If I were to make a checklist of all the patterns the guys I repeatedly dated in my late teens and early twenties had, it'd look like this:
- Pursues some form of artsy career but complains about it 90 percent of the time
- Opens up about all his most intimate problems on the first date
- Ghosts, but texts months later to apologize and to also see if I'm free at 2 a.m.
Sure, these men were all awful and hopefully done their own soul-searching, but after going to therapy and reading up about my own hangups, I realized that I picked these types over and over again for a reason.
If you find yourself stuck in a cycle of dating the same type of bad man, there might be something bigger going on. And if you can reduce your chances of dating a trash human (or just different iterations of the same trash human), why not, right? Here are seven types of Bad Men you may be hooked on, and why you just can't quit them.
The Flaky Fuckboy
One day, he's sending you paragraphs at lightning speed, the next few days: nothing. He cancels plans at the last minute, or completely forgets about them, yet you keep giving him second chances.
"Often you forgive bad habits because you deceive yourself," says Dr. Berit Brogaard, Professor and Director of the Brogaard Lab for Multisensory Research at the University of Miami. She explains that this can be range from convincing yourself he's just busy at work to coming up with elaborate scenarios for him not replying back.
Overly-wishful thinking makes sense if it happens once with a guy you really like. But if this is a general pattern in all your relationships, it could be a sign of a deeper problem.
"There are people who, at the first sign of ambivalence, are out of there—they want a secure attachment," says Dr. Elinor Greenberg, author of Borderline, Narcissistic, and Schizoid Adaptations: The Pursuit of Love, Admiration, and Safety. "Then there are people who really are afraid of intimacy, and of commitment. They may not even realize this, but they will pick unavailable people."
Even though you feel a pit in your stomach when he doesn't text back all weekend, you're still going along with it because you know he will disappoint you. Greenberg explains that pursuing clearly inconsistent people can be a sign that you're afraid of going for someone who will actually show up for you. You might also find yourself only liking people who live far away, or are already in relationships, because there's a comfort in no commitment. "With in-and-out relationships, [you] get to say 'I want something real,' but on another level, something more real is frightening," adds Greenberg. You have to ask yourself: is there a part of you that would freak out if the flaky guy stopped flaking?
The Worst Rollercoaster
This guy changes his mind about you and the relationship all the time. What started off as pure romantic bliss has turned into him threatening to break up every time you do anything that bothers him.
Dr. Greenberg explains that this behavior is a form of narcissism, and that he can't see his partners beyond being either a completely flawless soul mate, or a wholly bad person. "They're not being honest with their partner—or themselves—about their own part of [the relationship] not working. So their partner thinks 'if I just do this thing, they'll be back.'"
Having someone change their mind so often is exhausting, but there's a reason you can feel so attached. "A lot of people who go for narcissists have a narcissistic parent who they never could please," says Dr. Greenberg. "Unconsciously, they're looking for a reparative do-over." The most important thing to remember is this: it's impossible for every single problem in a relationship (be it with a partner or a parent) to be your fault.
The "Just Kidding!" Mansplainer
He seems to constantly undercut you, but it's usually framed as a "joke." While negging is a well-known pickup-artist move, it can be more subtle in real life. What he says doesn't make you feel good, but if you bring it up, he tells you he's just teasing and you're being way too sensitive.
"The method works, exactly for the reason that the pickup gurus say it works: It makes you seem very confident, which is a very attractive trait," says Dr. Brogaard. "Also, it makes the other person want to prove you wrong."
This is precisely why it's really important to learn to trust your gut when a guy's "jokes" make you feel off. "If you feel unsure of yourself, you think they're right," says Dr. Greenberg. She elaborates to say that actually-decent people can be filled with enough self-doubt to fall for these criticisms. "They don't think they're as attractive or smart or nice as they actually are. So it's really easy [for them] to be impressed by someone who appears confident and knowledgeable, even if that person’s putting them down.”
