Yesterday I began to answer the question from a 20-something, “do bad guys ever eventually turn good?” This was in response to the advice not to waste too much time on bad guys in your twenties. Date them, have fun with them, but don’t try to change them or marry them. But perhaps, depending on the degree and type of badness, they will change themselves and grow into relationship readiness.
Most women agree there are some non-negotiables. We’re talking the Charlie Sheens here. If there’s a drug addiction or other destructive personality traits then that’s an absolute so “stay away”. I’d say the same for excessive anger or abusive traits. After hearing so many women talk about how they thought that “little anger issue” would get better or that drinking problem would go away once they get married, I came up with an analogy. If you buy a used car and there is a little something wrong with it, you don’t think that little something wrong is going to get better with wear and tear. Like any fracture or fault, with the stress of more responsibility, perhaps a house payment, perhaps children, it’s likely that little problem is going to get worse, not better. So really take a look at how he handles the stress and whether it really is a “little” issue. For example:
“I broke up with him when I realized he wanted that drink more than he wanted to date me. I thought it was a “problem” that I could support him on and help him with, but in the end he wasn’t ready for that. He didn’t want someone looking over his shoulder making him feel guilty about drinking as much as he wanted”.
Then there is the cheating factor. Some people say once a cheater always a cheater.
“If a cheater I think always a cheater and liar and it’s inherent and he can justify however he sees fit so stay away.”
A few say it’s a wake up call. If the cheating is a symptom of something that is missing in the relationship, it can possibly be addressed. If it’s symptomatic of the cheaters character, then it probably can’t.
But after that it gets a little more optimistic. If it’s immaturity, selfishness or chasing sex (vs. cheating) then there probably is some chance that he will change. I got a comment yesterday from the founder of the Good Men Project a magazine and online portal that gives 25% of profits to help at risk boys. He attests to the fact that a man can change… he overcame drinking and overall immaturity to get his life on track. The key is, it came from him. As one woman reminds us:
“Just remember the number one mistake women make is thinking they can change men– when they can’t. The man needs to change himself if he wants to.”
So we heard from a man who did change. Here is from a woman who married a “bad guy gone good.”
“I do believe that a ‘bad’ guy can become ‘good’ because I have seen it happen. I knew guys in college who were heavy drug users, seemed to only care about partying and getting girls in bed. Some of those guys are now faithfully and happily married, raising kids and have steady, good careers. Of course I also know some guys who led that life in college who are still single and searching for direction in their life. So, I suppose you never know. My husband was a VERY different guy in college and kept company with some of the ‘bad’ guys. I too thought he might be a ‘bad” guy’. I met him during Spring Break of my senior year and never expected to hear from him again. I followed my heart and trusted my instinct that underneath his macho guy image was a sensitive, caring person. After 23 years of being together, I am confident that I was right.”
That badness was probably of the “Overgrown Frat Boy” type defined in yesterday’s post. Laddish behavior that can mature into responsible behavior (more so when he has kids vs. when he gets married). You just have to wait, as men often mature later than women. Most women say, that type of immaturity typically starts to run out of steam by around 27 or 28 but to be sure, wait until 30. If you are ready and he is not, it’s probably time to move on. If he does change himself, maybe you’ll still be there, maybe not.
Here is a woman married to more of the “non-conformist” bad-boy type, but had some experience with “absolute no’s”. In the end, her advice: Don’t judge a book by its cover. Look under the bad boy accoutrements to see if you have common values:
“Are we talking cheater/drug user/heavy drinker or in a band/not responsible/rides a motorcycle kind of thing? Referring to the first definition, no. People who are compulsive or addictive are always that way, in my experience they move from one addiction to another, smoking, gambling, weight lifting, drinking, drugs, sex…always quitting one and replacing it with another. Referring to the second definition, maybe. Some tattooed/motorcycle riding/beer drinking bad boys are responsible, and some aren’t. Compatible education levels, values, interests and life choices are something you should look for in a person when looking for a mate. If your potential match up happens to be a tattooed/motorcycle riding/party guy, then he would be a ‘good’ guy for you. Selecting a mate should not be based on impulsive choices.”
Then there was the perspective from a woman that we have to also look at ourselves. Is he all bad, or are you overly demanding?
“You have to look at the context. If he is selfish and narcissistic he may change in some ways. BUT how selfish and narcissistic are you? We all are to a degree. A lot of success in relationships is based upon how self-aware you are and he is and how you work through that together. Then it becomes about fit. Ultimately it may be a compatibility question, because what is acceptable to one woman will not be to another. Finally, and this may be controversial, the difference between him being a bad guy and a good guy may be the difference between you being a bad woman and good woman (just ask yourself how high maintenance are you and are your expectations too high for any human being to live up to, and frankly do you deliver against those same expectations?)”
And in the gist of, “enjoy the bad boys for what they are in your 20s but don’t spend too much time on them”:
“We are drawn to a ‘little bit of naughty and that devil inside- the consummate bad boy’ so there may be just great sex appeal involved, and frankly if you just want sex then go for it but please recognize that it’s just a situation for sex and NOT a relationship. So don’t judge someone as being bad if all they can deliver against is ‘just sex’. Unless the sex is bad, then please complain all you want.”
In the end, drugs and addiction. No. At least not until they have hit rock bottom and really can prove they can do it. But don’t wait around for them. Immaturity, yes. But you are going ot have to wait around a little but for them. Trust your gut instinct. If their behavior is detrimental to your self-confidence or self-esteem, then it’s not worth the wait.