Are you someone who has a history of falling for men who turn out to be what we call “jerks?” If so, there’ s still hope for your romantic future. Men and women often make the mistake of telling themselves that they have no control over who they’re attracted to. The truth, however, is that you can work through the problem of being attracted to partners who are bad for you. Following a few steps, you can start redirecting your energy to finding people who want to treat their partner well.
Think about your attraction to jerks as a sort of addiction.
With addiction, the first step in recovery is admitting that you have a problem. Your own attraction to guys who are jerks has the same core elements of an addiction to alcohol or any other drug: you want to stop but feel like you can’t; you suffer because of the behavior; and you mentally beat yourself up for going back every time. Tell yourself this: “I have to be careful because I’m sort of addicted to jerks. I can slip back into that old behavior if I’m not careful.”
Think about what it is exactly that you’re drawn to in the jerk’s personality.
No one wants to feel upset or depressed, pathetic or desperate. You haven’t been attracted to jerks because you like being neglected or being treated like crap. What, then, in the jerk’s personality, draws you in? Do you see the jerk as powerful and in control? Do you see him as strong? Do you feel like he is better than you or somehow cooler or worth more?
What are your beliefs about men who would treat you well?
I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard a woman in my office say this: “I’m not attracted to nice guys.” These individuals often talk about how a man being “too nice” is actually a turn-off. In many of these cases, the real issue is that these women have had pretty messed up experiences with previous relationships and they simply don’t know how to have a relationship with someone where everything is nice and good.
Why would anyone be attracted to jerks?
Anyone who is attracted to jerks is attracted to them because someone early in life – typically a parent but it could be peers at school or others – either neglected them or treated them badly in a significant way. Women who are attracted to jerks never felt consistently loved enough by someone when they were young, so they seek out jerks later who confirm their pathological world view: Relationships and attachments bring sadness or distress.
The simplest way to stop being attracted to jerks
Start giving decent, respectful guys more credit. Instead of idealizing selfish jerks, why not give a little more credit to guys who are kind and decent? Instead of seeing the jerk as strong, cool, or desirable, reframe it. Isn’t it actually cooler to treat women well? Nice guys don’t need to try to puff up and seem like they’re better than everyone else. Try thinking about it this way: If you had a son, wouldn’t you raise him to believe that being nice and respectful to girls is actually the sign of a real man? If so, why would you seek out men who are jerks? The more you gain insight into how distorted your attraction is, the healthier your attraction to men will become.
Changing old patterns is possible but it takes time. Be patient with yourself and remind yourself that you will find a good, neglect-and abuse-free relationship when you prioritize the right characteristics to look for in a man. I wish each of you solace and a romantic future in which a man makes you feel good and seeks you out because he sees you (cue the music) for the awesome woman I’m sure you are.
Dr. Seth is a licensed clinical psychologist, author, Psychology Today blogger, and TV guest expert. He practices in Los Angeles and treats a wide range of issues and disorders and specializes in relationships, parenting, and addiction. He has had extensive training in conducting couples therapy and is the author of Dr. Seth’s Love Prescription: Overcome Relationship Repetition Syndrome and Find the Love You Deserve.