Why do we fall for the bad boys (and girls)?

bad guy

You’ve probably heard it through the grapevine. One of your friends – or maybe you yourself – has fallen for the charms of someone who, it turns out later on, didn’t have the same intentions. Women seem especially prone to fall prey to what we call the wrong kind of men, or ‘bad boys’. Why is it that these types of men, but also women, are so attractive? In this blog, we dive into the psychology and biology of sexual attraction and why we’re so attracted to ‘bad’ men and women.

Women who fall for the bad boys

Sexual attraction to the wrong type of person is not limited to women. Almost anyone can fall for people who, in retrospect, may not turn out to be so ‘good’. The terms ‘wrong’ and ‘right’ are difficult to define, as no one is entirely good or bad. When we say ‘wrong’ men, women or lovers, we mean being attracted to people who, in some way, are not in the relationship in the same way as you are, often resulting in hurt, sadness, or even drama. In practice, however, it’s more common for women to fall for the wrong men.

What’s a ‘bad boy’ anyway?

Defining who is the wrong kind of man or person is difficult. Let’s assume that we mean that this man or person doesn’t have the same attitude towards the relationship as you do. For example, people who are not open to an exclusive relationship, people who are afraid of commitment, people who cheat (often) or people who, for whatever reason, cannot fully commit to you in a relationship. What makes this type of man or person so attractive, despite the lack of an emotional connection?

Did you know that… media and films contribute in part to the image of the ideal man, portrayed as self-confident, sought-after, and physically attractive?

Evolution & biology

From a biological point of view, it’s easy to explain why women are more likely to fall for a dominant or unattainable type. Women often find self-confident, strong, or dominant men more attractive than the types that stand out less with their physicality or charm. From an evolutionary point of view, a woman (unconsciously) thinks that this dominant male has a better chance of survival and also seems to have the right genetic characteristics that she would like to see in her children. This too would be a sign of better chances of survival.

“From an evolutionary point of view, females fall for dominant, strong men with an attractive physique. They seem to have better chances of survival. In the long run, however, females desire a more gentle, caring type.”

Still, the best-looking and strongest male is not necessarily the male who stays with you after conception to look after you and the children. In the long run, a woman actually longs for a gentle, caring type who is loyal to her and the kids. That’s what actually improves her chances of survival. In short: physically handsome, dominant men initially seem more attractive but, in the long run, they’re not always the ones a woman really desires.

Why the wrong type is a boost to your ego

In addition to subconscious biological processes, the psychology behind infatuation, attraction, and relationships also plays a role. It’s one thing to be attracted to a charming, dominant, and self-confident person. If that person then also chooses you as their partner, this gives an enormous boost to your ego. The more desirable the man you fall for is, the more attractive he is and the more you want him. Because how amazing is it when he chooses you out of everyone who’s interested? Especially if he turns out to be a faithful, loyal partner after he has chosen you.

“If he chooses you out of all the people who are interested, that’s a huge ego boost.”

Having a relationship with a bad boy

Yet for many women, the reality of the relationship seems to be different. The initial phase of a relationship is often exciting and new, and the butterflies are fluttering happily in your stomach. Everything about your partner is great, until your relationship stabilises and the fireworks fade away. Some women begin to feel that the emotional connection is lagging or not there at all. They then start trying harder to get the love and attention they had during the beginning of the relationship. The more this fails to happen or weakens, the more you’ll long for it and try harder. This is often accompanied by growing feelings of insecurity. If your partner then gives you love and attention again, you light up and start clinging to that affirmation. This often creates a pattern of high peaks, accompanied by deeper lows, which is difficult to break through.

How do you break the pattern?

Even though you know that the relationship you’re in isn’t healthy for you, it’s difficult to break away. You feel attached to this person, and even to the pain that can sometimes accompany staying in the relationship. In order to distance yourself from the wrong people, it’s important to look at the relationship with as much distance as possible. What is it really like? Is the situation as it is one that makes you happy? Try to look at your relationship objectively and be aware of any blind spots. Know that this can also be confrontational: getting stuck with the wrong type of person also says something about you. What do you give yourself in terms of love? Are you ready for the commitment that a healthy relationship requires? From a place of sufficient self-love, you can decide whether staying in this relationship is what makes you happy. Loving is also about letting go, instead of clinging on. And that also means sufficient love for yourself.

Have you ever been in a relationship with the wrong man, woman or type of person and did it turn out to be bad for you? We’re curious to hear about your experience!

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