Stable is Boring? “Psychology Today” Article on Bad Boyfriends

Bad Boy

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Attachment studies, Red Pill writings, and Psychology Today agree: women especially have a problem they need to recognize. The kind of intensely activating, sexy and dominant partner they may crave is the least likely to be a good long-term mate. This Psychology Today column by Jeremy Nicholson has some good bits:

Dating and relationships have always been hard. In this day and age, however, they can sometimes seem impossible. Particularly, women I speak to say that they can’t find a good man. They lament over the guys that they say are stuck in childhood, not taking responsibility for their lives. They complain about the men they call “nice guy, push-over” types, who don’t stir passionate feelings. They also have difficulty with men they label attractive “jerks”, who disrespect them, ignore their needs, and break hearts.

This states the general problem: for anxious-preoccupied women (but for others as well), the “nice,” sensitive, thoughtful guys don’t wake them up even though they might be the wisest choice for partnering up with. Meanwhile, the rough, aggressive, dominating sorts giving off testosterone and sexual fitness get their attention, but can’t be relied on and may well end up being abusive. A Secure person will tend to react against the thoughtless and self-centered and so avoid the harm these “bad boys” do, but for the insecure this drama-filled interaction — with intermittent reinforcement, sexual excitement, and extra-strong hormones — is a lure that’s hard to stay away from even when they know it’s not a good choice.

Socially, today’s woman is encouraged, empowered (and perhaps expected) to do it all. This, in itself, often causes extreme stress for the “super woman” and “super mom.” Social norms tell her she is expected to succeed in work, run her home, raise the perfect children, and be attractive and chipper too. It is a tall order. It is also an order that requires women to be intelligent, motivated, powerful, and in control.

Given those social instructions, women are motivated to “choose” men for how well they mesh with their life plan, goals, and ideals. Essentially then, some women choose to “attach” to men who are cooperative, agreeable, supportive, and often take their lead in areas the woman finds important. From a cultural standpoint, men who are categorized as “disagreeable,” “opinionated,” or expect women to “acquiesce” may be considered unappealing as “attachment” partners.

Unfortunately, however, many of those “culturally undesirable” male traits are similar and overlapping with the traits that are biologically “attractive.” Although not always true, often the man who is intelligent, high status, and ambitious will be unlikely to take a back seat, follow, and submit in a romantic relationship. Generally speaking, men who have “leadership characteristics” may want to lead in many situations.

With those two “feelings” juxtaposed, women often find themselves unfulfilled in love. Many that I talk to seem to hover between what they call “nice guys” and “jerks” in their dating life. They become attracted to “jerks” for their status, ambition, and dominance—only to be hurt when those men don’t live up to the cooperative and considerate cultural standard for an attachment partner. Women then may gravitate towards a culturally prescribed “nice guy,” only to find that they become bored, their libido wanes, and their eyes wander back to “jerks.” Either way, they find the relationships largely frustrating and unsatisfying.

The new customs have delayed marriage, leaving an expected period (college years until 30 or so) of experimentation and “finding yourself.” Red Pill types talk about the “sexual carousel” (or more rudely, the “cock carousel”), of Sex and the City-style promiscuity or rapid serial monogamy. Sexually exciting partners are tried and found wanting over and over, until finally the young person is no longer young and realizes the most obviously exciting are not the partners who will stick by you no matter what. And by that time, most the best partners have already bonded and are unavailable, so what’s left is more avoidant, more used up, and more set in their ways.

The article goes on to suggest some strategies (for women, but it’s valid for everyone):

1) Learning to Love Leading—one strategy adopted by some women is to learn to love being the leader of a “nice guy”. Think empowered business woman, cougar, or even dominatrix. All of these women relish being in charge, empowered, and having their desires fulfilled. Getting what you want can be pretty attractive after all. This dominant approach may have a downside in resentment and rebellion however. So, be considerate (and persuasive)….

2) Following Wisely—other women choose to be cautious in love, looking for the “right” guy to be with, and enjoying their attraction to strong, male leadership. This is more of the compatibility, eHarmony approach. These women evaluate and “test” men to find the right guy, a guy who will lead with their hopes, dreams, and goals in mind. They know that, if you’re not driving, it is wise to pick the driver carefully. Thus, they find a man with strong, attractive attributes to swoon over, who will not end up treating them like a “jerk….”

3) Mixed-Mating—yet other women join the “best of both worlds” club. Here, think polyamory, open relationships, or a hot boyfriend on the side. Evolutionary psychology indicates that women sometimes use this strategy to seek the most stable and supportive partnership from one man, and the best genes for children from another. When women can’t find it all in one guy, some choose to mix-and-match….

4) Negotiation, Sharing, and Balance—finally, some women choose to negotiate and share leadership roles with their partner. They divide life tasks and duties into different areas, with each being the “boss” of different things. Perhaps she leads with the finances, and he takes charge of the kids (or vice versa). That way, everyone has a bit of leadership, responsibility, agreeableness…and therefore attraction and attachment too.

This is too simple — animal dominance and submission is not the best model for human partnerships or marriage. We are far more sophisticated as a species, and good marriages typically have a division of labor as in choice 4, so that one partner tends to handle some kinds of tasks while the other partner does others; this specialization makes the marriage stronger because tasks are handled by the most competent member at that type of task. In a good marriage of equals, both partners leave decisionmaking in some spheres to the other, and even the most aggressive and dominant in, say, external business affairs is not threatened by ceding control of, say, entertaining to the other; and nothing says this has to be conventional. Most of us know a couple where the husband is the great cook and the wife handles all the investments. This happens naturally for the most part, without any conscious negotiation — it’s not bargaining for dominance.

The “best of both worlds” club (“polyamory, open relationships, or a hot boyfriend on the side”) is controversial. One of the Red Pill resentments is that women will accept the support of a good man, then pursue cheating with sexually exciting bad boys; of course stereotypically this was always something “bad boys” did, having a respectable “madonna” wife at home while chasing “whore” skirt on the side (see Mad Men for examples of how it used to be for upper-class men!) It goes against the grain of both societal expectations and evolutionary psychology for males to tolerate being used to support children of less responsible men, so open marriages with honest pursuit of outside sexual partners are likely to remain a minority choice for couples able to have children. But the excitement of cheating will always tempt those who crave more stimulation, and so one of our primary sources of fictional and real-life drama will continue.

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