Why men fall for dangerous relationships
Partial article By Stephen J. Johnson, Ph.D.
Seven Types of Men Most Vulnerable to Dangerous Relationships
What kinds of men are the most susceptible to the women who can pull them into liaisons that we are describing here as “dangerous,” the women who turn treacherous when men try to pull away or end it with them? Much has been written to help women spot and avoid dangerous men, but little to help men avoid similar disasters.
1. The Naïve Man: Known as Puer Aeternus, eternal boy or Peter Pan syndrome, the naïve man is typically younger, softer, and more passive. He hasn’t made transition from boyhood to manhood. Trapped in his boyish ways, he has poor boundaries, flies from commitments and difficult situations, minimizes ugly facts, transcends his own dark side, often sees the world through rose-colored glasses, and essentially resists growing up. He seems to feel a sense of satisfaction in being attacked by his woman, and doesn’t fight back. Instead, he retreats to his cave to brood. He may create a secret relationship with a woman he believes truly understands him and will treat his wounded inner child with kindness. He makes idealistic assumptions and doesn’t examine the dark side of the woman he’s with, setting himself up for betrayal by her in the end. Some women want a passive man so that they can control him as a result of acquiescing to or compensating for some familiar scenario in their own backgrounds. Perhaps they had a dominant mother and a passive father, or perhaps men had wounded them in the past.
2. The Adrenaline Driven Man: This is the classic Type-A personality. His throttle is set for full speed ahead. He can’t stand to be bored and avoids boring people. He loves challenges and risks. He won’t settle for less than what he feels he deserves. He can’t tolerate being stuck, held back, slowed down, or having to contend with the mundane. He participates in extreme sports and loves to stretch out of his comfort zone in everything he undertakes, from gambling and business ventures to women. He may volunteer to serve in the Special Forces division of the armed services or the bomb squad, where he overcomes his fears with a mixture of courage and adrenaline-driven bravado. The dangerous woman poses a challenge to him. She’s wild and can’t be tamed, and she would naturally be attracted to his style of living life on the edge. A dangerous woman will get his blood boiling and adrenaline flowing.
3. The Man in Mid-life: Question: How do you know when a man has entered midlife? Answer: When he starts dying his hair, purchases a new younger, hipper wardrobe, buys a convertible sports car and equips it with a young blond. Around age 40, this man may begin a quest for “something better.” He may begin parading around in peacock fashion, hoping that an attractive woman or women will notice. Inside, he is screaming to be seen, admired, adulated and adored. When he no longer feels like a special person, he becomes vulnerable to anxiety and depression and may start abusing drugs and alcohol. He may also be facing looming financial, career, legal or marital disasters. The ancient Greeks referred to this as Katabasis or Great Fall. He may seek relief from his despair in an out-of-bounds relationship with a woman who tells him he’s “special,” although he lacks the clarity to make a wise love choice. At first, he’s just relieved to have finally found “the one” – until it sours.
4. The Man Filled with Longing: He longs for something other than what he’s got. He fantasizes about his younger years and starts eying women half his age. It’s not uncommon for men who are in their mid to late 50’s, who have been married for twenty or more years, to experience their relationships as dull and devoid of romance and passion. He knows he’s beyond midlife and feels an urgency to recapture his youth before it’s too late. In the movie Moonstruck the question is asked: “Why does an older man have an affair with a younger woman?” The character played by Olympia Dukakis responds, “Because he’s afraid to die.” A man like this fears aging, so when his wife matures into the mundane world of matronhood, he may lose interest in her and turn to maidens who are succulent and carry the nectar of eternal youth. He may rush into a divorce – or drive his wife into dumping him. As a therapist, I know that aging men and women can do the work to help weatherproof their relationship and protect it from the aggressions of a dangerous woman, but the work is painful and many couples aren’t willing to do it.
