Dating the Bad Boy

Easy RiderFor some reason many more women than are willing to admit it have a thing for the bad boy. Actually there are several reasons, both sociological and sexual, not all of which I am prepared to go into at this time. The fact remains, however, that while other gender stereotypes have been put to rest you can still find a school teacher or PTA member somewhere drooling for a dude with a tattoo driving a Harley. That doesn’t do it for you? That’s ok, there are several types of bad boys from the guy at the gym with no neck and a shoulder tattoo to the moody hipster with a man purse giving a finger to the establishment. Some of you even swoon for a dusty dude in cowboy boots.

On an anthropological level there are some fairly obviously sexual reasons women are still attracted to the bad boy. Sigmund Freud would have a field day with this topic and there would be several unguarded references to violence, rebellion and counterculture penis envy. While I would LOVE to spend time helping some of my female friends question their sexual and psychological reasons for such a preference it would only serve to invite a backlash and cloud the issue. I really have no idea why you personally like the bad boy, maybe you just have a thing for overstated machismo. I mainly brought the tensions up because they are really fun to write about.

There is a pragmatic reason why I have an opinion, as a therapist, about this stereotype. On a far more pragmatic and painful level I have seen firsthand the relational problems and tears from patients who have lived with the man behind the tattoo, or murse, or protein shake.

What I am about to say is a generalization. As Gonzo says in the original Christmas Carol, “That one thing you must remember, or nothing that follows will seem wondrous.” There are exceptions to every generalization and I already know I am going to get deluged by women telling me their Hell’s Angel is actually a big kitten. Ok I get that, can we go on?

The kitty-cat notwithstanding I have spent many hours listening to women, and a few men, who are devastated by the man of their dreams and desires who, for some reason they cannot fathom, seems shallow, emotionally unavailable, even narcissistic. Imagine that, a guy who spends thousands upon thousands of dollars and calories on his image having an issue with narcissistic behavior. You want me to come clean so I’ll say it, the bad boy is generally a bad boy for a reason. Most people who are this concerned about looking tough or being a rebel are battling significant self-esteem issues and are insecure and potentially self-absorbed. The very reason you are attracted to them is the reason you should run. Let me say that again – the very reason you are attracted to them is the reason you should run.

Remember Fonzie? Tyler Durden? James Bond? Gilligan? (Wait, not that last one). A generation of yuppies idolized Fonzie, the Easy Rider, and Clint Eastwood because they did not need anyone. They were completely self-absorbed. They were not in touch with their feelings, in fact they spent and inordinate amount of time trying to impress everyone around them that they had no feelings. Does this really sound like someone you want to spend fifty years with? Remove the rose-colored lenses and simply ask yourself if your ‘strong silent type’ or your outgoing man candy is going to live a sacrificial life that puts you first in every decision that matters and share with you their hopes and dreams and emotions.

I wish I could videotape the hundreds of hours of tears, the pain and the misery that I have had to listen to from spouses who feel emotionally distant or even abused by someone who will never put them first. I wish you could be in my chair as those same people break up and then date the exact same stereotype again and again, expecting different results. Didn’t Einstein have something to say about that?

If you are falling for the bad boy I hope you will be the exception to the rule. Unfortunately, as much as we hope, few of us ever are. Instead, date a school teacher. Sure they’re usually passive-aggressive and wear Dockers but at the end of the day they’ll still be there, with their i-pad, complaining about their three months of vacation but faithful and true. The sex may not be amazing but at least you can teach them to make it all about you.

Or I can, give me their email address.

15 thoughts on “Dating the Bad Boy

  1. My bad boy was a narcissist, and here’s what hooked me: We think that these men are powerful and that somehow we will be safe in their care. After all, if we are possessions (and we LOVE to BELONG) and they are territorial, then we fall under that protection umbrella, right? If they are strong and mean, they can keep us safe. Problem is when they turn around and use all those tools on us (and they will when there is no other “enemy” to conquer. Then, not so fun. Just my thoughts πŸ™‚

  2. I am just seeing this post… I’ve been formulating one of my own the same topic. I think that what you have to say is completely correct, I just know there’s so much to be said about this topic. I know what I’ve been attracted to the bad ones. Again, when I can muster up the strength, I will write about it….from a woman’s perspective.

    Thank you for writing this. I said FAREWELL to my bad boy on Sunday. Hear me when I say, that I am simply DONE. It’s been an exhausting, confusing year. He has pulled a great many ‘a Jedi mind tricks on me. It’s taking a little while to pick up the pieces… but at some point you just have to draw the line. My bad boy never got better. Conversely, he got worse and worse with each tick of the clock. It’s loco.

    Thanks for being there…and for all the work you put into this blog. I just love it…. You rock!


  3. Points well made! My experience with the Bad Boy syndrome is that it comes down to a pretty complex variety of emotions. Primarily there is infatuation and lust. Also, for some of us, the misguided idea that we can save them from themselves and help them become more aware of the needs of others. Then once we truly realize and accept that they are indeed a narcissistic, self-absorbed, emotionally unavailable individual who has no intention of exploring change; we then spend more time in the relationship trying to find the redeeming qualities that will justify our having fallen for them and the time, effort and pain we’ve gone through. This last one is, of course, another futile exercise.

    The one positive thing that can come out of this is that we learn a lot about ourselves and our capacity for love and forgiveness. Being/staying with the bad boy speaks volumes about us as well (which provides for lots to work through with a therapist who does not suck =). Hopefully, we also learn that we deserve better and seek a partner who will be present and a full participant in the relationship.

  4. Wait a minute..I’m a school teacher dating a tatooed Harley rider! I’ve never had a thing for “bad boys,” and even though this guy may fit the part superficiallly, he’s less of a bad boy than my preppy, Banana Republic wearing ex. It’s more in the personality, motivations, and values than it is in the external ornamentation of choice.

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