Ask Dr. Debra
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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?
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
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... :)
Feel free to
write me with your questions.
Debra Holland, Ph.D., is a licensed psychotherapist
who specializes in relationships and communication techniques.
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