Q | Why do so many women go for the “bad boy” and then regret it when they realize he’s abusive?
A | The majority of abusers do not present as bad boys. They are charismatic, personable, confident, successful, polite, all those “good” qualities, and they’ve spent their whole lives building a facade — a shell — that only looks kind, compassionate, moral, you name it. Few people know what’s hiding on the inside.
Alternately, the quintessential “bad boy” likely behaves poorly for a crowd, just for reputation’s sake, but still has solid values and core morals at heart.
Most women don’t know they’re involved with an abuser until it’s too late. By the time the newness and best behavior wear off, she’s already been subtly conditioned and coerced into submission and deference, is unconsciously excusing and minimizing the treatment she receives, distrusts herself, and is under his control.
No woman seeks this out. No woman signs up for this. And no woman is at fault for the abuse she endures, so any “regret” is not hers to shoulder. What she feels instead is likely shock and disappointment over having been fooled, as well as sorrow over having been treated a way she’d never think to treat someone else. (These emotions don’t address her trauma and the damage to her psyche, of course, which is perhaps another post for another day.)
End point: A bad boy compared to an abuser is like a lion compared to T-Rex. Two different beasts.
[Disclaimer: My answers for this feature are based on a mixture of personal experience, training with a women’s DV shelter, state certification in the subjects of domestic and sexual violence, and substantial studies of the personality disorders that lead to abusive behavior. My efforts are powered by a passion for advocacy. Featured guidance may not be exactly right for everyone, but I do hope it’s helpful for most. | Janna]
Submit your questions about abuse by email to jannawrites at gmail — nothing is off limits — and stay tuned for our Friday Feature: Your Abuse Questions Answered.
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[A note about the pattern of female pronouns: All of this applies to any gender, and any relationship dynamic, but since this page is devoted to women, all content keeps that in mind.]