which are shitty and knock you down for a bit. You get back on your own feet, grow as a person, and move on. You pursue your interests and expand your skills as you grow up. Somewhere along the line, you will meet Emotionally Healthy boy. You’ll get together and it’s great. You both continue to pursue your own interests and grow as independent people. If you want to stay home with babies and it’s financially feasible, cool. If you want to become the next President of the United States and spend the rest of your life campaigning for office, that’s cool too. You are the hero of your own story and Emotionally Healthy boy is the hero of his. You fall in love with each other primarily and purposefully because you’ve noticed that both stories are interesting, complex, and hella worth reading. I mean, why wouldn’t they be?
Two self-saviors are infinitely better than one.