A few years back, for five painful months, I went out with a woman who treated me badly. She never offered to pay for a single meal or movie. Not only that, but about 50 percent of the time, she didn’t thank me for picking up the tab, criticized my choice of clothing and constantly dissed my friends, sometimes even to their faces. I finally pulled the plug on this pseudo-relationship when she sadistically told me she’d messed around with an old boyfriend two or three times after we started seeing each other.
All of which begs the question: Why did I stick with the her for more than a week? For that matter, why have virtually all my male friends dated — or, in two ugly cases, gotten engaged to — a girl who ultimately walked all over them while wearing stiletto heels? Let’s take a closer look.
Why men are drawn to high-maintenance women
Some would say that this scenario of men running after difficult women hearkens back to the dawn of pre-history — and a guy’s ingrained need to prove his hunting and gathering talents. Says Liz Kelly, author of Smart Man Hunting, “Men are naturally drawn to high-maintenance women because [men] like to fix problems. It’s a caveman kind of thing. A demanding diva gives a man ample opportunity to prove his ability to rise to a challenge.” (That might’ve been partly the case with me and the ex.)
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The “go for the gold” impulse
Let’s admit it, women who act like they’re hot are often perceived that way — and therefore more desirable than your average female. Dr. Gilda Carle, therapist, radio personality and author of Don’t Bet On The Prince!, feels that we sometimes get blinded and blindsided by sheer attitude. “Diva girls feel good about themselves. Sometimes even when they’re not drop-dead gorgeous, they carry themselves like they are. These ‘It Girls’ project the message that they’re worth any trouble a guy must go through to meet them or be with them.” And men fall all over themselves to prove they’re worthy of these divas’ company.
Confusing “divas” with strong women
Here’s another reason why nice guys often can’t resist the allure of the demanding “bad girl” type: “The guy mistakes [her] endless whining, unrealistic demands, and wild mood swings for the characteristics of a strong-willed, independent woman who knows what she wants. In reality, she’s just a big brat,” says Jessica Rozler, coauthor of The Hookup Handbook.
What’s more, Kelly feels that men are more likely to inflict these women upon themselves because of their upbringing: “If a man’s mother is like this, he is also more likely to be attracted to a demanding woman, because he finds it normal to jump when asked.”
How to resist this woman’s siren call
OK, now the job you face is to put the observations above into action. If you find yourself attracted to (or dating) one of these demanding divas, ask yourself the following questions:
Do I enjoy the “thrill of the hunt” on a certain level? Is it not “exciting” to date a woman who is immediately, easily interested in me?
Am I used to trying to “win women over,” perhaps since my childhood? Does that role of trying to earn a woman’s affections feel comfortable to me?
Do I perceive challenging women to be stronger than others are?
Do I think it’s possible for a woman to be easy-going while also being an independent person?
Is our chemistry really all that great considering that my partner usually is not very nice to me?
If you answer these questions truthfully, you should have your answer about whether dating a challenging woman is really worth the trouble.
Alan Goldsher is a Chicago-based writer, advice columnist, and author of Jam, Hard Bop Academy, The Record Haus and Modest Mouse: A Pretty Good Read.