I encounter this lament frequently as I peruse relationship columns on the web. Primarily, I see these words from the guys. “I’m a nice guy,” they say to themselves and the rest of cyberworld, “so why do all the women only date bad boys? Why won’t they go out with a nice guy like me? What is THEIR problem?”
So, why DO women choose men who they know will lie, drink, cheat, hang out at strip clubs, and overall treat them badly? Why don’t they choose that ‘nice guy next door’?
The paradigms I most frequently run across during my search for a better self goes something like this: women (and men) find partners who a) match their level of dysfunction, and b) they subconsciously want the partner to fix their unresolved childhood issues and c) expect to change them into the perfect man.
a) Ah, the drama of dysfunction.
We ain’t perfect. We all got baggage. We all got past issues. We got them soooo bad.
I think this is part and parcel of projection. By projection here, I mean more than just perceiving someone through our own lens of imperfections and fears. I am including everything from shame dumping, transference of issues, self righteous comparisons, power imbalance, and my personal favorite, living by proxy. A ‘bad’ boy is a wonderful place for a woman to dump the shame of her own sexuality. The bad man can be ‘made’ responsible for all her sexually deviant behaviors, all her angst, all her internal hatred. She can hold herself blameless, emotionally, for anything she gets into. She can ride the rollercoaster of emotions and have an external source for her ups and downs. The worse he is, the better she can feel about herself! She can compare her devotion to his lack thereof, and know what a great person she must be. How much she puts up with, how deeply she feels her love. She can prove how strong she is, how capable, how committed. How much he NEEDS her. A bit martyr, a bit angel complex, and absolved of all her sins.
I think this encompasses that Law of Attraction, too. Insecurity can only deal with insecurity. If someone actually expects the best from us, we feel obligated to try and be the best, and that is at best daunting, at worst overwhelming. Attracting that into your life which is just like you, same dysfunctional level, same inability to love, same crap, different sex. Some keep it psychological, others take it to the next spiritual plane. Maybe yes, maybe no. Most likely, though, something in the past allowed her to accept and tolerate a level of dysfunction which someone else, someone who knew more what love really felt like, would run for higher ground, and be right to do so. Tolerance, acceptance, and being nonjudgmental are not really the great personal qualities we keep being ‘shoulded’ about. Psychopaths love it when we tolerate, accept, and do not judge their behavior.
However, I think one of the BIGGEST, MOST IMPORTANT REASON is that, by proxy of his wild behaviors, the ‘good girl’ gets to live a lifestyle of which she is, personally, terrified. She gets to feel what it means to be BAD when he is bad. She gets to step outside her own programming. Her mimic nervous system picks up his lies, and she gets to feel what it means to lie. She feels his internal anger, and she gets to experience her own anger mirrored in his body language even when she is psychologically trained not to express her own rage. He becomes that living, breathing symbol of her own shadow self. She can release all that inner baggage and longing and living by proxy, like reading a novel to swoon over the heroic actions, or watching a date movie to get to feel sorrow and loving, only this is even better, more real, more emotional and from the gut.
As opposed to the guy who only seemed nice – you know, that guy who asked Deanna into that ceremony for his dead ‘mother’ just to trick her into carrying all his emotional garbage so he could walk around all squeaky clean while she went nuts and old? People who dump their bad onto other people so they don’t have to deal with their own flaws and pains. I heard once long ago that the actors playing the villains were the nicest people in real life. As if, by playing bad, they get to work through it all, get it out of their system. Let those neurons loops finish that childhood angst business.
I am not a real bad boy (or girl).
I just play one on TV (or that TV of my inner world).
b) Be my (better than he ever was) Daddy.
I generally take exception to the notion that we marry someone hoping they will be that loving parental figure which we never had. The best love we ever had, yes. Otherwise, marrying them is a doomed prospect from the getgo.
Unresolved childhood issues revolve around that subconscious programming. How did the woman’s parents treat each other? The husband’s? The partners of any type? Did dad make snide comments about mom? Did mom cry to get her way? Did dad hit to get his way? Did dad ignore mom when he was angry? Did dad take out his anger on his kids? Was mom treated as incompetent? Was dad ignored behind his back and honored to his face? Did older brothers or sisters take out their frustrations and rage on the younger, and get away with it? What was sacred in the family? What was let slide? What was given attention?
