Why in the hell does she put up with that guy?
As I was taking a shower this morning (source of many of my greatest insights) , I remembered a couple of decades ago when I was teaching a course on History of Psychology, discussing a guy named Alfred Adler who was most famous for coining the term "inferiority complex".
Adler's theory about people wanting to feel powerful explains a lot of women (and some men) who stick with spouses, friends, significant others who are just plain awful.
Let me give two examples:
Jane is a clerk at 7-11. She graduated high school, got a minimum wage job and has her own small apartment. She's kind of average - which in the U.S. means 10 or 15 pounds over a healthy weight. She's a nice person. She's not setting the world on fire but most of her friends would describe Jane as "okay".
Jane may tell you that she loves him and no one else understands him. I suspect it is more like this - Bob enables Jane to feel superior and powerful. She has a job (he doesn't). She has friends (he doesn't). She has a decent personality (he doesn't). She's not an alcoholic (he is). Also, he doesn't cause feelings of anxiety about leaving her for a better person - where is he going to go? Even if she is working at a minimum wage job for a jerk of a boss, she can feel like she is a savior in her personal life. Even if Bob doesn't acknowledge it, she knows.
The funny thing is, I have seen many Jane-and-Bob couples and if he happens to sober up and get a job, more often than not, she dumps him!
Let's take a second example:
Janet is a star. She has an MD from an Ivy League university and is on staff at a good hospital. Her goal is to get board certified in cardiology and work at one of the top hospitals in the world. She hits the gym nearly every day, spends a good amount on her hair, nails, make up and clothes so she looks good but not so good that you'd imagine that's all she thinks about. Her friends would tell you that Janet has it going on - but that boyfriend of hers - eyes roll.
Robert manages a shoe store and is a class A jerk. He is always putting Janet down, telling her that she doesn't understand "the real world". He dresses like a million bucks using the credit card on their joint account. He talks down to her constantly about her lack of knowledge of the stock market, economy, etc. - although he dropped out of business school and has zero expertise in stocks other than dropping a bundle of her money. All of Janet's friends and family loathe Robert and have no compunction telling her so.
So ... what the hell?
From Janet's point of view, Robert needs her. The only thing keeping him from being a social pariah is her. He'd never go to events sponsored by the American Medical Association if it wasn't for her. She's a good physician but there are better physicians the hospital could hire, but there is no way on earth Robert could find a better girlfriend than her. To her friends, Janet is a star but at the hospital she is just one of several really amazing doctors. Robert, on the other hand, would be nothing without her. By the way, if she admitted that he was a condescending, mediocre creep, what would that say about her for dating him for six years?
So, there you have it, from me and Alfred Adler, why women date douche bags.
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