Why Women Pick Bad Men.

Via Tamara Star
on Jun 2, 2011
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Yes, I’m going to say it: we are truly at fault because we pick them ourselves.

Rather than  victims, we’ve been volunteers.

My 20′s and 30′s were spent dating wonderful men that I remain friends with to this day, yet my 40′s have consisted of 2 terrible relationships.  I realize now that a traumatic event altered my self-esteem when I turned 40 and that’s when I stopped listening to my inner knowing.

Since that time, I’ve come to the very clear conclusion that we as women pick bad men because we don’t validate our own knowing.

Stay with me here.  By validate, I mean listen to that inner voice that “knows” something isn’t right.  If we grew up in a tumultuous childhood (and who didn’t?) we were unheard and invalidated.  We grew up wanting that validation from the world around us and because we never experienced it in our past, we never developed the self validation reflex.

What does this mean? It means we’re vulnerable to men that lay it on thick in the beginning.  We let ourselves be put on a pedestal and lavished with false love. This false love may feel validating, but it’s truly not.

We ignore the signs of trouble because we’re enjoying someone outside of ourselves lavishing us with courtship and romance.  We don’t authenticate the inner knowing of “uh oh something’s wrong here”, and  instead continue to look for validation that we’re okay by forcing an unhealthy relationship to work.

When things do go wrong and it blows up in our faces, we still continue to plow ahead and “make things work”.  How many of us have done this? Trying over and over to fix it, make it work, figure it out?   Sure relationships are hard and communication is tricky, all good things require some degree of work; but a dysfunctional relationship has big warning signs early on.

If you’re a woman that grew up being legitimized and trusting her own guidance, chances are you will run when true dysfunction arises. On the flip side, if you’re a woman that grew up in a difficult childhood,  you will try to make it work at all costs and continue to seek validation outside of yourself from your partner. The good times are so good they feed that empty space inside of you and you ignore the warnings in your belly.  Lack of personal validation will cause women to justify their partner’s poor behaviors, while healthy self validation skills acknowledge the concerns.

When a woman trusts herself and truly provides her own validation, she stops making poor choices.  She trusts her inner knowing and stops picking bad men for relationship.

When we recognize that the highs of early romance are feeding that empty part inside that wants to be validated and finally stop ignoring the telling signs of dysfunction, we can start to choose healthy partners.

It’s time we realize that we’ve not been victims, we’ve been volunteers.



~all photos from freedigitalphotos.net  Queen by Tom Curtis, Bull by Simon Howden, cake by serenabooth.com, man by fanpop.com




About Tamara Star

Tamara Star believes happiness is not an end destination, but instead the ability to see the ordinary through eyes of wonder. Want her free tips and tricks for health, happiness and love? Click here. Receive her free 3 video series for clearing the slate for more love & happiness. Click here. She's an international best-selling author and the creator of the original 40-day Personal reboot program for women--a 6 week virtual deep dive into clearing the slate on what's blocking you. Registration is open NOW here. Tamara's global reach inspires women around the world through her programs, newsletters, and teachings. She's been featured on SiriusXM radio, Good Morning America, former Oprah producer LeGrande Green's GetBOLD radio, Dr. Brenda Wade's GoodLove Radio, Daybreak USA and News Australia. Connect with Tamara on her websiteFacebook or Twitter. Tamara's work had been translated into 6 languages and featured on The Huffington Post, MindBodyGreen, Positively Positive, Yahoo News, The News.com Australia, The Good Men Project, and Yoga Anonymous.


48 Responses to “Why Women Pick Bad Men.”

  1. Ben_Ralston says:

    Hi Tamara,
    I'd just like to add:
    Growing up in dysfunctional surroundings also means that one's boundaries become weak.
    More than just 'looking for validation', people often feel more alive in an abusive situation. I'll give an example of how this works:
    If as a child your parental relationship was abusive, abuse is your reference point for love (you don't have another). So when you grow up you subconsciously associate abuse with love. It's connected to survival instincts which we feel in our gut. The abuse you suffer as a child may make you feel 'numb' inside (or helpless / paralyzed / frozen / like you don't exist). So as an adult you then associate that feeling with love / safety, and seek out relationships (subconsciously of course!) that support that feeling in you (because deep down, it makes you feel safe).
    It makes no sense to the head, and not much sense to the heart. But the body (gut) is a powerful driving force – much more powerful than head and heart put together.
    Another way of looking at the whole problem (which is actually what you said in your article, I'll just put it another way) is that in a 'functional' person the head heart and gut all speak the same language. So they meet someone abusive and just 'know' in the gut, feel it in the heart, and are certain in the head. But when we grow up in a dysfunctional family our head heart gut coherence is out of whack… so we end up being attracted to people (gut) that we don't really like (heart) and feeling pretty confused about it (head).
    This 'coherence', when taken to it's highest level represents enlightenment. At it's worst it represents madness, addiction, disease.

