The men you are attracted to aren’t good for you, they’re just familiar. Imagine the bad boy classic movie stereotype. He’s emotionally simple, unattached, cold with an anger issue. Think Steve from Stranger Things, Season 1. The bad boy usually has a squad of girls and beta boys surrounding him. Apparently people think the bad boy is attractive. Did you ever hear the old saying, ‘Girls only date the bad boy. They don’t bring him home to Mom.’ It’s a natural tendency to want to date a man who you think is primally attractive, but what does that mean in terms of a life worth living. How do you differentiate between hot men and a man who is good to pursue a life with.
Some people go through life not really analyzing what their attraction is based on. As the “Y” in “GYO” you can’t help but wonder, ‘why am I like this?’. In my teens, I thought my attraction was messed up. It wasn’t based on anything I could see in media or from a mentor, there were no archetypes. I kept it a secret because my attraction was gay, but also because it was toward men that were double or triple my age. Of course if I started hanging out with Wilford Brimly it would be misunderstood by everyone. I felt like a freak. Imagine telling your mom about that one! Yikes… My attraction was aimed at teachers, principals, bosses and yes, my friend’s dads and I was afraid to tell even my closest friends. If a man had salt and pepper hair, a gray mustache or beard and a beer-belly it only made my infatuation more intoxicating. (Before anyone gets started on some freudian “you’re attracted to your father” hypotheses, remember girls marry their fathers, and we are going to get to the bottom of this with out ending in some incestuous pit of despair.)
I tried to be attracted to girls and even young men in high school, it just didn’t work. Their smooth young mostly-hairless skin and naivety plus the scent of flowers and sweet candy or Axe Body Spray just grossed me out. Their fit flawless bodies were just a reminder of how much experience they lacked. I was cursed with an attraction to chubby hairy-chested older “weathered ” (or if you prefer ‘distinguished’…) looking men. “Distinguished” is code for gray and hopefully dignified, throw in a monocle and top hat for an image of a plutocrat from the Monopoly game board. I wanted an old man to look in to my eyes, look through me then sweep me off my feet in to his big strong arms and kiss me deeply. In my boyhood fantasy his gray rough whiskers scratched my soft young face and I would rest my head in the soft curls of gray chest hair. My imaginary boyfriend communicated a strong message of safety and security. Growing up as a teenager in the early 2000s It felt like a social death sentence.
A common thread appeared while reflecting on all the men my young self would be attracted to. They had commanding voices, were often controlling, “straight acting”, were fairly unsuccessful in their careers and they rejected my emotional desire for them. This was a departure from my imaginary boyfriend. Why was my imagination filled with older men who clearly loved and cared for me but my reality was filled with emotionally distant ‘straight’ dad hookups? In real life my romances, if you want to call them that, were reminiscent of how much older adults would treat me when I was young. As a toddler, an adolescent and a teen, I was mischievous. You didn’t have a real childhood if you weren’t testing the rules and boundaries, and often getting yelled at. These are the times that would stick out to me and shape me as an adult.
You aren’t attracted to who is good for you, you are attracted to someone who feels familiar… based on your past experiences
This image of a dominant man, barking orders, unloving and unsuccessful is a reoccurring description in general American life. It’s the unloving or unacknowledging disassociated cold distant father-figure. Think Armin Mueller-Stahl as the father, in that 1996 movie Shine , about the savant piano player. (Spoiler the father never recognized his own son as the phenomenal piano player that he was.) I was attracted to men that didn’t appreciate me. You will find similar cold distant fathers in so many Steven Spielberg movies, but I digress. This is the father figure who expects too much and will clearly never be happy or proud of anything the son ever does. (However in the Spielberg movies the dad comes around in the end if you want the happy ending before the credits roll.) My boyfriends went with the looks. I liked grumpy old men. So I shouldn’t be surprised when they were emotionally detached and well, grumpy, right?
I viewed the men I was attracted to as a package deal. There was simply nothing I could do about my attraction to somebody’s physical features and their emotional stability or personality just went along with it. Love is love, right?! This was my mentality for many years. It wasn’t until a good friend in the middle of a long discussion said, “You aren’t attracted to who is good for you, you are attracted to someone who feels familiar… based on your past experiences”. He was a very wise friend… Over the next few weeks these words would resonate in my head over and over again. I tried to understand and figure out what that meant. Attraction is “based on your past experiences”?
You will only find the love you think you deserve.
I was in my early 20s and was very career focused. I wanted to move up in my industry and be respected. At the same time I wanted to build a home life as well. I wanted a relationship I could share with the world but was hesitant to come out as GYO. I felt shame but couldn’t figure out if It was because of the angry unloving men I dated or because I was attracted to old men in the first place.
This was the perfect time to hear yet another significant platitude… “You will only find the love you think you deserve.”
I ignored the fact that quite a few older men had shown emotional interest in me and every 👏 single 👏 time 👏 I ran in the opposite direction. It became clear that I thought I deserved loveless angry relationships. I was attracted to cold unloving men because I didn’t love myself to think I deserved better. I wasn’t attracted to what was good for me. I was attracted to what I grew up feeling. That’s what was familiar to me.
Why was I so unimpressed with myself… My mistakes in life could and should be forgiven. Most of my feelings through my past were valid and some weren’t. My attraction to older men was good and healthy if it needed a little tweaking. This was the start of a long journey to finding a way to forgive myself. I was a good person doing mostly good things, but for some reason all I could remember was bad memories and bad blood. My friends and family didn’t love a bad person. They saw the good in me that I couldn’t see myself. The healing would start when I began recognizing my flaw; my inability to see the good I have done and the good that I was. Granting myself forgiveness was me taking responsibility and in a way finally growing up.
I could ask for more than reprimands, meaningless sex and cold disassociation. I could be good with an older man who needed my love just as I needed his.
There are many men and women who don’t love themselves or worse don’t know there is this self damage they should and could heal. Clueless, they are doomed to repeat bad relationships after bad marriages. They don’t know why they keep ending up with crazy women or angry abusive unloving men. They just keep finding them. It’s for that reason this story is more common than you would have thought.
I spent years, working on healing myself. Over time I stepped away from toxic people and started taking pride in being me. That internal focus shifted outward as well. The attractions I formed were for men that could show affection for me and even love. One day a few years ago I met a man and I knew he really liked me but I didn’t run away like I used to.
The man I call my partner, my husband today not only helped me to see the good in me, he also helps me to see a brighter future with each passing day. He is nearly twice my age. I feel myself becoming a better person, stronger and more self-reliant. He’s not only someone who feels familiar but also someone who is good for me. He’s a man who listens to me, gives me space to grow and loves me unconditionally everyday. Relationships should be reciprocal as two like-minded people working together toward a greater outcome together. It took a lot of work to find the person who wouldn’t run from a genuinely good person. If you know someone that runs, I hope you sit them down to read this article. If you liked this read or if you think it sucked, comment below and tell me why.