Rich Santos, Marie Claire‘s male dating columnist, wants to know why women love jerks. (This question is the male equivalent of us wondering why men are so drawn to high-maintenance bitches.) To find out, I IM’d my friend Katrina*, who has dated more jerks than I’ve dated fixer-uppers (another common guy type women are drawn to), to find out why they have such a powerful hold over her.
*Name has been changed
Amelia: So, why do you keep dating jerks?
Katrina: Well, for me it’s sort of a challenge. I dated my ex for nine months and the entire time it was, like, contentious and hostile. Winning any sort of affection from him felt like an achievement.
A: There’s this idea that women aren’t “ready” for a nice guy until they’ve got all the jerks out of their system.
K: I’ve dated nice guys, but I’m distinctly turned off by people who wear their emotions on their sleeves. It seems to easy and therefore less genuine.
A: Some therapist would probably try and link that being deprived of love by your parents or something.
K: Well, that is definitely true. My mom wasn’t really affectionate with me growing up, so I think I instinctively distrust people who are effusive. I feel like I have to earn it, or else it’s not worth having.
A: But after being with jerks with whom it doesn’t work out, who never give love completely, does it make you want to try with nice guys?
K: I acknowledge that there must be some middle ground. A guy who is a challenge but also not a total dick — I just haven’t found it yet. I dated a nice guy right after my ex and I broke up, but I was super turned off by his niceness. I mean, granted, maybe he just wasn’t generally the right guy for me. I think in my own dysfunctional way, I seek out relationships that are sort of unstable because they hold my interest.
A: That sounds like torture!
K: The Brits have a saying — “Be mean, keep ‘em keen” or something like that. It’s true. The less emotionally available a guy is, the more I am willing to fight to try to win him over. Part of it is also that in focusing that much attention and energy into a contentious relationship, I am exempt from focusing on my own problems.
A: So what would it take for a nice guy to win over a woman who’s into jerks?
K: I think an air of mystery is important. You can be nice, but don’t give it all away all at once. Keep ‘em guessing. There’s a way to do that without being jerky, I just don’t know exactly what that is. It’s like porn. I can’t describe what it is, but I know it when I see it.