  2. I just listened to an interview (literally last night). The woman was from the PAX program – http://understandmen.com/ – and although I felt she was a bit stereotypical in classing all women one way and all men the other way, I believe it goes well with what you are saying. She said if "woman" expected "men" to be all bad, she only ever found bad men… to put in your words, she volunteered herself to the "bad" men? Great article, thanks for sharing :)

  3. Great post, Tamara! Hope you volunteer for a great-guy-who-treats-you-well soon. xo

  4. Monique says:

    I find it interesting that there is no mention of culture/patriarchy here. A culture that rewards emotionally stunted, self-absorbed men creates a shitty relationship minefield. (Of course, the culture creates some really annoying/destructive things in women, too, but that's a different story). This whole psychodynamic viewpoint about childhood trauma causing destructive patterns is sometimes right on. But it is possible for women (and men) who had loving, supportive, (relatively) normal childhoods to make bad choices as well. This piece just gives me a general feeling of oversimplifying a complex issue, as well as embracing a victim-blaming mentality. It's easy to fall into that whole "women want assholes" thing. The subtext of that, of course, being that women are irrational, codependent, emotional children who enjoy being abused. It's easier to throw up our hands and say 'women want assholes' than it is to dissect the complex patterns of a culture that has for years glorified the 'bad boy' and the damsel-in-distress. Just a little feminist perspective.

  5. I think also that men, though not to the extent of women, do this as well.

    Wonderfully said.

  6. In a word, FABULOUS!!!!!!!!!!! This piece resoanated with me at sooo many levels, I cannot even begin to tell you…As I often say, if I knew then what I know now, I’d rule the planet! Something magical happens as we move into our forties gracefully…and uhm, not so gracefully. For many of us, it is the first time that we actually start loving ourselves, and dispelling many of the illusory spells that have been cast over us — from Cinderella to Snow White. My relationship track record has been patchy at best. The good news however is that with each one, I seem to be making improvement in my selections, and getting clear about who I am and what I truly value. We can only learn these invaluable lessons through first person experience, and in our own space and time. Courageous piece Tamara. You go girl! Blessings,~UniversalEmpress

  7. elephantjournal says:

    John W Why do men pick bad women? … never mind I already know 😉

    Stacey G tamara, that's excellent.

    Kristin Thanks Tamara! Awesome article…sooo well put!

    Debra Brilliant article! Thank you

    Oversimplifies a very, very complex relationship dynamic. Not all women are emotional children that want/expect to be abused, and yet they too find themselves in pseudo-relationships with men who are in fact narcissistic objectifiers of wom…ankind. Perhaps this IS more about mankind than womankind? Some women are lovers who believe in people; but give her time! If a man is truly "bad" she will move on. How about we talk about the warped psychology of men here instead of blaming women for the unhealthy, very old, and socially acceptable behaviors of men? Why does our culture glorify/celebrate these men? It's easy to be a self-absorbed asshole-never facing, owning, or working through your own issues, using and abusing women to distract you from your own pain-past and present.
    Tamara Kerner true christina but i find it more empowering to realize that we make our own choices…we may have been victimized a long time ago but we don't have to continue that cycle. There are so many good GOOD men out there. There are good men and bad men. Good women and bad women. Yes your last line is true but we don't have to pick them. xo

    ‎@ Christine VERY true. But in the same breath a great thought provoking article just touching on very very deep complex issues of humanity as we all know nothing is so black and white.

