Note: Before reading this post, you might consider reading the one before it that deals directly with the issue of men who don't work.
One of the TV’s at the gym this morning was doing a feature on women who get involved with convicted serial killers and marry them after they go to jail. It turns out that murderers and rapists are chick magnets. Who knew? Of course they only attract a certain type of woman, but I think it is that type of woman I’m talking about when I refer to women who love men who won’t work. A man who doesn’t work, or one who rapes, or kills, is like catnip for some women — they just find it irresistible.
Some may cry “unfair” that I lump all of these categories of men together, but I think it’s safe to say that all of these are considered bottom feeders in our society, and usually for good reason. While I’d be the first person to extend a break, and true compassion, to any man really trying to change, regardless of his offenses against society or any individual, I also believe in calling a spade a spade. Men who don’t work generally are bottom feeders, and commit social murder (or at least assault) all the time by sucking life — emotional, spiritual, mental, financial — out of others and using it for themselves.
So what is it that attracts women to men who won’t work? There are many possibilities and it’s different for each woman.
- Illness. Women who chronically stay with men who take advantage of them are mentally ill. I don’t mean they can necessarily be diagnosed with a specific mental illness (although they often can), I just mean their behavior is pathological, which, in this context, means that something is of the nature of a mental disease. Their behavior runs counter to their own interests and almost certainly the interests of their children and others in their life.
- Poor boundaries. The great psychological flaw of men is that they can tend to harden too much into their identities and be too rigid. Many of their character flaws come from this rigidity. Some are unable to picture themselves asking for or receiving help, or being tender, or loving a child, or having spiritual needs. The great psychological flaw of women is that they can tend to have identities that are either too weak, too flexible, or that don’t exist at all. A woman like this has no sense of self, and relentlessly seeks fulfillment from other people. A man who doesn’t work, or some other type of bottom feeder, can give a woman something to pour herself into — a project for her to work on and “fix.” This leads to my next point.
- Savior complex. A woman who hangs out with a guy who chronically doesn’t work may consider herself his savior, the person who is going to love him into being better and show him the error of his ways. Women, give up every last trace of this right now. It won’t work. Ever. Even if a man decides to pull himself together, it’s because of his own desire to improve, not because of your martyrdom. Women who try to save men are seen by those men as pathetic and weak. I know that is hard to hear if you’re one of those women, but I’m trying to help you. Your furious efforts to fix him, and the level at which you need to do this to feel good about yourself, are cues to him that you are exactly the victim he needs. Men can be horribly obtuse about many emotional things, but most men smell weakness and fear. A man who smells weakness in himself and doesn’t acknowledge and deal with it will always victimize others, especially women.
- Fantasy. Women who support and empower bottom-feeding men will often think their motive is love. They tend to think their love, in fact, is so deep that no one else could possibly understand it. They use love phrases and tell compliments. No one has ever loved anyone the way she loves this lazy guy, and it is her love that is, in the end, going to redeem him. If you’re a woman who loves a man who doesn’t and won’t work, you cannot give this up this fantasy soon enough. It is not love that motivates you at all, it is your own neediness and desperate refusal to be honest with yourself about who you are. Perhaps you were never taught to understand this whole thing is a fantasy, and I get that. That’s why I’m telling you now.
- Misguided loyalty. To a person with an emotional screw loose, weakness and pathetic attempts to reform a man who is devouring her look to her like strength, passionate patience, persistence, etc. In a healthier situation, they indeed might be. In this situation, they are simply futile, and the cause of further damage to the women who make such choices, as well as substantial suffering for those who truly love and care for them.
- Fear. Of being alone. Of having to end something that, though unhealthy, is nonetheless comfortable and familiar. Of the bottom-feeding man. Whatever.
- Ignorance (which simply means “not knowing”). I once asked a client of mine (a woman living with a bottom-feeding man) to name some qualities of a healthy relationship. She was unable to think of any. Then I asked her if she had ever been in a relationship with a man who she felt really loved and cherished her. You can probably guess her answer. This points to the tragic reality that to some women who have been deeply wounded in various ways, being with a bottom-feeding man feels like love. Many of them have never really been loved before (including, usually, by their own fathers), so they simply don’t know what to look for. Many even see this tendency they have to be attracted to men who are bad news, but feel incapable of making better choices and don’t even know where to begin.
If you are a woman living with a man who refuses to work, I urge you to wake up tomorrow and change your life. Be honest with yourself about why bottom-feeding men gravitate to you, then get the help you need. See a skilled (and I repeat — SKILLED) therapist. Start treating yourself with the same compassion with which you treat your best girlfriends. Don’t accept any man in your life that you don’t want your daughters to accept in theirs. And remember, if you do continue accepting these men into your life, your daughters will almost certainly do the same thing.
Changing your life is never easy. But it is possible. Help is available for you. Your tomorrows don’t have to be like your yesterdays.
Next post, coming up Monday morning: God and Country -- Why I believe we need to break the toxic link in America between them