Dare to Ask: Do some women gravitate toward abusive
By Phillip J. Milano
The Florida Times-Union
Why do women always run to men who are [jerks] or abuse them? And why can’t
they get out of these relationships? — Mike, 20, Iowa
Some find them “exciting.” They like living on the edge. Some think they can
“save” the poor, misunderstood fellow. They believe they’re not really all that
bad underneath, and they (the woman) will uncover the good in them. The majority
are simply attracted to the men who are what they are used to; and, sadly, they
are used to abuse. I was once in that category. — Robin, 55, female, Westland,
Easy. When a girl dates a bad boy, it is obviously all on him. She is always
the blameless victim who gets sympathy and always has entertaining drama stewing
so she can be the center of attention with her friends. If he dumps her, that’s
just the bum being the jerk he is. Being with a nice guy has deep risks. If
there are problems, there’s a good chance he isn’t causing them. There is no
drama to passively be entertained by; she has to be her best self and bring
something to the table. — G.G., 45, male, Idaho
This applies to both genders. Some women are like [jerks], and for some
reason, the abused men do not get out of the relationship. Maybe he doesn’t know
better that there are good women out there, too. — S.C., male, Texas
Some women have such low self-esteem that they think no man would want them,
so when one does show interest, they’d rather take the abuse than be alone. And,
as sick as it sounds, some women believe jealousy and abuse prove the man cares
about them. — M., female, Dallas, Ga.
Yes it’s true: Some men like to get their bad self on, and too many women
yearn to domesticate them, said Illinois therapist Kari Hunter, who has spent
two decades helping couples through relationship and marital woes.
“We can go back to a woman’s childhood and their relationship with their
father: Were they the apple of Dad’s eye, or not?
Often, they’re socialized to be maternal, to tame and shape in their
relationships. Then they get excited by the bad boy, but eventually expect him
to be other than what he is.”
Then what do they do? Hit up a “nice-guy” male friend and cry on his
It happens the other way around, too, but men aren’t socialized to whine
about it, lest they “look like a sap,” Hunter said.
The media don’t help, reinforcing flamboyant relationships with wild guys —
witness the reinvention of Sherlock Holmes as a bad boy in the latest movie
remake with Robert Downey Jr. — but it’s more fun to see that than an accountant
and schoolteacher “just made for each other,” she noted.
Ideally, women should have long-term relationship goals … and take time
between break-ups so they can start fresh with the right guy.
“They should follow advice Madonna doesn’t seem to: Remember 'Don’t settle
for second-best, baby’?”
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Phillip Milano, author of I Can't Believe You Asked That! (Perigee),
moderates cross-cultural dialogue at Y? The National Forum on People's
Differences. Visit www.yforum.com to submit questions and answers. Send general
column comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also hear his
podcasts or watch his