Why It's So Hard To Stop Attracting Guys Who Treat You Badly

It goes far deeper than liking "the bad boy."

Last updated on Apr 26, 2023

guy sitting in dark area less.talk / Shutterstock

Are you tired of being treated badly by men? Do you routinely decide that all good ones are taken — until your single girlfriend lands a relationship with a guy who treats her like a queen, and then you're surprised? 

So, do you pick the wrong men? Or are you someone who turns a decent relationship into one full of hostility, where you feel like your partner treats you poorly?

At times, the need to be in a relationship can make us blind to all the signs that are already there. Signs that he is only about himself, does not care about your needs, gets angry if you don’t give him what he wants, demands to have it his way, etc. 


Or we see the signs, but they are so familiar that we don’t recognize them as red flags. This can cause us to attract abusive relationships and guys who treat us badly.

RELATED: 6 (Fixable!) Personality Traits That Men See As Red Flags

RELATED: 10 Major Warning Signs He's The Wrong Guy For You


What we learn from observing a lifetime of relationships

The first relationship we experience is our parents' relationship with each other

Yes, we were born into their relationship. The essence of that relationship is so natural to us that it just feels normal.

Well, it is normal. We don’t have any other experience to compare it to until we are older. We also learn how to express love and closeness from the way our parents expressed their love to us and to each other. We learned what to tolerate and what to expect from each other from the way that our parents acted toward each other.

Our second relationship experience is the first real relationship we have, ourselves when we are teens or young adults. In this one, we gain experience by trial and error. We try out what our friends tell us, and what our parents tell us, and adjust our behavior based on the circumstances that get created by the dance between us and our mates.


So what would be the reason you would allow someone to treat you badly?

Maybe you're used to it and don’t even recognize it as bad.

RELATED: A Reason To Be Happy That You Met The Wrong Guy

Unhealthy patterns can repeat — if you let them

Sara used to have a boyfriend who told her what to do in a very disrespectful, demeaning way, and if she was not as fast as he wanted or didn't do it, he would yell and put her down. Sara used to live with an intense amount of anxiety and sadness. When we explored her past, she realized that is exactly how her father was with her and her mother.

Her whole life growing up, she wanted her father’s approval and thought if she could only perform better, then she would gain her father’s love and closeness. Since he did the same thing with her mother, and her mother had given up wanting to please him after so many years, the burden was only on Sara to make the household more loving by attempting really hard to do as her father told her to.


Sara realized that she naturally gravitated to someone like her father. This pattern was familiar in that it equated to love in her eyes. She also realized that she, just like her mother, was giving up "winning" this game, since the game was set up for her to lose, so her boyfriend would always win by being the dominator.

Could it be that you have not experienced or are afraid of being very intimate or close to someone? If so, any behavior that creates separation feels safer than actually being very close.

RELATED: Stop Being The Best Version Of Yourself For The Wrong Person

How past trauma influences current expectations

Julie was with her husband for four years. She said they used to fight almost every weekend. After exploring her patterns, she realized that she got anxious when her husband was home for the weekend and they were together for a length of time since her husband would expect her to give her entire attention to him for a long time. She was not used to this. She was the only child with working parents who had their own business. Therefore, she spent many of her hours by herself at home or around other friends.


She did not experience her parents being close or loving toward each other, nor toward her. When she met her husband, he wanted to be with her most of the time, and as a result, she felt anxious and would disconnect. This behavior got him upset and he would begin lashing out at her for insisting to separate herself. She felt hurt by his yelling since she did not think that she was doing anything bad or wrong, she just wanted some space, not realizing that her behavior meant abandonment to him and therefore made him lash out.

RELATED: Always Attracted To The Wrong Person? End The Pattern In 3 Steps

How to spot relationship patterns

Have you thought about your pattern of attracting, staying with a bad-behaving or abusive mate, or creating a hostile situation? Let’s explore by asking these important questions:

  • What is your ideal relationship?
  • How do you feel about the concept of an intimate relationship? 
  • How do you behave in an intimate relationship?
  • What do you assume your mate thinks and feels about you?
  • What is your reaction toward what he thinks and feels about you?
  • How does he behave in your relationship toward you?
  • What is your reaction to his behavior?
  • What do you think and feel about yourself in this relationship?

After exploring these questions, see if you see any resemblance to your relationship with your past.

This may be the key to stopping the unhealthy patterns of attracting guys who treat you badly, or relationships full of chaos and hostility.

Now explore what you would like to create and what thoughts, feelings, and behaviors you have shifted so that you can get the result that you want. After all, how can you know what to pursue if you haven't even considered what you want?

RELATED: 6 Reasons Marrying Mr. Wrong Was The Best Decision I Ever Made


Dr. Foojan Zeine is a psychotherapist, Life & Executive Coach, and the author of Life Reset: The Awareness Integration Path to Create the Life You Want.