Why Do We Fall for Bad Guys? How to Conquer the Urge to Go Bad

Young woman upset at men watching sports on TV

You’re at the party or the bar, and you see him. He’s probably got a beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other. Maybe he’s in the band. He’s got great hair, perfect hands, and that vibe. He might not have a motorcycle and a leather jacket—or maybe he does?—but whatever, he’s just a little dangerous, a little scary…and as soon as your eyes meet, it’s all over. He’s got you.

You know the next part. The relationship is passionate; he’s so into you, like he wants to own you, and it feels great. He’s pushing your comfort zone, you tell your besties. And the sex…

But it always happens, doesn’t it? This next part, where he cheats on you or ditches you for his buddies. Or he lies or gets you into territory you aren’t sure you’re comfortable with. Worse—he hurts you. You fight. You make up. Eventually, it ends.

And if you are like my two wonderful friends, Sarah and Jessie, you rinse and repeat.

What is it with the bad boy thing? Why are we attracted to this archetype/stereotype, even when we know it’s not right? I think there are two main reasons why the bad guy keeps his allure and definite steps you can take if this is your go-to type.

(I want to be clear here: there are bad boys and there are abusive men. Sometimes the line is fuzzy, but if you are in a relationship with someone who is abusing you, that is a serious situation. Please get help—from a shelter, a trusted friend, counselor, or other professional.)

Search and Rescue

Jessie is a search and rescue expert. Not like the get-you-off-a-mountain type, but rather the search-for-the-tormented-soul-and-save-him variety. She’s had several tumultuous relationships with bad boys over the years, and her MO was to try to fix her relationship with her alcoholic dad by “saving” these men.

Each of her boyfriends was initially the tortured musician/writer/artist type, and they all had addiction problems. They were fascinating, compelling, hot guys to be sure, and she loved being lavished with their attention, loved being the special muse. But ultimately, she ended up in co-dependent situations where she was always going to be next in line after the addiction, then the art—and, if she was lucky, she was next after that.

Jessie isn’t into casual hookups, so she always got deeply involved with these guys, who were often older than her as well. She was always sure her love and devotion could save them from themselves. It was—and I say this with all love for her—delusional.

Eventually, she’d realize that the guy wasn’t going to put her first―ever—and that she couldn’t save him. She’d chastise herself, end it—or get dumped—and lick her wounds.

Then on to the next.

Now that she’s finally said NO to her urge to go bad and understands how the deep longing for her father’s love was driving her, she’s doing the healing and spiritual work to get healthy for a healthy man. She’s made a list of her “non-negotiables” in relationships and has vowed to stand by those. For example, “no addicts” is high on the list.

“I Don’t Deserve Love”

Sarah told me she’s just not attracted to nice guys—and she’s had a string of bad boys to prove it. Like Jessie, she’s had a few alcoholic boyfriends, a few with prison tats, and even one scary heroin addict who helped her break the habit long enough to ask herself what the hell she was doing.

She has this idea that these guys just need to be loved. No one has given them a chance, and just because they aren’t perfect…and so on. I’m all for empathy, compassion, and giving people a chance. We all make mistakes. But Sarah’s typical guy really wasn’t trying to transform his life, and it was, in fact, this “badness” that she liked.

After the scary heroin guy, she came to me for a reading. We got into some pretty emotional territory, and at one point, she started to cry, saying, “I just don’t deserve any better, you know? So why bother? Nice guys never want me.”

This was so not true. But it was what she felt inside.

Sarah, like Jessie, is now working on her inner self-love so she can meet a guy who can be there for her. She recently went to an AA meeting with a friend and met a guy there. Yes, he’s working on sobriety, but he’s trying and willing to grow. Sarah is cautiously getting to know this man. He’s not a bad boy, but rather a man who has made some bad choices and had some bad experiences that he’s trying to learn from. There’s a big difference.

Lack of self-love or a rescuer complex are the main issues I see going on with girls who want the bad guys. And, of course, our culture makes this archetype seem acceptable and desirable. But a film isn’t real life.

We all deserve to love and be loved, forgiven, given second chances, and to grow. And you know the difference between someone who is trying to make positive changes in their lives and a guy who just wants to drag you into his crazy-making.

In today’s hookup culture, we often get involved with people before we really have any idea who they are. But especially once you are past the age of twenty-five, you might be starting to look for something lasting and real. If bad guys are your kryptonite, get some support to understand why you are attracted to them and what you can change within yourself, for yourself, so you can have a healthy relationship with someone who treats you like an equal, valuable human being.

Are you stuck in relationship patterns? Find yourself never connecting with a real love? Advisors on Keen can help you understand why. Call and get the support you need today.

Zada is a Boston-based intuitive and spiritual blogger, Yogi, and dog mom to two Cocker Spaniels, Demi and Bruce. She specializes in Tarot and Reiki, and uses her intuitive gifts to help individuals reach enlightenment and lead their most authentic lives every day through meditation, visualization, and Jivamukti. Her spirit animal is a Pegasus named Randy.
Article Image Source: Stocksy user Jacki Potorke.
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