Why do we fall for bad boys / bad girls time and again -- and how can we stop this heart-breaking, self-destructive pattern?
Mick the Bastard
For almost three years, I dated a guy called Mick the Bastard. That wasn't his real name, of course. That was what my best girlfriend called him, as she listened sympathetically -- and patiently -- while I recounted the latest heart-wrenching episode in my doomed romance with this guy.
Mick had all the hallmarks of a real bastard:
- He didn't return my phone calls
- He would turn up late to dinner dates, sometimes having already eaten
- He would 'disappear' for days and then reappear with no explanation as to where he'd been
- He refused, even after three years, to discuss our relationship, what he wanted from it or where he thought it was going
As bastards go, Mick had it in spades.
An All-too Common Theme
We all know someone who ends up dating the 'wrong type.' The bad guy who treats the honest, girl-next-door poorly. The heartless strumpet who breaks the heart of the genuine, sensitive lad. These characters are motifs that run through many of our love lives. But why?
What is it that makes bitches and bastards so appealing?
Dr. Leonard Felder, author of Wake Up or Break Up (Rodale) explains: "People who grew up with a controlling or domineering parent or older sibling are often drawn to the same kind of situation as an adult because it feels 'familiar,' whereas someone who grew up in a family where people respected each other will look at a controlling person and say 'No way,'" he says.
Which goes a long way towards explaining why Heather* only ever dated guys who treated her badly. "My dad was an alcoholic and I grew up in a household where there was lots of anger and unacceptable behavior," she says, adding that most of her 20s were spent chasing after unavailable or damaged men. Desperate to break the cycle, Heather sought help from a relationship counselor.