He doesn’t take you out, he’ll never meet your friends and he won’t reply to a damn text for days, but you just can’t get enough. Matthew Galea asks: why do we fall for the bad boys?
This article first appeared in DNA #206 buy DNA back issues here.
I always had a thing for bad boys. Ultra-sweet, clean-cut guys bored me and my favourite TV characters were always the heartbreakers. But I’d never quite been stung so badly until this particular guy invited me over one night.
I arrived to find a run-down, half-painted house filled with boxes, empty wine bottles, discarded food wrappers and a half-dressed man sitting on the couch. It will sound crazy but I was instantly infatuated. We talked for hours and made out; then I went home with that butterfly feeling that you have after a first date goes well.
Every day for the next few weeks I found myself desperately waiting for a text from him. I was like an addict hanging out for my fix of tall, dark and handsome. Then, when he finally contacted me, usually late at night to ask or, rather, insist that I come over, I was euphoric. His elusive, reckless, spontaneous nature had me hooked.
“The world is full of safe, predictable, nice people, so when we come across someone who is a bit selfish, a bit unsafe, a bit wild – and add to that good looks and a hefty dose of unbridled sexuality – the attractiveness level skyrockets,” explains Vinko Anthony, Director at gay matchmaking service Beau Brummell Introductions (beaubrummellintroductions.com).
“The sense of freedom, devil-may-care attitude that bad boys exude gives us a sense of being alive, a sense of experiencing something that we always wanted to do but were not brave enough to. So being with a bad boy makes it accessible, and permissible,” he says.
Our “dates” consisted of drinking in his living room while watching a Marvel film, then having sex and spooning until we fell sleep. He was always highly intoxicated by the time we reached the bedroom, so he put in minimal effort. But the lousy sex didn’t matter to me. He was just so damn gorgeous I felt grateful to even be in his presence.
Every now and then I noticed glimmers of a real person beneath the heartless facade. He opened-up about his upbringing and disconnect from his family, and there were occasions when he’d say something like, “I think I’m really starting to like you,” that made me feel like I had tamed the beast.
The long-haired, tatted-up, foul-mouthed bad boy was opening-up to me.
“Change is possible but it depends on whether the person wants to change,” explains Vinko from Beau Brummell. “Fundamentally, one’s personality is fixed but it may be updated with coaching, mentoring, and a desire to change behaviours. It takes a certain amount of emotional intelligence – which is how we manage our emotions and the influence of our emotions on other.”
Even though I saw his flaws from the beginning – his lack of hygiene, his alcoholism and his inability to string a sentence together without using a profanity – I always felt like I wasn’t good enough for him.
For example, one night we were drinking at his house and he suggested we go for a drive. I’d already had a couple of drinks so I told him that I couldn’t drive. He pleaded with me and I kept apologising: “I’m so sorry; I don’t want to risk it.” That’s how hypnotised I was. I apologised for not breaking the law, I apologised for not driving drunk, like I’d done something wrong. And the more I refused, the more I sensed his distain.
When I told my friends about him I romanticise the story. I knew they wouldn’t understand what I saw in him if I told them the truth. Rather than telling them that he only texted me when he was horny, I told them he texted me good morning and good night every day. Rather than telling them that we never left his stinking house, I told them that he took me to my favourite restaurants and paid. And rather than telling them that he passed out after I give him head and get nothing in return, I told them I was having the best sex of my life. I lied to save face, hoping that the lies would became reality.
We saw each other twice a week. I told him that I was into him. He told me he wanted to settle down soon. Why would we have that kind of conversation if he wasn’t interested? How naïve I was.
Then I noticed a too familiar pattern. Every time we hung out, he was drunk. It didn’t worry me at first. I love a glass of Pinot now and then. But after a while I started to realise that I was just a companion for his late-night binges. Was I just a way to pass the time until his next hook-up? Was I there until something better came along?
It was while that fear was echoing around in my head that the late-night invites stopped. The spontaneous banter was no more. I was no longer a thrill to him.
I’d text him to see if he was still alive. It would take him at least 24 hours to respond, if at all. And he always had some excuse. I decided to give him space, hoping he’d realise that he enjoyed my company.
Then, after days of feeling the sting of rejection, came another midnight invite, but of a different variety: “Hey, can you come and pick me up from a party?” Reluctant at first, I decided to go as usually he’d invite me to stay afterwards, so at least we could talk it out and try and rekindle whatever I thought we had.
When I picked him up, he was blind drink – can’t-tell-your-ass-from-your-elbow drunk. I used to find this part of his charm. This time, I was repulsed.
“In most cases, the appeal will wear off depending on the partner’s tolerance threshold,” says Vinko. “The partner will give up trying to change the bad boy out of sheer fatigue… fatigue, of pretending to like living a life in which he is not emotionally cared for.”
We drove back to his house and as I parked my car he said, “What are you doing? You can’t stay tonight. I’ve got work early.”
Wow. He’d had work the next day every other time and now it was a problem?
That’s when it hit me; the wake-up kick in the guts. This “bad boy” wasn’t charming and spontaneous. He was a slob. An alcoholic. A messy, emotionless person with major insecurity issues. I responded, “No worries. Have a good night.” He literally fell out of the car, onto the road, picked himself up and staggered his way to the door. I drove away and we never spoke again.
Despite writing him off, I kept him on all my social media accounts. What can I say? I’m a sucker for punishment as you’ve probably guessed. Months had passed when I saw it on Facebook: “John Doe is in a relationship with John Doe.”
Jaw dropped, heart sunk, eyes fixated on that notification for about 25 minutes. I still see him on my socials. I see photos of him with his boyfriend, travelling, meeting each other’s families, going on cute dates that he never took me on. I’m reminded of the time towards the end of our, erm, relationship? friendship? whatever the hell it was, when he said, “I just don’t do relationships.”
Well, I guess he does now.
Do I still find myself drawn to bad boy types? A little, but I’ll never let myself be treated that badly again.