If you’ve been chasing a version of the irresistible, unobtainable bad boy since high school, there’s a reason.According to a July 2014 study published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, men love nice women, but women just aren’t that into nice guys.
Researchers set out to measure how the sexes viewed “responsiveness,” which, although everyone has a slightly different idea of it, you can basically think of as how emotionally available a person is to you. Basically, it’s their willingness to invest in a potential relationship and appreciate what you bring to the table. While men found responsive women more attractive in initial encounters, the same did not hold true for the ladies. In three different tests, women found responsive nice guys to be, well, just kind of meh.
Since the scientists in the study didn’t have a firm answer about why women dig bad boys over nice guys, we asked dating experts what they’ve witnessed in the field to get their take:
“Bad boys have that roguish charm,” says dating expert Steve Santagati, author of “Code of Honor” and “The Manual: A True Bad Boy Explains How Men Think, Date and Mate.”
“He’s fun, he’s exciting, he’s different, he’s funny and he doesn’t give a shit. And for some crazy reason, some women love that.”
Santagati adds that the real reason for our attraction to bad boys runs deeper than that surface charm, though. “More and more, we see guys now who can’t fix a car engine, can’t use a chainsaw or other ‘manly’ things,” he explains. “Technology advanced faster than we did. Women like bad boys because we’re still animals under the skin—we have animal instincts. And bad boys represent the alpha male. Back millions of years ago, they were the best ones to protect you and give you healthy children.”But we’re not fighting off saber-tooth tigers nowadays, and many of today’s most masculine men have a reputation for breaking hearts and wandering eyes. However, “masculine” and “jerk” certainly don’t always go hand-in-hand. The key is to sort out the toxic guys from the good ones.
Here’s how to drop the losers, avoid heartbreak and choose a real winner:
Don’t be a pleaser.
Intuitive bad boys know when you’re attracted to them, and some use it to their advantage, so adopt a policy of independence and inner strength until you’ve felt a guy out (and we don’t just mean literally). “The biggest thing you can do is not try to please the guy—be yourself,” Santagati says. “Do not pine away. Do you ever wonder why, just when you stop thinking about a guy, he calls to see what you’re doing?
We can see and feel that. Stop obsessing. He is not the only guy out there.”
Dating expert Laurel House adds that, if a guy isn’t acting significantly interested early on, you should move on. He’s playing you. “Truly bad boys know you are so chemically attracted to them that you will willingly accept the mere crumbs of emotion, time and energy that they throw your way,” she says. It makes you fiend for more, waiting for the next nibble that he offers you before he disappears yet again, not allowing you to get your fill and making you want more—to the point of obsession.”
Relish his words, but weigh his actions.
“A man can whisper sweet nothings until the cows come home and can promise you the moon, but unless he follows his words with actions, he’s not a man of character,” says dating expert Neely Steinberg, author of “Skin in the Game: Unleashing Your Inner Entrepreneur to Find Love.” You’re looking for the qualities of a good guy, but that doesn’t mean a pushover. “That good guy sets healthy boundaries—if a woman disrespects him or treats him poorly, he has enough self-respect and self-esteem to walk away or put his foot down,” Steinberg says. “He has his own opinions and values. He is consistently kind and thoughtful, and he will really try to make an effort to listen to you because he knows women appreciate being heard.”
Adds Steinberg: “ He’ll often make an effort to remember things you’ve said and repeat them back to you by working them into a conversation to show you that indeed he is listening and cares enough about you to do so.”
Pre-qualify your dates by looking at needs, not wants.
If you can’t break your toxic man habit, it’s time to reevaluate and work on need fulfillment for a relationship instead of a wish list of hot qualities in a man. “Stop looking for what you want, and get what you need,” House says. “You will never be satisfied only getting what you want. Once you shift from ‘want’ to ‘need,’ you will find that within your needs, you can also get what you want, but you have to change your focus first.”
House says you should make a list of your needs, which could range from someone who is sexy, secure and consistently shows up to someone who is a good communicator, shares your core values and is trustworthy. If a guy isn’t hitting all of the major elements on your needs list, don’t go out with him. “It’s time to stop fixating on the superficial, like hot, rich, edgy, popular and powerful, and start to find your true needs sexy,” House says. “If he is made of red flags but just—and I really do mean ‘just,’ as in only—so damn sexy, you know from the get-go he is never going to be able to be the guy you need, and you really should immediately knock him off your list of potentials and not go out.”
If you do, sparks might fly and wrap you up into a toxic relationship, postponing your goal of finding love. That said…Sometimes, you have to date the bad boy to break the habit. If that illusive probable-heartbreaker is an option you simply must explore, just get it over with. “For a lot of women, the bad-boy phase is just that: a phase that we all pass through on our way to finding, recognizing and appreciating the good guys,” says Steinberg. “Sometimes you just have to grow up a little to get there. With age comes wisdom.”And the more toxic men you meet—and date, if you must—the more you will easily recognize a pattern in their negative qualities and want to avoid them.
Eventually, you’ll be sick of their irresponsible and jerky behavior, finding yourself way more receptive to the kind, good-hearted men of the world.