Happiness in this World

Reflections of a Buddhist physician

The Good Guy Contract

Twenty years ago, the first woman I ever loved broke my heart. Like many break ups, the end came in stutters and sine waves rather than as an abrupt but mercifully irreversible amputation. Read More


Love, love, love this article!

Thank you for verbalizing exactly what I've gone through for years.

I love how you describe it as a contract that we make with people. I recognize that I was doing exactly that in the past (and still do sometimes). I was a chronic People Pleaser and am happy to announce here that I am on the road to, well, not recovery since People Pleasing was the norm for me, but to relying more on my own feelings about myself rather than willing others to love me for what I can do for them. This has led me to love myself so much more.

I did not know it but this was one of the things that contributed to my severe depression and anxiety in the last decade. It still does but it takes a process and practice to get through it, as you put it. During this process I have lost the love of some of my old friends but surprisingly I am okay with that because I found that I was trying to force myself into the conformity box with them in any case. They were some of the most judgmental people I had in my life and I'm better off without them. It feels liberating to do without all that.

I think it's important to mention here that I have also been on an anti-depressant for the last year and a half and this has helped tremendously but so has my practice of mindfulness meditation more recently.

Thank you, once again!

You're very welcome!

Glad the post resonated with you.

Well Done

I have found that issues of self esteem are a key factor in holding many of us back. Your article illuminated an area not often discussed. Glad it made the April issue.

Well done.

alex great article on "the


great article on "the good guy contract". hit some buttons.

wanted to know if you are aware of any additional articles, books, or movies on the subject which resonated with you.

also, does any of your screenplays utilize the good guy theme?


phil wnuk
executive producer

Hi, Phil, I'm glad my article

Hi, Phil,
I'm glad my article resonated. I haven't really come across too many other publications on this particular issue (one reason I wrote about it).

None of my screenplays are really built around this theme, albeit one in an indirect way.


quite interesting

Didn't know about this Good Guy Contract thing until I ran into this article. I've experienced this before, wherein I found it so hard to leave the person who just took me for granted! but everything's fine now.....
lavonne here...
physician contracts

codependency = good guy contract


theres plenty of articles out there but i liked your approach. speaking from first hand experience, a good guy contract is a lot of times deeply rooted in codependency and the need for others approval.

i thought your article tackled it in a more personal and less clinical manner. codependents similar to good guys try to please others to gain their own satisfaction.

hope you continue addressing the subject as i think your approach is refreshing.


Thanks, Phil. Of course

Thanks, Phil. Of course you're right: strangely, I hadn't thought about all the codependency literature when you asked your question!

This Has been one of the most pivotal articles I have ever read

I have to thank you for such articulate article. It gave me so much peace.
I been practicing meditation, mindfulness and yoga...but for some reason I felt something was missing..by reading this article it made me understand why I was so unhappy at times. Now I feel that by breaking the Good Guy Contract...I can focus on what is important and help those that actually respect me withouth the judgements.
Thanks so much.

Be Well,

I'm so glad you found it

I'm so glad you found it helpful.


I understand the good guy issues but a decent woman will be OK with it as part of the give and take of a good friendship or relationship. I have the problem when I need something from someone -love and admiration. Some people cannot appreciate the qualitites you may have and then you get the self-esteem issues. Deep down though I think they know you are a Good Guy- or will do later on.

Nevertheless Alex, not signing a GGC means you are an agent in your relationships and can keep people properly positioned. I noticed that people will gradually cross your lines if you let them. In my case where women are needy, poor or have problems in their life (due to their lack of agency) they try to get what they want. The ones that have a sound financial situation, rewarding employment and demonstrated growth do not do this.

You can be a Good Guy when you have established the profile of the people you function with. There are a lot of people out there who play the victim and lack responsibility for their lives. When this is noticed they evaporate like the morning mist. I now keep them placed where I want them to be and ask very tricky questions like- What is stopping you improving your situation?

What you probably still are Alex (your photo shows this) is a Good Guy with good friends and great people in your life. You should have thanked this woman for showing you the way to a better you. You just cleared out the "feeders".

I toast you (and me) for wising up. Great article. Thanks. Keep smiling.

I am extremely grateful to

I am extremely grateful to her for helping me to improve myself and change my tendency to attract and accept "feeders" in my life.

couldn't be said better i

couldn't be said better
i strongly agree Alex

This is ridiculous. More men

This is ridiculous.