I understand an abused child growing up to have identification with the abuser. If someone was abused and felt powerless, they have been trained/taught a version of what the abuser used to hold on to power. They have been trained what power looks like. I saw how my mother wielded her power, and although I knew I DID NOT want to abuse power that way, I had few other models to learn from. I only saw my relatives once or twice a year, and the families on my block were all about as messed up as my own. Maybe somewhere in the back of my hopes and dreams I thought, if I were the perfect child, I would get back perfect love.
Maybe,while still a young boy, the son thought the father’s treatment of his mother was horrible. Maybe he wished, and fantasized, how he would stand up to his father and protect his mother. But what he actually learns is how to abuse women to get his way. He doesn’t learn how to protect his mother, rather he learns that to worry about his mother feels horrible, leaves him feeling weak and ineffectual. So later, when he feels weak and ineffectual, the only model he has to feel good again is to fall back on what he knows about how to feel powerful. And, although he may dislike himself for it, the unease in the pit of his stomach, the face in the mirror which looks more and more like the face he feared but had to respect, he continues and becomes more and more that which he has been trained to be. Myself, I saw my parents’ treatment of each other as horrible. I did not see loving behaviors, or respectful treatment. Occasionally they would act affectionate, and it was actually more uncomfortable for me because it was so not normal! In opposition, I decided that to love a man meant to not expect him to do things for me, so I didn’t ask for much from him, certainly not to bitch about things he did help me with, even if he passively aggressively screwed it up accidentally on purpose, and to be supportive even if he was lazy, fat, insecure, and incapable of taking care of himself at any real level.
As for completing unfinished childhood business, I do believe that there are nervous functions which, once initiated, must be completed before the instinctual behavior pattern behind them will cease. A fight or flight response needs to be acted on, the motions actualized, before the feedback loop can let loose the dopamine feedback which says ‘got it! we can stop now!’ It’s kind of like chronic fatigue syndrome – an infectious disease kicks in the immune system, which, for whatever reason, then never gets the signal to shut back down, so it continues to crank out chemicals which cause inflammation and other various symptoms of fighting disease. The need to sleep along side the constant metabolic high alert all create an intense malaise. So, too, can a trauma create post traumatic stress disorder. A traumatic event occurs where the person is unable to respond. They cannot run, they cannot fight back, they freeze and dissociate. In this state they may be emotionally safe for the moment, but the nervous system still required some sort of ACTION. Without action being able to be completed, the initiated fight/flight response, throughout the entire body, remains in a ‘waiting’ state. The emotional system stays on high alert. So, if given an opportunity to work through those initial states, anger, fear, running away, attacking, those emotional needs for closure are still seeking an outlet. If this is internal process which is seeking to be completed, then this could be the subconscious unresolved issues which the person is trying to fix. Even emotional dysfunction, where a broken relationship never gets repaired, so the damage continues, begins a process analogous to gangrene, until the relationship rots from inside.
I have read in some psychology self helpers that catharsis, that process of screaming into pillows, or yelling at the stand in for your dad, or getting saved, are worthless. I think they are wrong. As one time events, sure. Anyone needing that much help is going to need LOTS of cathartic moments to let out all those programs that got started in childhood and never allowed to complete. Yeah, those endorphins during the process might also be addictive, but at least they are healthier than booze, or drugs, or compulsive sex to dampen down the call of those unfinished brain loops.
So, it is possible that if we did not get love from a parent, we hope that our current partner will provide all that love we never knew. It is possible we expect them to keep the promises that were never kept. We expect them to be the better person that we knew our parents were not. The ways we were rejected and neglected are our vulnerable spots. But mostly, I think the majority of what we dump on each other is not because we see that person as our parent, per se. But we do see the relationships between our parents as our blueprint. How can we know what makes a great relationship if we never had that modeled for us? Where can we use that as a template, an option, a way of life, when we have never learned it? We recreate in our relationships what we have learned, even if they did not start out that way. We do not become them, merely the shadow image which we experienced of them; them, from the other side of the looking glass.
I do not think that, for the most part, men marry hoping to get the love, or to protect the woman, as they could not interact with their own mother. I do not think women marry men expecting them to fix the empty hole where their father abandoned them. I DO think that men and women in these situations do not KNOW HOW TO RELATE TO EACH OTHER AT A CLEANER, SAFER, MORE LOVING LEVEL because they never saw it. When something goes wrong, they have no clue how to fix it. When they think they are trying to fix it, they are just butting heads because the tools are at best blunt, at worst like using a hammer when a saw is called for. Sure, there are a few who see ‘woman’ and only perceive ‘mommy NOT my mommy!’ And vice versa. In general, though, I think we are quite aware that we are not with mom, or dad, but they were are teachers. For YEARS, we learned HOW TO BE, from them, broken as they were.
