In the last article, we talked about fairy tales and finding a knight in shining armor. Eventually, though, most girls stop reading fairy tales. Many times, they move on to romance novels and movies like An Officer and a Gentleman, Casablanca, or Robin Hood. I will confess that these movies are personal favorites. And of course, I write romance novels. I love romance novels just as much as the next woman. But, they’re also guilty of contributing to the idealized notions that can cause a woman to look for the wrong kind of man.This time, let’s take a look at the BBTGB. The Bad Boy Turned Good Boy is a classic plot for a romance novel. He’s the guy your family doesn’t approve of. He’s a rebel, like James Dean in Rebel Without A Cause. He might only be the guy who skips class in high school, or he might be the guy in jail facing charges of one sort or another. He might be addicted to drugs or alcohol, or maybe he cheats or lies or won’t commit. There’s a very large spectrum of “bad” on which this man resides.Women look at this kind of man and often see a challenge. They want to change him. They think they can be the one to make him commit, make him get a job, make him stop taking drugs or drinking. These women are firmly convinced that their love will change him. The fact that other women have tried to use their love to change him, and failed, is lost on these women. They are positive that the man didn’t love those other women, but he does love her, and so her love is the love that can turn him into a good man.This relationship is often one of the worst. There are so many ways it can go wrong:
- Depending on the personality, this man can be abusive. By the time the woman realizes he won’t change, he’s gotten her so intimidated that she is too terrified to leave.
- If he’s doing drugs, drinking a lot, a gambler, or some other habit that either ties up all his money or prevents him from earning money, a woman with this kind of man can push her finances to the point of bankruptcy trying to change him and/or make him love her. Some of these men will deliberately exploit her feelings for him to get her to do this, and others will simply benefit from her intense willingness to hand over money whether he asks or not.
- A cheater will often get away with it by making promises to change, over and over again. Sometimes he will be able to convince the woman that he’s not cheating and it’s all in her head. In the worst of these, the woman knows what he is doing, but stays anyway simply because she is so convinced she can change him.
- If he’s a liar, she will justify his every lie. She will lie to herself, certain that given time and love, he will stop and become that better man she’s convinced is in there.
In a romance novel, these men go from Bad Boy to Good Boy usually in less than five hundred pages; in a movie, typically it’s two hours or less. Given the page and/or time constraints, it looks so easy and nearly painless.
Women who go after this kind of guy often remind themselves of the books or the movies when frustrated and on the verge of giving up on these men. They remember how easy it was in the book and swear they must be doing something wrong. They think of the painful feelings a particularly good author or exceptional actress was able to invoke, and convince themselves that the pain is part of the process and that the pain will be worth it in the end.
The truth is, these men don’t change for the better. Sometimes they do change for the worse, becoming even more of a Bad Boy than they already are. It is rare for a man like this to change and become a better man.
Because they date so many of these men, and the relationships generally end so badly, women who want this kind of man also often suffer from low self esteem. This adds to their fantasy, because if they can succeed in changing the Bad Boy, their self esteem will rise. But their low self esteem also makes them feel as though they can’t do any better.
In order for this kind of woman to have a healthy, satisfying relationship, she needs to make a few changes to her life and her beliefs about love and relationship:
- If you have low self esteem, work on that before you get into a relationship with any man. Search online for tips to raise your self esteem, or talk to a therapist if you need to.
- Realize that you cannot change a man. If he isn’t who you want now, he’s never going to be.
- With the previous in mind, figure out what it is you seek in a man and a relationship. Figure out what really matters, what your dealbreakers are, and stick to them. If a man doesn’t match them, don’t date him thinking he’ll change. You either accept him exactly as he is or don’t date him at all.
- If he cheats or lies, do not tolerate it or make excuses for it. If you’re willing to forgive and try to work things out, decide ahead of time how many times you’ll do that, and stick to it. If he continues to cheat or lie, end the relationship; you deserve better.
- Do not spend all your money on a man. If he does not have his own income, see that as a red flag. If he does have an income, but always wants to borrow money from you, consider why.
It’s important to remember that while romance novels and movies are great entertainment, that is all they are. A relationship is much more than a few hundred pages that describe from the moment you meet to the moment you decide to spend forever together. Hollywood always makes everything much more exciting, dramatic, and represents nothing in real life. Real relationships that last do not come about because the love of a good woman changed a truly bad man.
Next in this series: The Good Boy Waiting Patiently
Previously in this series: The Knight in Shining Armor
© 2011 by Wendy Miller
Originally published on Yahoo! Voices, August 2011
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