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Dear Dr. Debra,

Why do women love "bad boys?" I'm not talking about abusive men. I'm talking about those "difficult" men you often see in movies and on TV. The two characters that immediately come to mind (probably because they are personal favorites of mine) are Dr. House, the lead character on the TV show House, and Indiana Jones. I'm sure there are lots of other examples—probably even Rhett Butler from Gone With the Wind falls into this category (Scarlett may not have wanted him until the end, but the rest of us wanted him much sooner.) as well as Luke from Cool Hand Luke (not just because he was played by Paul Newman). What is it about these men, who I think most of us would acknowledge would make terrible husbands and life partners, that makes us swoon?

Dear Swooner,

You mean besides them being attractive and sexy...?

When I read your question, a stereotypical picture of a bad boy comes to mind. He's wearing a black leather jacket and tight-fitting jeans (which he fills out very well). His hair is longish, and his gaze is seductive. Of course, there's a motorcycle nearby. In reality, bad boys can have any look; it's that sexy edge he has that hooks you.

I admit to sometimes being fond of bad boys myself. Although I'm not talking about a bad man—a criminal or a drug/alcohol abuser, someone who's abusive, or who won't treat you with respect.

Bad boys provide mystery and excitement in your life. There's the challenge of getting one to notice you, to want to go out with you, and to have a relationship with you. When one asks you out, you're the envy of all your female acquaintances. (Sometimes we never graduate from high school.)

There's an edge to a bad boy that takes you away from the safety (and sometimes boredom) of a nice guy. He might also be unpredictable, which can make him very interesting. Perhaps he even pulls you a bit into his exotic world, thus giving you some special life experiences.

In spite of the knowledge abounding in our society about dysfunctional relationships, the idea of the wounded, "dark" man continues to be attractive. This kind of relationship is often a woman's ultimate, subconscious fantasy—through the power of my love and loyalty, I can help you heal and transform into a loving, sensitive man. What a high if you can get this kind of guy to fall in love with you and change for the better.

If you have a childhood wound from an emotionally unavailable father, it's possible to have a subconscious belief that you can heal yourself—fill your emptiness—by getting an emotionally unavailable man to fall in love with you. Unfortunately, this doesn't work. You are the only one who can heal yourself.

Sometimes these types of men are ready to evolve and settle down. Rhett Butler did. So do the bad boy heroes in romance novels. But that's usually not the case in reality. The truth is men are difficult to change. Wounded men (unless they seek healing) will only wound the women in their lives.

So enjoy bad boys, but don't try to change them or even consider them as life partners. It requires some detachment on the part of the woman, which most women aren't able to do. But if you can... :)

Dr. Debra

Feel free to write me with your questions

Debra Holland, Ph.D., is a licensed psychotherapist who specializes in relationships and communication techniques.

To read previous 'Ask Dr. Debra' articles, please visit www.wetnoodleposse.com, where Dr. Debra is a regular contributor, or click here to view the archives.





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