“It is necessary, and even vital, to set standards for your life and the people you allow in it.”
~ Mandy Hale
This is not a new topic. Google “Bad boys and good girls” and prepare to be occupied for the next year, viewing articles, opinion polls and suggestions for how to kick your bad habit.
Everyone knows it’s a dangerous dynamic, yet women continue going back, time and time again. What gives?
The answer lies in “Want versus Need” and “Long Term versus Short Term.”
What I mean is this; you seek instant gratification because the thought of doing what’s right for the long term seems dreadful, painful and not worth the effort.
The truth is that it IS in fact, worth the effort to stave off the craving and put your focus on finding a partner that will actually give you what you want AND need.
Continuing to act in the short term puts you that much farther away from your forever mate.
The short term appeal can be very tantalizing, but knowing that it’s a recipe for disaster, why do women fall for it?
1. You Want the “Get” of the Ungettable Get
There is nothing more powerful than the validation that comes from achieving something no one thinks is possible.
2. You Want to be Bad (but can’t quite get there yourself)
You were raised well and kind of resent it. You are bound by the ‘shoulds’ your parents have outlined for you and dating a bad boy is a great way of turning up your nose at convention (and maybe even your parents).
3. You Want to See How the Other Side Lives (but can’t quite get there yourself)
Like second hand smoke, you get a whiff of the wild life (without the repercussions), as you live vicariously through your bad boy’s actions.
4. You Think it Must be Real if He Wants You Too
While he may have legitimate feelings for you, the underlying appeal lies in redemption. He sees in you, all that he will never be.
That bad boy unconsciously hopes, however, that by being associated with what’s good and right by society’s standards (AKA YOU), he too can get closer to being accepted.
5. You Have Low Self Esteem
You assume that you don’t deserve to be with someone grounded, competent, responsible and present for you, so you seek out mates that validate that belief.
6. You Love the Fairytale
Romantics at heart like nothing more than a good story about triumph against the odds. Imagine the narrative of the good girl that reforms the bad boy as they battle through all the travails of their tortured relationship.
They eventually work it out and live happily ever after, in the white picket fence-lined home that houses the 2.5 kids and adorable dog. It does sound dreamy.
Now count how many people are actually living that story?
And even though you once heard from a friend of a friend’s friend that knows someone that heard that it did happen once, that is the exception, NOT the rule.
Looking for evidence that acting in the short term of “want,” always puts you behind the 8 ball?
Here are some names to get you started:
- Charlie Sheen, His 3 Ex Wives and Every Other Woman He’s Ever Dated
- Sean Penn & His 2 Ex Wives
- Halle Berry & Her 2 Bad Boy Ex Husbands
- Tommy Lee, His 3 Ex Wives & 1 Fiancée
- Sandra Bullock and Jesse James
- Anne Hathaway and Rafaello Follieri
- Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown
- Jennifer Aniston and John Mayer
- Rhianna and Chris Brown
- Jude Law, his Ex Wife, their Nanny and oh yeah, Sienna Miller
Need I list further?
I certainly wasn’t there when these couples decided to get together and some of their relationships did actually last for years. They all however, ended and ended acrimoniously.
Without prior knowledge, I can tell you that they all started from a place of short term “want” versus really thinking about their compatibility down the road.
Of course, they assumed that they had what it took to make it work.
But if they had taken pause to think long term and examine why they were drawn to each other to begin with, they would have certainly been robbed of the intensity in the moment, but they would have been saved heart ache and the inevitability of being back on the dating market once the relationship folded.
At the end of the day, I couldn’t be completely negative and say that there will never be a bad boy that will stick with a good girl until the end, because in all struggle a little optimism must fall.
There is the example of Annette Bening and Warren Beatty, after all. Then again, they didn’t marry until he was 55.
So ask yourself, ladies, do you really have that kind of time?
Allison Cohen, M.A., MFT – www.lifeissuespsychotherapy.com
Growing up did you have to be prim and proper? Were you allowed to make mistakes without stern consequences?