So, if our parent’s relationship was broken, even in ways that seem normal for modern families, we only have that model for how to interact. We contain a narrow set of skills and experiences, and while our relationship may suck, maybe it is better than what we grew up with. The emptiness of a relationship with a bad boy may be all we know how to expect, or deal with. We think this is what love must be. That this is all there is. And while we may not expect the other person not to fix us, or us not to fix them, or not to heal us all up, I DO think we go into those long term relationships hoping the other person won’t DAMAGE us even more.
If the father was abusive, or abandoning, or made innappropriate sexual comments, or worse, sexually abused her in silence and secrecy, then this is what she has learned a man is. From the outside, all may look well with her. She may excell at sports. She may do well in the classroom. She may have friends. But at some level, sex and love have become tied to fear and pain, and although the woman may not want that in her life anymore, she has been conditioned to overlook aspects of cruelty and hatred in how she is being treated. She hardly knows the difference, because she has NEVER known the difference.
c) We can fix anyone and anything if we throw enough love at it.
If we just love someone enough, they will blossom into that person we know they can be. If only THEY could SEE it in themselves. Until they do, we will see it for them.
How about that Beauty? She really is going to change Beast into a Prince.
That is the fallacy, isn’t it. Growing up we women are taught that, if we love enough, if we are perfect enough, than that grumpy, growly, angry, hateful, abusive man will grow into a better, loving, kind men. HA! Fairy Godmother is SOOOO WRONG. She looked through her fairytale library and proclaimed “NO OGRES!’ But from what I can tell, fairytales are FILLED with ogres! Beauty’s Beast, Tangled’s Eugene, who lies from the beginning, and the end, no less, and his first act is to lead her into mortal danger! The lure of the vampire, aroused by the smell of ‘female blood’, and will suck the life out of any pure, naive woman. At least Shrek is an obvious and authentic an ogre! A real bad boy, up close and personal. Yet, that ‘layers’ thing, that their might be a loving heart beneath all that selfish, rude, antisocial shell, is the same old lure.
What do I really see as the penultimate message in so many ‘romantic’ fairytales?
1. Girls getting abused is romantic. Fairytale girls are pretty much raised in abusive homes. Evil stepmothers. Ugly, vengeful stepsisters. Neglectful, dismissive, abandoning fathers. Raised on emotional and sometimes physical abuse, these girls become more than just conditioned and inured to constant denigration and disrespect. They, and by proxy, we as women, learn that TO BE ABUSED MEANS THAT YOU ARE A GOOD GIRL. The more abuse I take, the better I must be. The abuse of others just shows how much they envy me. So, if I keep being abused, I must be a GREAT GIRL! We are being trained by Disney and other popular ‘romance’ that being abused is normal, desirable. If I am being abused, especially by other women, that is my external validation of what a really kind, nice, good girl I truly am! And if we are kind and nice and good, then we will be rewarded with riches! Or at least, a handsome guy who treats us like a princess. Eventually, someday, SOMEONE will notice our purity of heart and treat us right!!!!
2. Suffering proves you care. If I didn’t care, it wouldn’t hurt. Only someone with a heart is capable of such suffering. I can also see how this ties in somewhere with our Western philosophyhow suffering is good, for the soul, no pain no gain. Pulling one up by one’s bootstraps, and all that, a path is painful and difficult and fraught with obstacles. The more barriers in life we overcome, the stronger and wiser we will be. The ONLY way to grow is through suffering. Scars are marks of bravery and type A persons. So, men are encouraged to get their scars on, usually through battling external forces in the world, while women’s scars are too often from abuse at the hands of family members and lovers.
3. If you got it too easily, it must not be worth anything. I mean, bad boys have a ton of girls, so if she wins him, she REALLY wins. The mystique of rock stars and strippers, a thousand to choose but they chose ME. Equally, perhaps all humans, not just we in the West, only value something we have earned with difficulty and strife. Something paid for dearly. Love without overcoming great obstacles doesn’t thrill, engage, nor earn our respect. We only respect those who earned their riches, and denigrate those who have it given. We only value that which we bled for, fought for, have scars to prove the battle, chased and won and chased again. I see this as conqueror’s mind squeezed through a pioneer’s lens. We do not seem to value gifts, no matter their price, no matter the affection behind them.
