A big theme that I have observed in the world of male/female intimate relationships is the confusion felt by men around what women want. I refer to this as the nice guys versus bad boys dichotomy.
Following from my last piece, Emasculation and Objectification, this article will explore modern day archetypes, ‘Mr Nice Guy,’ the ‘Bad Boy’ and how they can play out in a dating/relationship context. It will also look at the in between guy, ‘Mr Unavailable,’ and finally, what healthy balanced women really want from their masculine counterpart.
I have certainly experienced this dichotomy playing out in my own dating life. I have been intimately involved with men who fit the description of a typical ‘bad boy’ or ‘player’ where they engaged in all manner of mind games. Conversely, I have had experiences with the ‘nice guy’ who has almost bent over backwards to cater to what he assumed were all my needs and desires.
The ‘bad boy’ archetype can be seen in film and TV characters such as Tyler Durden from Fight Club, Eric Northman from True Blood and Jesse Pinkman from Breaking Bad. He is brimming with bravado, oozing with sexual magnetism, and carries a distinct air of intrigue and mystery. He is ‘bad’ in the sense that he doesn’t follow the pack, and in some cases literally operates outside the confines of the law. Women supposedly find him irresistible, and he has his pick of sexual conquests, which he regularly takes advantage of.
The ‘nice guy’ archetype on the other hand is much more likely to be put in the ‘friend zone’ due to his overly doting and caring nature. He puts his partner’s needs before his own, avoids any and all types of confrontation, and essentially lives to please others, particularly the object of his affection. He often complains that despite all his best efforts, women don’t find him sexually attractive, and that he is more likely to end up listening to their troubles with the aforementioned ‘bad boy’ than enthralling them between the sheets.
Popular culture and the media both reinforce the notion that women are impossible to please, are never satisfied and actively pursue the bad boy, only to end up running back to the nice guy for comfort and support when her heart is inevitably broken. Whilst this template certainly does play out in real life to varying degrees, I would argue that it continues to be perpetuated by these stereotypes that are highly damaging to both men and women, and to intimate relationships.
Natalie Lue from Baggage Reclaim writes extensively about Mr Unavailable, the guy who resides between the Bad Boy and Mr Nice Guy.
She argues that Mr Unavailable is very much about the chase:
He pursues hard, showers you with attention and lays it on thick with a trowel in order to reel you in, but from the moment that you are hooked and things get comfortable, he backs off. Then he homes in again.Natalie Lue, Baggage RecLAIM
I would suggest that out of the three above mentioned archetypes, the majority of men who experience significant issues achieving genuine intimacy in relationships fall into the Mr Unavailable category to varying degrees. With all of the confusion around expectations of masculinity and what women want, it is not surprising that this is the case. This is also not to absolve these men of taking responsibility for their unavailable behaviour and addressing the underlying issues.
There is the other side of the coin to take into consideration as well. In the Queen’s Code , Alison Armstrong talks about how women thrive on feelings of warmth and connection that are activated in a relationship when a couple is getting along. Thus, it is a natural instinct for a woman to avoid any kind of conflict with her mate which also includes asserting her needs if she feels that he is not likely to agree with them.
If she does speak up and state her wants, and he doesn’t agree or he reacts negatively, she instinctively feels his withdrawal from the connection on a deep subconscious energetic level. This sends off alarm bells in her mind, and she immediately becomes anxious, which further triggers her to to rekindle the ‘lost’ connection so she can feel safe in the relationship again. This may play out in the form of her taking back her requests, or repeatedly asking him if something is wrong. This behaviour creates a push pull dynamic within the relationship that can cause conflict and confusion for both, especially for the masculine.
Of course, all of this behaviour can be played out to the extreme in relationships in a chronic behavioural dynamic that can sometimes last for decades. When it reaches this level, it is often an indication of a toxic relationship, and there is a high likelihood that both parties have experienced significant levels of abandonment, trauma, abuse or all of the above. This can often stem as far back as childhood, and may require professional counselling or other significant therapeutic interventions to help work through the trauma.
Heterosexual women who are largely in a healthy place in their own lives are not seeking a Bad Boy, Mr Nice Guy or Mr Unavailable. They are looking for a man who is strong (both physically and spiritually), protective, assertive, a generous lover, and has the ability to charge ahead and get things done. He also has a well developed inner feminine aspect; he has the strength to show his vulnerability, and he has a strong nurturing side which he shares generously with his mate.
At the same time, he deals with confrontation when it arises in an assertive and respectful manner, and he doesn’t give up his autonomy when he needs it, or bend over backwards to please others for external validation. He also knows when to pull back and allow for space with his mate, and when to come forward and offer his time, support and assistance. He allows for an element of mystery within the relationship in order to keep the embers of desire burning strong. This is the divine masculine: powerful, strong, alluring, balanced compassionate and beautiful beyond all measure.