If you answered yes to the first and no to the second question, you may have suppressed your “wild” side, the part of you who wants to be free to do whatever you want.
You’re locked into following the rules, so you are drawn to someone who doesn’t, who is a rule-breaker.
The dynamic is simultaneously upsetting and appealing to our shadow side that we keep hidden.
Bad boys get us in trouble and lead us into things we don’t want to do or convince us to do things against our will. This brings out our inner critic who judges us harshly for our behavior and heaps on shame, locking us further into this cycle. We come to believe we don’t deserve any better.
Breaking free is an inside job.
We need to address the lies, fears, and negative beliefs we hold that tell us, “This is the best you can get; you don’t deserve to have what you really want, you’re not good enough, you are unlovable.”
Identifying our fears and actually naming what we’re afraid of is a step towards freedom from self-sabotaging behaviors.
“I’m afraid of being rejected if I tell him how I really feel; I’m afraid he will be angry if I don’t go along with what he wants; I’m afraid no one else would ever love me.”
Become aware of what you carry in your “train of thought.”
You’re the conductor. You have power to stop that train at any moment and notice what you are telling yourself.
When you catch yourself saying, “you aren’t pretty enough, slim enough, smart enough, athletic enough,” or any other negative statement, interrupt that thought.
Write it down. Then counter it with a positive statement that is truthful.
You may need help to figure out what to tell yourself instead because the negative feels true, even though it’s not.
Over time, the negative starts to feel less and less true while the positive overlays what you used to believe about yourself.
When we address those inner beliefs, we free ourselves from attraction to bad boys when we come to believe we are worthy something better.
Charlene Benson, LPC, CSAT, CMAT – www.bensontherapist.com
Human behavior is complex and often seems to defy logic.
There are also innumerable variables involved so no one answer will fit every person. Scientists have been trying since the beginning of time to understand, predict, and manipulate people’s actions and reactions but much still remains a mystery.
And, that’s because the logic centers of the brain, located in the prefrontal cortex, govern some, but not all of what and why we do things.
Since this part of the brain was actually last in our evolutionary development it speaks to the importance of other ways of knowing and reacting.
For example, traumatic memories of experiences that are painful and powerful are stored in a completely different part of the brain called the amygdala. It has only been in recent history that psychologists have begun to understand that such memories are much deeper into the brain.
Bad boys, bad boys what ya goin’ to do, bad boys, bad boys…as the song goes. Logically it makes no sense for a female to have an attraction to a mate who will hurt her physically, emotionally, psychologically.
One possible explanation is her own childhood experiences that may have involved one or both parents, even siblings who were neglectful, abusive, hurtful.
In order to survive as a child such experiences are stored in the amygdala and as such not easily retrieved as an adult, perhaps even forgotten consciously but she also likely did get some love and attention by those same adults so pain and pleasure experiences become paired in a logic-defying manner.
Being treated badly becomes the norm and what “love” looks and feels like to her.
She has been “trained” to see the good in someone even if it is far less than she deserves. It is familiar and humans tend to gravitate toward the familiar even if it is bad for us.
The good news. Familiar patterns and traumatic experiences can be healed, not forgotten or denied, but healed.
And it is important to know that not all “bad boys” are truly bad. Each woman needs to assess which “bad” behaviors are acceptable enough so she can live, thrive in the most optimum way possible.
There are a variety of new and innovative therapies that much more effectively and quickly help to address destructive choices, patterns, and behavior. These therapies are scientifically based on much improved understanding of the brain and human behavior.
Linda M. Rio, M.A., MFT – www.lindamrio.com
I am offering a perspective for women who are finding that they have had a couple or maybe many very bad relationships.
These are situations where you have been harmed, lied to, taken advantage of, manipulated, intimidated, controlled, or physically, verbally or emotionally abused.
Along with having a career as a trauma therapist (child abuse, sexual abuse, and sexual assault mostly), I also have taught self defense classes for 19 years and have been a student of martial arts for 22 years.
