When we were little girls, we dreamt of Prince Charming sweeping us off our feet. We couldn't imagine falling for anyone else, but things change as we get older.
When we start dating as teenagers, very few of us are like Cinderella and pick the right guy. Unfortunately, most of us are like Anna from Frozen (not sorry for the spoiler because how have you not seen it?) and fall for the villain disguised as a Prince. We see the red flags but often ignore them because he’s so charming.
Why do we do this? Because in our teens and early twenties, we often deem the good guy as the “boring” guy and end up falling for men who aren’t good for us.
Who Is “The Boring Guy”?
The “boring guy” is the guy who is good for you and will provide you with a healthy and stable relationship. He’s handsome but not brooding. He’s fun, but he’s not dangerous or a thrill. He’s not a "nice guy," he's a good man, and he’s husband material. Most importantly, he’s good to you and loves you.
Most of us want to have fun before settling down, so the guy who seems like Prince Charming isn’t the one we go for in our teens and early twenties. Instead of going for the right guy that we see as predictable and uninteresting, we go for the bad boy.
Why Do We Go for the Bad Boy?
Think of classic examples: James Dean in Rebel Without A Cause and Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire. Are these characters husband material? Nope. Do they exude sex appeal and masculinity? You bet!
Most young women go through a bad boy phase in their teens and early twenties before wanting to settle down. I’m guilty of it (my friends and family have plenty of cringey stories to back me up here), and there’s scientific evidence behind why we go through this phase. One reason is that our hormones are telling us to go for these guys. Research shows that women are more attracted to “alpha” males at certain parts of our cycle, especially during ovulation.
Guys who fall into the “bad boy” trope are often associated with higher levels of testosterone. Michael R. Cunningham, Ph.D., professor and psychologist at the University of Louisville writes, “These men ooze testosterone, which leads to boldness and is associated with exaggerated sexuality.”
However, we’re also attracted to traditionally masculine traits like a man who is a good leader or provider, which makes this theory a double-edged sword. There are other reasons why we go for these guys, such as maybe we’re afraid of commitment or want to change him.
We may even interpret the anxiety around our relationship as intense attraction - because it feels like butterflies in your stomach. Except these butterflies come out of uncertainty and fear that he'll leave us, not from overwhelming romance.
Many of us go through our bad boy phase when we’re not ready to settle down and are afraid to commit to someone. Deep down, we know that we’re not going to end up with this guy, so we unconsciously choose men wrong for us to avoid settling down.
“Boring Guy” vs. Bad Guy in Pop-Culture
From Anna being torn between Hans and Kristoff in Frozen and Katniss between Gale and Peeta in The Hunger Games, this dichotomy is pop-culture. However, there is no example clearer than Elena’s love triangle with Stefan and Damon Salvatore on The Vampire Diaries. The drama is only amplified by the fact that the two men are brothers who both care for her deeply. Did I mention that they’re both extremely sexy vampires?
When the first season begins, Stefan is the “boring guy” and doesn’t indulge in his physical desires (another reminder that he’s a vampire, and vampires survive by drinking blood) and wants to lead a purposeful and meaningful life. He sees his immortality as a curse but tries to make the best of it by being the best person he can be.
When he returns to his hometown after 145 years, he enrolls in high school and meets Elena, the protagonist. Though it takes a few episodes for her to realize that he’s a vampire, it doesn’t take her long to see him as an all-American good guy, which is the core of his identity (minus the vampirism). Though he changes throughout the series, he remains the good guy who wants to protect his loved ones at his core.
Damon, on the other hand, is the complete opposite. He’s the quintessential bad boy clad in a leather jacket, and his charm is magnetic. Unlike his brother, he indulges in his vampirism (yes, he kills people and drinks their blood) and uses his immortality as an excuse to be the eternal playboy. He’ll do whatever it takes to get what he wants, even if he has to hurt others to achieve his goals.
Despite these toxic and sociopathic traits, there’s something incredibly charming about Damon. He’s super attractive and oozes masculinity, and we all know that he’s a good man deep down and cares about his friends and family. Like Stefan, his character changes throughout the series, and he’s not always the villain from the first season, but he’s still the Rebel Without A Cause bad boy at his core.
The dichotomy between Stefan and Damon has left fans of the show divided since the first season aired in 2009. They perfectly encapsulate the boring safe guy versus risky bad boy dichotomy. Damon is the guy that we want in our teens and early twenties, but Stefan is the guy we end up marrying because he brings stability into our lives.
Why the “Boring Guy” Is a Long-Term Choice
The bad boy phase is a phase for a reason. The majority of us grow out of it and eventually want to settle down in a stable and healthy relationship. That’s why we shouldn’t marry the bad boy; we should marry the “boring guy.”
If you think about it, he’s not really that boring — he’s stable. Stability isn’t only key to a healthy and long-lasting relationship; stability is sexy. A guy who will always be there for you and love you for the rest of your life? What’s hotter than that?
Though it’s easy to dismiss a guy like this as "safe,” don’t we want to be with a man who protects us? One of the reasons why we tend to be attracted to athletic men is that they are evolutionarily proven (think of hunter and gatherer times) to keep us safe from danger. He’s the perfect choice for a long-term relationship or marriage because he loves you. Sure, he might not have a sleeve of tattoos or a motorcycle, but love, loyalty, and dependability are what matters at the end of the day.
In short, he’s not really the “boring” guy, he’s the right guy.
When we're young, it's easy to get wrapped up in the danger and excitement of the bad boy. But don't confuse uncertainty and attraction with love and loyalty. While the steady, reliable guy might take time to grow on you, he's the one you can rely on to build a long-term relationship that's worth having.
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