More men do need to be concerned with whether people like them or not. I'm not saying all men need to be completely self-sacrificing but an article like this pretty much gives current jerks carte blanche to continue being so. Usually jerks don't believe they're being jerks - they think they're being Good Guys already.

C'mon guys. We do need to be good.

It is demand driven

I like the article because I too was a people pleaser for many years. You know what that got me? Nothing. People will say thanks, but most will not respect your time or the effort you put in to help them.

The supply of "jerks" is due to a perceived demand for "jerks." For example, women can tend to give off the impression that they will choose the jerk over the nice guy most of the time. Why? Because the nice guy does not seem to have conviction, but the jerk does seem to have conviction (even if it is a little twisted).

This can also be seen in the workplace. Employers who look for confidence will assume that the nice guy is weak willed.

I think what happens is that a lot of nice guys go through their formative years seeing jerks work the system and get the girl. This stays with them and they decide that to win at life they will play too.

In summary, I think that women can change the "type" of guy out their on the whole if on the whole they will stop looking at the nice guy as not sexy. What you see today (in aggregate) is the result of what women today (in aggregate) are perceived to be looking for.


I think most people are too selfish rather than too giving. Better to balance our self-interest with helping others. But don't expect gratitude; let virtue be its own reward.

Not aimed at everyone

Regarding the above comments, surely it is clear that the article is aimed at some people/men (the people pleasers/'good guys') who need to stop relying on the good will of others for their self-esteem.

There are obviously plenty of other men (the 'jerks', and anyone in the middle) who this doesn't apply to as much, if at all.

Althouhg you may find that some of those selfish jerks also have rather insecure methods of bolstering their self-esteem, and could also do with being more centred. Ironically their selfish behaviour may be because they rely on external approval (e.g. approval of their friends).

Male jerks are a reaction to

Male jerks are a reaction to Female jerks.

Reap what you sow, babe.

If we all have the attitude

If we all have the attitude of "do unto others as they do unto us," we will all become jerks, no one will be attracted to anyone and humanity will eventually become extinct.

Difference between good guy and nice guy

Thanks, I really enjoyed this article. I just wanted to ask what the difference between a good guy and a nice guy is (if there is one)? I don't want to be a heartless jerk like the person above warned about, but I don't want people leeching off me.

I wouldn't get overly

I wouldn't get overly focused on the terms "good guy" or"nice guy." The point here wasn't that it's okay to be a jerk (as anonymous above suggests), or even that we should learn not to care about whether people like us or not. The point is that the reasons we do favors for others or act compassionately toward them shouldn't be because we need them to like us. If we remain at the mercy of that need, we often won't act in the spirit of true compassion but rather for the purpose of getting others to like us more, which often leads to actions that are diametrically opposed to true compassionate action. Is it compassionate to allow an alcoholic to continue drinking? No, but refusing to put up with it would be almost impossible for someone who needs to be liked as it almost certainly would cause anyone with an active drinking problem to become angry, something a "good guy" can't tolerate. I'm not by any means suggesting we shouldn't be nice to people, just that the reasons we're nice really matter.

knowing who your friends are

I found that I have naturally evolved out of being a "people pleaser" over the last several years. One of the big lessons I've learned through all of this is that saying "no" when everybody is used to me saying "yes" inevitably leads to confrontation. My friends were used to being able to "guilt" me into helping them and I used to say yes just to avoid conflict. Since I've realized that I have to sometimes say no for my own well-being, I have lost two close friends. I was very respectful when saying no, but neither of them really tries to contact me anymore. I am shocked and devastated that my "friends" have ditched me over this, especially when I feel very good about how I handled both situations. I don't know if I'll ever be friends with either of them again. I was truly horrified to find out that my friendship with both of these women was conditional on me being a doormat.

Unfortunately, it seems to be

Unfortunately, it seems to be quite common that when you change the way you respond to even close friends in a dramatic way, you discover your previous behavior was the glue holding the relationship together. But if these were friends who couldn't respect the boundaries you started putting up to maintain your sense of well-being, one wonders what kind of friends could they have been in the first place.

And yet strangely ( perhaps)

And yet strangely ( perhaps) the friends I have trusted most, and been closest to, are the ones who say 'no' when they wish, with no apology :) Mostly because when they say 'yes' I know that they are wholehearted and mean it.

contracts with more than lovers....

These contracts span all human relationships. You have the good sibling, the good parent, the good kid, the good citizen, the good activist that stays in his designated area, etc....and vice versa. Sometimes we volunteer for the position, as in the author's case, but a lot of times we are externally and incorrectly labeled and the conflict is the resistance of the label, not the conformity.