    I believe society/parental history/essential soul … work all have some responsibility and influencing factor in how we view LOVE and what we experience as LOVE. We all crave love/ acceptance, understanding etc YET we forget we have to do LOVE DAILY for ourselves. We have to fill ourselves up and can't expect others to do so. Relationships are really a working progress in which they reflect back a part of yourself, that one is too blind to, or cannot accept within one's own essence. Its not another's fault if we have chosen to be mistreated or have created a co-dependent abusive relationship. As really in that moment there is some part of ourselves that we have mistreated. TRUTH is really they are your spiritual angels showing you where you need and MUST work to get healthy, either together or apart. It's not a fault/blame game man/women issue here but a responsibility to heal what is broken/damaged/ missing within. It's not someone else's responsibility to meet our own expectations of love, it's your own to work and desire to evolve in what and where you are with yourself in every moment. Hard as it might be to hear, but what one is attracting is the very thing that needs attention to heal. It is a gift and an opportunity to HEAL what is missing within ones own entity. It's a choice everyday to be someone's partner. Instead of blaming another for what they do to you how about GRATITUDE to them for showing you about yourself how you react and what you choose and THAT YOU DO HAVE THE POWER TO CHOOSE IN EVERY MOMENT.

    Obviously Its always a PLUS to have 2 willing aware supportive partners in a relationship!!!
    Read -Radical Forgiveness by Colin Tipping
    *Please don't misunderstand I'm not staying people deserve to be abused at all.**

  8. Sasha says:

    Well done, Tamara!

  9. Pamela says:

    I think there was a whole lot of truth in this article.

  10. Steve Z says:

    Trusting our core instincts can be difficult, as our mind likes to keep us in our patterns of suffering. Developing this awareness is consciousness, as well as the great pursuit of our lives. After a couple decades in relationships, evaluating, wondering, trying, working at them, I always had an idea of what it would be like to meet Ms Right. Funny thing is, now that it's happened, the way it went down was truly unlike what I ever thought. There was never a Maybe; it's always been an unabashed Yes. Like Yoda says, there is no Try, only Do.

  11. Laine I truly appreciate what you wrote. Tamara, great that you started this conversation also, as I believe it to be so truly deep and resonate, for me in particular and for many others. I will own being a man recovering from codependent patterns, so I truly have thought about this so much.

    Tamara, I really like what you said around the self validation piece. For me this was the intrinsic part in my healing journey, where I used to get confused about the self validation was more along the lines of affirmations, which at some core level I did not truly believe. I do not believe "fake it till you make it" works here. I believe that this only suppresses core wounds more deeply. At least this was the case with my wounds and my healing.

    I have come to believe that Carl Jung was right in that coming into our 40's is a time of moving into our shadow as a path of self acceptance. For me these were not affirmations or necessarily self validation, but self acceptance. Very similar to self validation and depending on how you meant it Tamara perhaps even the same. My journey towards a complete self acceptance began when, while also in my 40's, I first felt a part of myself in therapy which I would describe as feeling unlovable. For me this was terrible to feel and certainly was a powerful, and still active, remnant from childhood. I did not even know that this part of me existed on a body/felt level. I believe that this was acting in my subconscious to draw partners towards me who treated me in an unlovable manner. I believe that this unhealed part of my psyche was leading the way.

    (Going back to my healing of these patterns and thoughts) for me was a process of self acceptance. What this looked like for me was an embrace of all parts of myself. From my shame at feeling unlovable as a child, to my feelings of wrongness regarding my sexuality. Could I accept all these parts of myself and recognize that for me these thoughts and feelings were just a part of ME. And that even with all of these parts which I had tried to rid myself of for so long I was still lovable, these parts of myself were all lovable, my unlovable feeling part was worthy of love, my feelings of wrongness surrounding my sexuality were worthy of love, and yes even my neediness was worthy of love.

    And by being worthy of love I want to clarify two things, first that in my self acceptance there was full acceptance. This means that I did not accept these parts of myself hoping that they would then change, I accepted these parts of myself being completely okay even if they were with me the rest of my life I would not wish them away or want them to change. I believe that the human experience is about learning how to love and that there is not one part of us which is un-worthy of love. Secondly for me, was how this self love expressed and this was in two specific ways, one is that I allowed myself to feel all these parts of myself, I spent time with these parts of myself, then I began sharing these parts of myself with "safe" people whom I knew would not run or reject me. I believe that the greatest way we can love these parts of ourselves is to spend time with them. I can say that there would have been no better loving action on the part of my parents than to just spend time with me, which they did not.

    Acceptance, time, and sharing these "unwanted" parts of ourselves (though there are certain times to not share parts of ourselves, if we hide them we have to be careful because we very well could be hiding them out of shame)

    I believe that for many of us if we take care of this we will draw loving, nurturing partners into our lives.