I have researched violence against women, and have listened intently to hundreds of stories of abusive experiences. I have learned a lot about how women are chosen for attack physically, but also targeted for emotional abuse.
I have also worked with and listened to the perspective and intentions of perpetrators of violence, abuse, and other forms of harm.
The tactics used by the guy with intent to date rape for instance, are very similar to the person who is looking for a target to scam money, – or the guy who is looking for the next relationship within which he will lie, betray, manipulate or otherwise harm someone new.
Here is a quick summary of a common process used by harmful guys, that I call “Targeting and Testing”.
- Targeting: This means he observes you for signs he believes indicate that you will be a more malleable or passive person upon which to prey. Depending on his game, he will look for slightly different things. But know that if someone intends on using you, they usually watch early on for signs that you have weak boundaries, low self esteem, or are in some way needy for attention of some sort. (And aren’t we all at times?).
- Next, he will TEST: This means he will engage you and cross subtle and sometimes not so subtle boundaries…”Oh come on, don’t be rude – let me buy you another drink”… (After perhaps you already said ‘no thank you’ to the prior offer).
It’s after he has determined that you are a good candidate for whatever he is looking for, (and for the purposes of this article we are talking about men who want to become involved with a woman who will be easily manipulated, lied to, or in some way allow themselves to be treated with less than genuine good intentions) that he will move forward with next steps. (Like starting a relationship where he can get his needs met without regard for your well being).
Now I don’t mean to frighten anyone. In fact, this knowledge is power.
But it is estimated by many researchers that sociopathy and other severely maladaptive and pathological abusive personalities are more common than we think.
Estimates suggest that as many as 1 in 10 males have a pattern in their behaviors that put them in the “he will abuse me” category. The good news is that leaves about 9 out of 10 guys who are OK.
So your odds are very good that if you choose a guy to get to know, you are likely to choose someone who (while they may not be THE ONE) is unlikely to be abusive in any way. But if you are spending your time and energy with the yucky folks, you’ll be in the weeds. It won’t be easy to see the flowers.
So let’s clear out some of the weeds. By the way, did you hear me say “you choose”?
There is power in being the chooser. You are more likely to pick someone good than be picked by someone good.
Knowing there are people who will target you for a relationship based on their belief that you will allow a certain level of abusive, manipulative or just plain cold behavior to occur without consequences – is your power.
And let me be clear, I do not mean to say that if you have had a few or a string of “bad” relationships that this is your fault.
Spotting someone who is controlling or dishonest or even abusive is not something we can do with complete accuracy. And it is not something many of us are ever taught to even think about.
I am also not saying that most poor outcomes or less than stellar relationships are the result of someone’s bad intentions.
If you have had one or two relationships where you felt you weren’t treated well, it’s possible you were just a bad match for each other, the guy was just lacking in some relational skills, or other elements were present that mark a relationship for failure.
Good people mess up. Relationships are complicated by both partner’s histories, and we play out some of our best and worst traits in the context of an intimate relationship.
What I am saying is that I have seen too many women who are repeatedly targeted by those with unkind or selfish intentions and I want to open lid on this phenomena and expose steps you can take to decrease your risks of attracting this sort of person.
Be it romantic relationships, friendships, or even workplaces – we deserve to know more about how to spot an abuser.
Watching for and observing boundary violations, disrespect, limit crossing or pushiness is your key to sorting through the weeds.
Sometimes the boundary violations of an abusive person are subtle and stay that way for many months. Sometimes they are obvious and show up right away. But if you are watching for boundary violations early and often, you are in a good place to make valuable judgments about who you allow to get closer to you.
And this is a key: Allow close in, only those people who treat you with fairness, honesty, authenticity, respect and good intentions – and you will know the life of good connections.
This isn’t to say people don’t mess up, let you down, or sometimes act poorly. I am talking about a set of behaviors that indicate good intentions.
And it is behavior that counts! Promises do not count. Words only count if they are consistent with behaviors.