It's normal and good to question where you can grow as a person—but a healthy partner will critique you with kindness (and, you know, not all the time).
The Very, Very Obvious Cheater
He has a girlfriend, but either swears he'll break up with her for you or already has. You've heard "once a cheater, always a cheater" so many times, but you wonder, if this time, it's not actually relevant.
Of course, serial cheaters wouldn't get the "serial" in their name if they weren't appealing enough to make you ignore their dirtbag actions. Greenberg explains the phenomenon of falling for a repeat-cheater as simply believing that him cheating had more to do with the other women than it did with him. "There's a story the person tells themselves about the relationship that diminishes his bad behavior. 'This will be different.' 'They were not right for him.' 'I am right for him, therefore he will not cheat on me.'"
As incredible and special as he might make you feel, you're more of an escape to him than someone he "just loves so much" that he has to cheat on his current-girlfriend.
"Habits are very hard to change," says Dr. Brogaard. "These kinds of 'relationship-like' situations very rarely turn into real relationships."
The Guy Who Never Shuts Up
This is the guy who goes off about his own opinions and accomplishments so often that a part of you is actually embarrassed to be with him. He talks over your friends and acts like the ultimate authority over everything, yet a part of you believes he might be?
According to Dr. Greenberg, sometimes arrogance and cockiness is mistaken for true confidence and ability. "[You] don’t realize that what [you're] seeing is really a defensive facade that they use to cover up their underlying insecurities about their self-worth."
And sometimes, if he's a true narcissist, the line between confident and cocky can get blurry. "[Narcissists] often have a very good sense of how other people think and will behave in response to various different kinds of behavior," says Dr. Brogaard. "They can use that to make themselves look so much better than they are."
There are a few potential reasons you find yourself dating men who take the "humble" out of "humblebragging." "It could be how you're raised, in which you have an arrogant, cocky father [who] does things well, but he's not so nice," says Greenberg. "You could [also] want to be a power couple, or you could see him as your ticket to being cooler than you are, because he's so cool." The point is that if your internal bullshit detector lights up even a little bit when he talks, it's good to reevaluate some things.
The Big Baby
You find the men you date always need you so much more than you need them—from you teaching them to put money in their savings account to re-doing the dishes after they forget to wash the bottoms of the plates. Supporting a partner is great, but if you're honest with yourself, your relationships always feel uneven.
One of the reasons, as Dr. Greenberg notes, is that you're simply mirroring what you grew up with—a mother (or women in general) who did all the work in the family. Another could be that you feel comfortable being needed. “You feel like you get to be the heroine—they won’t leave," says Greenberg. "But sometimes, they're even less capable of a relationship. You picked him because he's inadequate, and now, he’s inadequate."
And hey, it's not to say that men with Peter Pan Syndrome are always unpleasant to be around. "Most people fall for them exactly because they can be very fun and charming—just like kids can be," says Dr. Brogaard.
It's up to every couple to decide where they're willing to compromise—some people don't mind cleaning up after their partner if they have other really great traits. But if you're both sick of man-children yet keep dating them, it's good to do some deeper digging.
The Self-Pitying "Nice Guy"
This is the male friend who cries "friendzone" if you turn down his advances. You're not actually that into him, but you feel bad saying "no" when he's done so much to try and win you over.
Unfortunately, this feeling has a lot to do with societal expectations of how women should behave. "Women are raised to be more agreeable, for the most part," says Dr. Greenberg. "We're supposed to be nice and to give him a chance. But we don't feel anything for him, or he's pressuring us and we might think 'Well, he might be a keeper. He doesn't feel like a keeper, but if I can’t find anyone else, I'll be with him.'"
There can be a lot of fear in saying "no", especially when a guy makes it seem like he'll never recover from you rejecting him (trust me, he'll be fine). It's not on women to "give him a chance" just because he splurged on the performative romantic gestures, and women are never obligated to date someone just because he's "really nice."
Remember: You are never being too picky in saying "Nah, I'm good" to any of these types of asshats.
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This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.