A Jerk-Loving Woman Explains Herself

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.