I can relate to "Anon": "One of the big lessons I've learned through all of this is that saying "no" when everybody is used to me saying "yes" inevitably leads to confrontation."

I'm very easy going and interested in just about everything but resent being pigeon-holed into one thing or way or life. I find that as long as I am interested in learning about something new, every one thinks I'm wonderful. When it gets to the point that I need to officially "join" (become a vegan, christian, snowboarder, greenie, political activist, careerist, female-with-children, fashionista, fill in the blank), and become a carbon copy of the prevailing thought (there is truth in stereotype for a reason), and I decline, THAT'S when I get the bewilderment, hurt looks, etc.

(It is not that I learn then leave; I like to lean and include. I didn't realize there is a rule that vegans can't be friends with omnivores./s)

I've never had difficulty saying "no, but thanks". Other people seem to have had 'way more difficulty with my being ABLE to say no without guilt or qualms, than with the fact that I did. I guess being immune to guilt-trips is a sign of mental health, but you wouldn't know it in our society.

I was brought up to resist peer pressure...well, at least the "wrong" kind, I was suppose to give in to the good kind like joining the right clubs, having the right friends--right being subjective to the prevailing community of adults. But ever since I've become an adult (I'm 41), I've had nothing but pressure to conform to the going norm--with none of the warm fuzzy public service commercials telling me I'm doing the right thing in resisting the pull of the herd.

Much bigger issue than lovers. What other contracts are you filling for national security, personal safety, fiscal responsibility, sustainability etc. that may or may not be to our own personal benefit once the fine print is examined?

In the vernacular, you were relegated to The Friend Zone

Penguin guys also have this sort of problem with their women:

The Coldest Profession

Adélie penguins, who are monogamous and breed in large colonies in Antarctica, engage in courtship and copulation behavior in mid-October and early November. During this period, stones are in great demand as nest material and are collected by both males and females. Individual penguins regularly steal stones from one another's nest sites; they usually are met with an aggressive response from the site holder, who will peck, flipper-bash, and chase the stone stealer.

Some female penguins, however, acquire nest material from extrapair males after engaging in extrapair copulations. In each observed case, a female joined a single unpaired male at his nest site. Courtship was followed by the female lying prone at the male's site. The male then mounted and copulation followed. Following copulation the male dismounted and the female picked up a stone from his nest site and left.

In three of the eight cases, the female returned to take a second stone and left without copulating. At no time was there any aggressive response from the male, and he made no attempt to prevent the female from removing the stone. All of the females returned to their partners immediately after the extrapair copulation and deposited the stones at their own nest sites.

Females were also observed acquiring stones without copulation. In each case, the female initiated courtship behavior at the male's nest site and then simply took a stone and left without copulating. It would appear that the male was cheated into allowing the female to take a stone without gaining anything in return.

From "Female Adélie Penguins Acquire Nest Material from Males After Engaging in Extrapair Copulation," by F.M. Hunter and L.S. Davis, in the April 1998 issue of The Auk, the journal of the American Ornithological Union. Hunter is a research scientist at the University of Cambridge; Davis teaches zoology at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand.

Sounds like a cult to me

If you were genuine and compassionate and avoided explosive expressions, why were your friends saying you were a jerk? Maybe you should have been chanting the famous verse from Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;

I think it is one of the important lessons of life that if you give with the expectation of gratitude, you are sure to be disappointed.

And I would never give up all my earthly possessions to serve a man like Reverend Moon, or even let him choose a wife for me.

This article reminded me of

This article reminded me of enneagrams -- a personality profiling test that fits everyone into 9 different personalities. Apparently, this kind of personality identification tool is used commonly in family therapy (I'm not a therapist, nor do I even work in psychology, but I find the profiles interesting.) The "good guy" is a clear type 2 - The Helper - (which is where I fit in myself).

Just thought you'd be interested in enneagrams if you weren't aware of them already - espeically since your bio says you're working on a novel. Apparently, many writers use the descriptions of different personality types to make their characters more realistic.

Thanks for a great article,

I love this

"Practice disappointing people" Great advice for all the long-suffering people pleasers and perfectionists out there. Very liberating. I'm going to help spread the word. Thanks.

In the end I have found

In the end I have found someone who speaks my language!

The moment I shred mine, I entered a state called Pride. I now enjoy looking people in the eye because I mean what I say.

Thanks for the AWSOME message Aleks.


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Alex Lickerman, M.D., is a general internist and former Director of Primary Care at the University of Chicago and has been a practicing Buddhist since 1989.


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