Why Do We Seek Out Unreliable Men?


I complain a lot that I never meet “good guys” but mostly I’m just lying, like when I pretend I actually care about my little muffin top or my hair getting big in the humidity. All these things are glaring unrealities — I mostly attract really lovely guys, my muffin top means I’m happy full of delicious food and my summer faux-Jew-fro makes me look like I always just had sex, which is not a bad thing. Moreover, these problems I whine about are ones I could fix myself: I could accept a nice guy instead of running after douche bags, I could definitely stand to exercise more and I guess there’s probably some kind of hair relaxant on the market I could invest in.

Good guys, for the most part, aren’t hard to find. Actually, I’m starting to suspect they might secretly be everywhere. I meet them all the time. Sometimes they’re interested in me, sometimes they’re not, and either way, they still act like good guys. To clarify, a “good guy” isn’t someone who is perfect — good guys fuck their shit up too — it’s someone who is honest, loyal and reliable, who works hard and diligently at things, including relationships, and who does their best to be kind to people. The antithesis of this is, for want of a better turn of phrase, a “bad guy”, or someone who often lies, is unreliable, lazy, selfish and not necessarily mean, but definitely lacking in empathy and even offhandedly callous. So why do I, and by “I” I mean, many of us stupid young women, so often eschew the good guy to titty flash the bad guy?

Now I realize distinctions in character aren’t always this binary, but there are definitely people, even if for only a brief phase in their lives, behave in a way that, in willful blindness, hurts other people. People who are reckless with other people’s emotions. People who put their hedonistic desires before open dialogue. People who switch their affection off the way one presses “cancel” on a toaster when the bread is warm enough. People who say they’ll be there, and never are. Really, really sexy people.

I don’t know what it is, necessarily, about unreliable men that makes me get down like a prayer, but there’s something moronically enticing about wondering if someone you’ve been sleeping with is ever going to contact you again, chain smoking through weeks on end of radio silence. More enticing, than say, knowing that someone who cares about you will call you like clockwork the morning after. I’m not saying this is a right, or OK, or normal mental state to squalor in, but it is a mental state that definitely (and prevalently?) exists.

Sometimes I think it’s because unreliable men are the most reliable people of all, insofar as you can rely on your expectation of them that they are unreliable, with any added reliability being a bonus. A man you deem “reliable” can only ever serve to let you down. But that kind of psychoanalysis is too easy, and doesn’t attribute any of the responsibility for this bizarre penchant on me, and let’s face it, this cross is most certainly mine to bear when I’m actively and gleefully prancing around, trying to lock down the un-lock-down-able.

The alternative scares me a little; and that’s that I’m not reliable. Ergo, I’m looking for the sort of person who will mirror the amount of commitment I’m willing to give right now. But no! How can this be! I want to care and be cared for! To love and be loved! It’s completely untenable that what should thrill me is not someone else’s inherent unreliability in a relationship, but my own.

And against all the doubt and questioning, the romantic deep inside me, against the odds of my own self-destructive tendencies, is steadfastly shrill: “Perhaps you just haven’t yet met the one that is worth being reliable for! And perhaps he hasn’t yet met you!”

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