    My apologies of this was too long for some of you, I really felt in my heart that it was a great opportunity to get clear on my own thinking about the topic and perhaps it will help one or two people.

    Blessings, Jack

  12. Not the Buddha says:

    Thank you, Tamara, for writing this. Incidentally, this also goes the other way — good men picking less than optimum women. And you're right, whoever does the "volunteering," as you well put it, would do well to look back and ponder. My experience as a man has been the opposite of yours — starting off with poor choices and gradually getting better over the years. And turning inwardly, of course, to ask how can I be better in the next relationship — what do I need to improve on, what other skills do I need to hone, where do I need to set my boundaries better. I do have to say that I don't regret any experience and that I stayed in the relationships sometimes a needlessly long time… until I really learned better. I appreciate your writing this, again, and am sorry to see that some of the folks commenting here fail to appreciate the gift of what you offer. And here's knowing that your next relationship will be with a loving man, reflecting your wisdom.

  13. Jay says:

    "Bad Men" should be defined here. As used, pretty judgmental. The flip side of the dynamic described is broken-ness. The man who moves too fast, puts woman on pedestal, pours on the charm is not necessarily Bad. He is acting out of a broken-ness of heart, a feeling of less than, trying to get validation himself. A guy who never recognizes this, is afraid to look at this part of himself, who is unwilling to take responsibility for his actions and work on healing, is very defensive about being "right"; maybe you can judge him as Bad. OR just a scared boy. A guy like me. I get it now, just came out of a relationship where I did my dance and realized how it was not working for me. How my way of being resulted in hurting someone I care about. And I am going to take the time to heal, let that boy in me know it is ok to have feelings that were denied as a child. Take that broken-ness, become whole. Move forward with capacity to have a whole, functional, full relationship. Only after I do my inner work.

  14. camille says:

    I'm sad to see the 'woman as victim'–even if she's a victim of herself–notion perpetuated, not to mention cheered on, on a webpage about seeking a truer path of living. I don't buy or like the idea that we women are trying to figure ourselves out, but men who are from very dysfunctional backgrounds, and who exhibit unproductive and corrosive behaviors in a relationship are 'bad'. The implication there for me, is that 'those' men are never examining their own behavior, have no chance at gaining insight, and will never grow or change. To be honest, it's kind of disappointing to hear anyone who aligns themselves to yoga practice, a huge component of which is learning compassion, both for ourselves and for others, label someone as 'bad'. Plus, there are two people in every relationship, and it's no accident why people come together as we do; we always end up being a teacher for the other, whether or not the relationship lasts. The whole 'women are like this, men are like this' approach is sexist toward both genders, and demeans us all as human beings. I'm sorry to give such an ugly comment but I think this view is unfair to both men and women, and when I see others (especially other women, as I am one) cheering the 'bad men/poor women' theory on, it makes me cringe. Ok for Oprah, not ok for elephant.

  15. Eric says:

    This is not a female phenomenon, guys do the same thing. It is interesting you use the word ‘validation’ I see it more akin to love. If you love yourself, ie are truly happy with how you are and how you act towards others, you understand that a relationship is about sharing that love with somebody else, not being loved, or ‘validated’ by someone else. I am going through a divorce and this has made me look at my past relationship. One of the things my ex said as some sort of reason for straying was that I didn’t make her happy anymore. It is only when we can stand on our own and be happy that we should then look for a partner. I have found somebody wonderful and my joy now is loving her, her joy is loving me.

  16. Lila Marker says:

    This is a load of crap.

  17. Jin Newborn says:

    Good write-up, I am normal visitor of one’s site, maintain up the nice operate, and It is going to be a regular visitor for a lengthy time.

  18. […] in your life. Now, cut all the cords of attachment you have with toxic people. Clear away all your unhealthy attachments to people, imagining a white sword of light cleansing and removing all remaining unhealthy […]

  19. Rachel says:

    And how a shitty relationship can be the ground for growth! I love this article, and can relate to what is being said.
    Leaving an emotionally abusive relationship with the father of my child had been the hardest, yet most rewarding growth period of my life. It was only when I hit the deep dark ground that i began to question why I was in such turmoil. There was a little voice inside that was screaming to have her needs met. And she wasnt going to let up until she was listened to. She definately screamed from my gut. She was loud and messy and not someone i wanted to indulge. But when i gave her that acknowledgement – that yes, you dont deserve to be treated with such disrespect, she became more peaceful and willing to attempt to rebuild a life that asked me to construct these foreign 'boundaries' that I had never wanted or known to be a part of life.
    And so now, although its a daily struggle to learn how to navigate an ongoing relationship with the father of my child, i feel like I am starting to understand my own worthiness.