5. The Narcissist: Narcissus was a beautiful man who was promised a lavish life so long as he heeded his mother’s warning to never gaze upon his own features. Ignoring her pleas, Narcissus saw his reflection in the waters of a spring and fell in love with himself, gazing at the mirror of water until he starved to death. According to Greek legend, a flower named for him sprang up in the spot where he died. The moral of this story warns of the perils of self-absorption. The Narcissist is doomed by his own shallowness, and dominated by his needs. He fears mediocrity and wants to be seen as special. Charming, intelligent, and talented, he may rise to prominence. But inside he feels empty; fears intimacy; seeks approval and admiration. He, too, fears aging and losing control. Desperate to restore his feeling of youth and vitality, he seeks out the company of beautiful women. He’s a magnet for young maidens who will adore him — at least temporarily. When the luster fades, and he loses control, he starts to resort to less than charming behaviors. Narcissistic males fall along the continuum from fairly benign to pathologically malignant, becoming overly controlling, deceitful, manipulative, threatening and even psychopathically dangerous. A male manifesting a more severe form of narcissism may have suffered an attachment disorder arising from an early break within a primary bond typically existing between him and his mother. This can cause a deeper split in his psyche creating the development of a borderline personality disorder. A man with this disorder can appear to be quite charming and together; however, his persona has been crafted to hide a dark shadow side to his personality. Narcissists are often ingenuous and duplicitous. Men like that lead double lives and are the prototype of the sheep in wolf’s clothing; the poster boy as personification of the modern day false prophet. As with borderline women, men with this disorder don’t maintain proper limits or respect appropriate boundaries, exhibiting a lack of impulse control. At first, a woman will believe that she has met Mr. Wonderful only to later realize that her dream-guy has become Mr. Nightmare. If he seems to be too good to be true, you’ll undoubtedly discover that your initial suspicions were correct. The Jekyll-Hyde split in his demeanor will betray that he is no doubt a borderline-disordered male and that things will typically begin to go from bad to worse before the relationship explodes or implodes. A man with this disorder is love-avoidant. It’s not that he doesn’t crave love; it’s just that he doesn’t trust it or understand it in its fullest expression. A borderline male tends to pull women toward him and then push them away when they get too close. He starts off adoring the objects of his attraction and then winds up devaluing and rejecting them. Seducing women feeds his narcissistic longing for attention. It holds the hope of filling his core emptiness and quelling his addiction. The problem is that he can’t live with them and he can’t live without them. Therein lies the rub. Since a borderline can’t form healthy attachments and sustain solid viable relationships he takes hostages. He will typically choose women that are needy and that he can control. This is a way of avoiding the more together and powerful woman that would trigger his fear of rejection and abandonment. If he should happen to choose a solid and healthy partner he will have to weaken her by reducing her through derision to self-doubt and lowered-self-esteem. This way he can maintain his artificial sense of control and stave off his dreaded fear of being alone with himself.
6. The Man Who Would be King: He’s the ultimate “success object.” He’s successful, ambitious, with a ravenous appetite for power and possessions. He may unwittingly be willing to sacrifice hearth and home for something that he feels he must have — more money, prestige, fame or adulation. Charismatic and intelligent, he commands attention and displays his wealth and power in the company of others. He has a sense of entitlement and surrounds himself with admirers who do his bidding. But he’s perpetually dissatisfied and must continue to pursue new conquests. He is an easy mark for a dangerous woman looking for a man-on-the-rise, a woman who believes that only she has something to offer him that he needs in order to fulfill his quest. She opens the door to heightened passion and ardor so enchanting that he cannot resist her. She imbues him with intoxicating nectar, setting him on fire. The man who would be king feels privileged to reach out for whatever he desires and longs for, and has an unconscious drive to own all the best women in the land. We might think of former presidents John Kennedy or Bill Clinton as being the prototype for this kind of man. Clinton, similar to his hero, John Kennedy, felt a sense of inflated entitlement manifesting in the belief that he deserved to satisfy his desire for whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted it — including women. In fact, Kennedy evidenced that he felt he deserved to have his pick of the best women in the land, and he chose perhaps the epitome of the most widely desired vixens of the moment, Marilyn Monroe.
7. The Sexually Addicted Man: Lust has been around since the dawn of time. The theories on why people self-destruct using sex and love run the gamut. One man acts out his addiction by having multiple sex partners and another man obsesses over a woman who is emotionally unavailable to him. Others derail their lives by compulsively masturbating (sometimes as much as five to twenty times a day), having inappropriate fantasies or extramarital affairs, continually logging onto pornographic web sites on the Internet, or hurting themselves sexually with a variety of objects or self-destructive behaviors. Sometimes children of broken families, who live in environments that feature molestation or affairs, may grow into adults who can’t distinguish between what’s acceptable and what’s not. The problem can be made worse by the many sexual images portrayed in the media these days, and of course, alcohol and drugs never make a potentially bad situation better. It’s important to understand that sexual addictions don’t happen overnight. They take time to develop. But when they’re full-blown, a man won’t be able to resist the repeated urge to enter into a potentially dangerous “love relationship” with a sexual object or experience that gives him pleasure and the illusion of intimacy. This last sentence defines an addict: He’s hooked and can’t say no. To reiterate, the object of his addiction gives him two things: pleasure and an illusion of intimacy. Not everyone who struggles with sexual compulsions is an addict. Some men abuse their sexuality for a period of time and then grow out of it. Many men with a regrettable sexual experience in the past put it behind them and move on. But not everyone is so fortunate. Some men block emotional pain with sexual pleasure. Over time they have to try increasingly risky forms of sexual behavior in order to deaden the pain. Eventually their world revolves around sex and dangerous relationships. Their obsession has taken over their life. Male and female sex addicts are magnets for each other. It is believed that about 8 percent of men in the United States (and 3 percent of women) have the disorder, but few of those affected are getting the help they need.
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