Girl Talk: Why Some Guys Date Train Wrecks

I will never forget the feeling in my stomach the night I found out the guy I was dating was still sleeping with his ex.

The fact that he was canoodling with any other woman behind my back was bad enough. The fact that it was ex added insult to injury. But what really made me want to throw up was that she was a complete and utter train wreck.

We all know train wrecks. She’s your college roommate who drank every night, never went to class and slept with the football team. She’s your friend whose favorite hobbies are causing drama and being self-destructive. She’s all the girls from “Rock of Love.” And sometimes, she’s the girl your man leaves you for. Now, why, you might ask, would any guy in his right mind want a woman whose life is always falling apart over one who has her’s together? The obvious answer, and the one supported by many a shrink, is that my man “needed to feel needed,” something that doesn’t always happen when dating an independent woman.

In my case, it wasn’t just that I was better on paper—I had just graduated college, had a good job and was supporting myself. It was also that the other girl had the emotional intelligence of a sea sponge and some serious mental issues. Her sole confidant was her Livejournal and she had even threatened suicide at one point. And every time she made a mess of her life, my guy, I came to find out, relished mopping it up.

Guys who love a train wreck “have low self-esteem,” says relationship expert Dr. Gilda Carle. “The best way to raise it is to put themselves in the control position of someone less capable than they are.”

OK, that makes sense. But why do these guys go for capable women to begin with? Can’t they spare us the wasted time and aggravation and go straight for their true prize?

No, because some women who “seem” independent at first actually are needy, explains Debra Berndt, another relationship expert. So, these backbone-lacking beaus stick around until they figure you out, and if you’re not what they expect, they move onto a girl who is. The flip side is that some women start out reliant but get more independent as they mature.

So how can you avoid guys like this? First off, learn about their past relationships. When I discovered my guy’s crazy ex, I should have bolted in the other direction. Any man who will put up with a woman like that for that length of time thrives on hellish, not healthy, partnerships. Also check for a mother, sister or other female relative of his that has train wreck traits.

If a guy says things like, “I can’t do anything right” or “You never let me help you,” they too can be signs he digs dating disasters. And if he talks about women in general like they’re damsels to be saved, consider checking out of the relationship early.

I’m not sure if my former flame and his “Fatal Attraction”-esque female ever wound up together. But if they didn’t, I’d bet money he’s off somewhere rescuing some other wreck. I’m just glad it’s not me.