The 'Bad Boy' Spell: Understanding The Allure

Ah, remember that saying "nice guys finish last", well, that is not necessarily true and in fact may be reinforcing an illusion of validity to those trying to find reason for their run with singledom. This myth places unrealistic expectations on how we should behave and feel. It attempts to define attraction as all or none thinking (black or white). If you are a nice guy than you can’t be a dominant alpha ‘bad boy.’ We as human beings are just not that simple to divide us into such neat corners without even the slight consideration of the many conditions linked to, for example, expressions or intentions behind the ‘niceness’ that allude to an entirely different being. If you are someone who adheres to the nice guy finishes last stereotype, you may be missing out on an entire population and the possibility of developing meaningful relationships.

The bad boy persona has a history of being idolized in media and has flooded our culture for centuries. But such individuals can’t be ALL bad, otherwise why would they have such a high mating success rate. The attractiveness of the unattainable has to be more than just the “hit it and quit it” attitude. It is someone who makes it a point to consistently appear their best, exude confidence (if merely cockiness) and knows the importance of a great first impression. Let us consider that there is more behind this phenomenon of attraction than adhering to social stigmas that biology and brain chemistry can help explain:

To understand complexities of attraction to the ‘bad boy’ persona more clearly research considers the discovery that males are more likely than females to have personality traits consistent to the Dark Triad: narcissism, machiavellianism, and psychopathy. The allure of a bad boy is they have adopted short-term mating strategies. According to the study The Dark Triad personality: Attractiveness to women, “Women may be responding to dark triad’s men’s ability to ‘sell themselves’; a useful tactic in a co-evolutionary ‘arms race’ in which men convince women to pursue the former’s preferred sexual strategy. This ability may derive from a ‘used-car dealer’ ability to charm and manipulate, and DT-associated traits such as assertiveness. A female preference may be an evolved contingent choice that enhances her reproductive success, or it may be the result of exploitation by males in the evolutionary time lag before females have evolved a response.” Well, maybe it is time we highlight some useful ‘responses’ and remove the damsel in distress depiction on why women may prefer the charm of a dark triad man.

What is it that drives some women to stay in and fight for the love of such narcissistic ‘bad boys’? Is it the chase? The desire to ‘win’ the admiration and affection of someone who is blatantly unavailable (anxious/preoccupied caregiver attachment rear it’s ugly head)? These are questions that may be worth considering if you find yourself as the constant chaser in ‘relationships’; is it for love or ego? We sometimes chase the unattainable because when someone you have invested in does not return that time and affection, it feels like something against who we are as individuals; as if we are not good enough and therefore we must stick around to fight for the validation that we are in fact good enough. With this type of thinking you are allowing someone else to determine your worth and believing that every decision another person makes is about you, when in fact, this person may not be a narcissist or ‘bad boy’ at all, rather, someone who just is not at a point of their life to settle down – and that is OK. If this individual never made any verbal commitment to you than there may be a lot of ‘shoulds’ in play leading to the disappointment that is being experienced. “If I have sex with him regularly than he should settle down with me otherwise I am unlovable” or “otherwise he is a narcissist ‘bad boy’.”

If you find that you are always the one giving more of you time, trust and devotion without it ever remotely being met in return examine the cost-benefit of the amount of effort you are putting into another individual who appears to otherwise be distant. Examining the scales may help shine some light on whether you consider it to be more costly than anything else. Yes, you may consider yourself to be a ‘natural caretaker’ who ‘can’t help it’ but ask yourself whether the relationship of sorts warranted such devotion, if you have worked up unrealistic expectations of yourself or another, or if you are simply falling for the effective charm and manipulation of a ‘dark triad’ personality type.

The thing is, we have no control over others behavior but we do have control over our own. Even if you find yourself drawn to a particular type of person, consider what it is you want for your life and relationship status and make conscious efforts and decisions to work towards achieving that. Look at the whole person rather than just the parts. If you find that you keep dating the same way and it is not getting the result you want when does it become time to try another route? If we take ownership of how our own choices and behaviors may be contributing to an outcome we are unhappy with than we are able to take back the power necessary to achieve the version of happiness we so desire for our own lives.

Working with a relationship professional can help you develop useful tools to aid in achieving the happiness you desire. Learning how one's own beliefs, through the lens of Albert Ellis’ Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy, may be creating negative consequences in your life will help to reduce these emotions and encourage more appropriate response to the event at hand.