  20. Samsaraschoice says:

    For me, this article was astoundingly accurate. I am just reeling from the breakup of my third marriage. I am an intelligent professional woman who had a horrible childhood with a mother who never ceased from criticising and shouting at me.
    My third husband was a construction worker without an exam to his name. He had a dreadful childhood too. His mother abandoned him and he was sexually abused as a teenager. His father was violent and didnt protect him.
    Our love was fairytale magic. He, even more than me, wanted the fairy tale princess and he visualised himself as the knight. I adored it. The validation I got from this adoration soothed my sad soul and I soared with my rock at my feet.
    Within a few years though, he became incredibly angry and insecure. He missed no opportunity to put me down and disagree with me. He was physically violent a few times, but because it consisted if pushing and shoving and shouting in my face and clenching his fists in front of me and not actually hitting me or kicking me, he thought it was ok. I would cry endlessly as he shouted at me, trying to defend myself, but he would talk over me event I the point of playground type chanting. He also physically attacked my teenage sons leaving them bleeding and bruised because he thought they were disrespecting him. He accused me of controlling him and eventually walked out on me in a furious rage because I wouldn't agree with him about a some musician in a pub. This was the fourth time he had left me to go back to the mother who had reappeared in his life and whom he now adored. She too, was an arrogant woman who could not be wrong.
    Even now, knowing how he abused me and furious with myself for putting up with it, I still want to fix it. I asked him to go to a film with me this weekend. He refused and I finally have to accept that it is over. There is no other woman. He swears he will never love another like he loves me and is still playing the melodramatic tragic lost hero.
    If anyone has any ideas how I convince myself that I'm better off without this man, please help me. Most of me knows that this is dysfunctional and beyond hope, but the little lost princess still wants to swoon in his arms.

  21. JohnH says:

    Great article Tamara. As I mentioned to a friend who is a mother, if we raise our daughters to be prey, then we will raise our sons to be predators. There are a lot of mixed messages around sexuality and relationships now, but when women give up the victimhood role and take responsibility for themselves, then men will have to change. Yes, currently we men are snug in our patriarchal comfort zone and we have little incentive to change the status quo. It will come from the outside and, yes, women will have to do the heavy lifting. Men are simple. Reward good behavior and punish the bad. Sadly, from my experience, often the bad is rewarded and then the bitching begins about how "bad" men are. As Abraham Lincoln said, "Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be." – Ask the question, "what is my part in this?' If you don't like it, do something different, but don't waste time trying to "fix" (pun intended) others….

  22. Caro says:

    Love it. I'm a volunteer not a victim. That made me smile. I have done this… dysfunctional relationship (marriage) for a long time. 30+ years. Have always been trying to fix and wondering why I didn't feel loved by him and also my mother… where it , I guess, stems from. No longer volunteering! I am in the drivers seat of my life now. Took me so long to learn the lessons. Looking forward to the next half of my life. :)

  23. Kendal Farrow says:

    You poor women, you have chosen the good looking and well built, shallow men of this world. Me I'm fairly ok, overweight, strong as a bull, still do an hour of swimming every day and then I go home and look after my wife who is disabled, make beds, cooking washing, general house cleaning, work in the garden and most of all give my wife hugs and cuddles. Sex has been a part of our lives but not he begin all and end all and it has always being enjoyed by both of us. OH YES we have been married for 50 years and were brought up to be respectful of others.

  24. @Carolbas says:

    Tamara – you hit the nail right on the head. EVERY single time, I have known…but when your life depends on getting love and validation, the part of you that is longing overrides your inner voice… Thanks for offering a non-judgemental way for us to look at why we make the same mistake over and over again…and the truth behind what's happening.

  25. Claire Leedy says:

    I had a wonderful childhood. However I was sexually assaulted at 18 which led me to a crushed self esteem and many bad guys. One in particular was my ex husband of 20 years who is a narcissist in the worst way and thus of course emotionally abusive with a physical abuse incident thrown in for good measure. So it’s not just about childhood. At least for me.

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