So much for unconditional love!
WHY AREN’T GOOD GIRLS DATING THOSE NICE GUYS?
After all, I dated my share of ‘bad boys’. And then, I married someone who I thought was a really, really nice guy.
I learned something from those experiences that I would like to share.
Nice Guy Syndrome, SUCKS.
I think most of those ‘nice’ guys believe they are entitled to have their shot at the hot ‘girls’, and the fault is that those darn girls should wise up and ditch the ‘bad boys’. Their attitude drips the acids of resentment and bitterness, which belies their ‘nice’ guy facade. Even though they have convinced themselves they are fairytale ‘nice guys’, they are not good guys, nor kind, nor considerate, nor respectful, nor authentic. The uglier truth is, they are angry, insecure, acting as ‘yes’ men, saying anything to get the girl, while in reality they just want in her pants like the ‘bad boys’, after all.
And somewhere in her most primitive, basic nervous system, the woman feels this, fears this. She knows that, if she falls for this guy, this supposedly one of a kind, believes in his nicer qualities, then she will be hurt so much more when he turns out to be just like the ‘bad’ boys, when he cheats, and lies, and hurts her terribly because of his own baggage, his own deep seated insecurities. She is in for a world of hurt far beyond the ‘bad’ boy, because this ‘nice’ guy got her to believe.
She believed he cared.
She believed he was true.
And she, I, believed he would not hurt her, me, so she opened up to him, relied on him, trusted him. And when he falls, and drags her heart and her hopes down into that glass strewn gutter along with him, it will not be merely anger, or hurt, or angst that she feels. Instead, she will experience pain and devastation, humiliation, disbelief, soul shattering heartbreak like none other, for she will have truly loved him. Maybe, hopefully a piece of her still knew that he lied, and did not want to believe, and kept her safe in her innermost sanctuary. But the pain will be unbearable.
ONLY SOMEONE WE DEEPLY BELIEVE LOVES US, CAN EVER HURT US THROUGH TO OUR CORE.
What have I learned? Why women, and men, often prefer to date someone who is incapable of loving them in return. Dating a person we know is dangerous and will hurt us is SAFER! To know, right up front, that I will be used, and lied to, and played, and cheated on. It is wisdom, to be with someone who knows themself well enough that they will lie, and cheat, and disrespect, and wears this truth of their personhood out in the open. Next time, I could well be safer if I date a man who openly hates women, and plays them all, than to put faith and my heart into the hands of someone who hates just as much, but does so from the shadows, lashes out in secret, and does everything the bad boy does, but is sneakier.
And I think THAT is what women are most afraid of. Believing, and finding out the most devastating way that it was all a lie.
My advice to me? I will look at that bad boy, and figure out what it is that I wish I WERE DOING because I thrill from watching him experience living. Look at that ‘nice’ guy and listen for the subtle whine of self pity, the shirking of ownership via quiet blaming, the sneaking pornographic looks at other women, and know him for what he really is, and that haunting hints of creepy loneliness are the REAL red flags. Recognize that unnerving itch like heavy woolen blankets dragged along my nerves which means someone else is trying to make me carry their personal baggage, and give it back for them to own. Protect myself from that ‘ookie’ feeling of boundaries being crossed by bad boys and nice guys alike, and most importantly, WHEN I CROSS MY OWN BOUNDARIES! And if I feel like screaming to get some of the anger out, SCREAM a little.
Perhaps most importantly, I decide to stand up for myself, and really have my back. Do my utmost to keep my promises to me, pay attention to when I let something I wanted to do slide and then enable myself with lame excuses, and TREAT MYSELF THE WAY I WANT SOMEONE ELSE TO TREAT ME! If I do that, then I will KNOW THE DIFFERENCE. I will know what I want, what it feels like to get it, and to hold myself responsible to myself. Then, when someone else is NOT holding up their end, I will recognize it, and know it is NOT GOOD ENOUGH FOR ME anymore.
And, honestly, that I have more work to clear up some of that ‘Nice’ Girl Syndrome of my own.
Do any of these musings strike a chord from your life? Maybe this can help.