Dating and Mate Selection — 19 April 2010
Why some women fall for the wrong men

Recent headlines of famous women who were betrayed by the men they loved and married, reawakened the age-old questions about the underlying dynamics of mate selection. Why are some women drawn to men who seem to others to be ill suited to them from the start? Fame and fortune may be one blinding factor, though it does not apply to women who have already attained these distinctions.

Though there are no definitive answers to the mystery of attraction, there are several theories that may clarify this inexplicable phenomenon. They include: Childhood imprinting, the rescuing impulse, search for protection and the thrills of the riskier ways of life.

Sigmund Freud in “Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality” posits, “The innumerable peculiarities in the erotic life of human beings, as well as the compulsive character of the process of falling in love itself, are quite unintelligible except by reference back to childhood and as being residual effects of childhood.”
Many women identify the hurtful behavior they endure in their love relationships as akin to the experiences their mothers and grandmothers experienced with their mates, such as: infidelity, controlling angry behavior, absenteeism from family and fathering, alcohol, or verbal and physical abuse. What the little girl saw in her home became imprinted in her mind as the “norm” of adult male behavior. As distasteful and painful as it had been, it became associated with the father she loved and yearned to please.
Some women’s rescuing instinct and the falsely empowered trust in the healing power of love, draw them to men they feel they can rehabilitate. They also may believe that his previous transgressions have been situational and not characterological. Perhaps he was unfaithful in his previous relationship, but her true love is real and eliminates his need to stray. Albert Schweitzer may have glorified this mission in saying,” Life becomes harder for us when we live for others, but it also becomes richer and happier.”
“Bad” men are often perceived as a source of physical protection and 
security for the vulnerable women who pick them. If he is strong, angry, or even violent, he will “watch my back”. Others will be afraid of him and that will reduce my vulnerability and increase my safety. Though women may not be fully cognizant of these thoughts- they often state that their men make them feel safe and secure. The idea that the anger may also turn towards them eludes them at first.
Sweet women are often trusting, judge others by their own devoted style and assume that love will safeguard them from emotional threats as well. However, their gentle and decent disposition makes them more attractive to men who seek an undetected private life.
The excitement of their mate’s harder side can also be invigorating. She can experience a fast pace, super-manly, high testosterone thrills such as: motorcycle riding, boxing, car racing, skydiving or other adventurous thrilling activities that were not part of her familiar, more sedate style. This attraction intensifies the sexual appeal and maintains a highly charges and seemingly bonded intimacy.

Nice women:
• Realize that if he is very different from you in values, choices, previous conduct and lifestyle – he may not be your ideal match.
• Abstain from a relationship that re-activates painful family history scenarios.
• Accept that change can only come within the individual with the support of your love- not solely through it.
• Beware of assuming that you are protected by someone who induces fear in others.
• Learn that you can experience life’s adventure in a company of safe people without the risks of a thrill-seeker who may need a secret life to feed his needs.
• Appreciate the research findings of Susan Sprecher and Pamela Regan, supporting previous data, that warmth and kindness are the salient desired attributes of partners in serious romantic relationships.

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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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