Abusive types will say one thing and do another. They will lie to you while looking you in the eye. They will deny what you know or feel in your gut to be true. They will leave you confused and bewildered and sometimes feeling like you are in a hall of mirrors. But that is usually only if you are listening to what you want to hear rather than facing squarely what you see and feel through their behaviors.
What do you do to at least LIMIT the chances you will be a more welcoming target for bad guys?
- Know your boundaries.
- Practice your assertive body language. Look straight ahead and keep alert when you are walking; stand up straight; pay attention to your surroundings; look confident (even when you aren’t); make eye contact as needed; use an adult form of speech and voice tone.
- Do not feel the need to answer every question. Keep your privacy (especially with folks who haven’t earned your trust).
- Be willing to open your eyes to when people are testing you or crossing some limits (even if you haven’t verbalized them).
- Set limits. Use assertive communication to enforce a boundary: “I said no thank you” (to that 2nd offer of a drink where you ridiculed me and called me rude for not accepting) “and you need not ask again.”
- Stop worrying so much about pleasing people who aren’t respectful. Stopping someone’s attempts to push you is not impolite. The pushing they are doing IS!
- Check in with what matters more: your safety and the possibility of better relationships in the future, or being called mean or bitchy.
- Know that having calm, self contained, assertive communication and using boundaries as needed is an excellent way of getting valuable and needed information about people.
- Your demeanor and assertiveness are your protective advertising. It is not foolproof but it is an excellent way to keep yourself safer, happier, and attracting better people.
- Start thinking about places in your current relationship (if you are concerned) that may need a dose of level headed, calm and assertive limit setting, or even self protection. (Think verbal, emotional, sexual, financial etc).
Good guys don’t test your limits.
They have no agenda and do not need to scout out if you are a weak target. When your limits, even subtle ones, are being crossed – look very carefully at the person crossing them and do not let them closer to you (physically or emotionally), until you find out more about them, or maybe not at all.
I have said this before in my articles: Using your judgment and assertiveness does not reduce your connection to the world and people – it increases it. We are safe to be open when surrounded by caring people we attracted through our maintenance of self worth, as demonstrated using boundaries.
So this isn’t about acting like a “bad-ass.” It’s not about looking tough. It is about holding your demeanor, self awareness, and countenance in a place of self care.
You can work at this even if it feels awkward. Think about what you would say, how you would communicate, and what you would allow in to your personal life space if you did value yourself more than any other thing in the world.
(Please note: I was asked to write this for women dating men. Please insert your gender pronouns to suit your situation. Lesbian, gay, transgendered and all folks entering into intimacies need to know about abusive personalities as they come in any gender.)
Kris Gooding, LCSW – www.find-within.com
Many women gravitate towards what they are used to and what feels most comfortable when they are dating.
If you are used to dating dominating men, for example, a quiet, mellow man may not be someone you find attractive.
Without realizing it, your choices become an unconscious habit that is difficult to break without some degree of awareness.
- So, why are you attracted to bad boys?
- Think about what these bad boys offer you. Are you feeling more secure with a strong, affirming male?
- Do you like the confidence and cockiness that these men display?
- Do they make you feel good about yourself when a “take-charge” kind of guy is interested in you?
- But, are they really good for you?
- Have you had lasting, committed relationships with these “bad” boys?
- Are you looking for more stability in your life?
These questions may help you understand why you gravitate towards them.
If you find yourself dating the same type of person over and over again, you need to step outside the box and try something – and someone –new.
Avoid the macho man and the “players.” Allow those with a more sensitive and caring nature to sweep you off your feet.
Explore a personality type who is different than yours, yet still aligns with your philosophy and values.
Give less drama and chaos a back seat to serenity and peace in your life. Then see if this new relationship is something you can get used to. You’ll finally be breaking a pattern that may bring about the best fit for a long-term, solid relationship.
Amy Sherman, M.A., LMHC – www.yourbabyboomersnetwork.com
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