Why You Always Date Jerks

In Advice and Encouragement, Dating, For the Ladies, Relationships by Debra Fileta9 Comments

Have you ever noticed that sometimes the sweetest people are drawn to the “bad guys”?

I’ll never forget meeting Kelly*, early one morning on a summer day.  Something about her sweet southern accent just made me like her, long before I knew anything about her. 

She had come to see me in hopes of working through her relationship difficulties with her current boyfriend.  She went on to describe her on again off again relationship with Andre*.   Though he professed his undying love to her, his actions never quite seemed to follow suit.  She had caught him in dishonesty, cheating, and flirting with other women.  She had been a victim to his anger, rage and neglect and constant criticism.  They had been together for 4 years, but unfortunately, each passing day seemed to uncover more baggage and dysfunction.  No matter how much she loved Andre, he never seemed to fully love her back.  But most of all, what she couldn’t understand is- why she could never let him go. 

She loved him, more than she had ever loved anyone.  And no matter how terrible he treated her, she just wanted to love him more.  The thought of being alone was more terrifying than the thought of living with him- and through it all, she came to therapy in hopes of figuring out she could make their relationship better. 

Have you ever found yourself in one of those relationships where like Kelly, you always seem to be doing all the work?  Loving more, giving more, serving more- and getting very little in return.

I get so many emails and questions from people wondering why so many of the good people are drawn into such bad relationships.  What is it about neglect, arguments, drama, and dishonesty that is so appealing?  From the outside in, it seems like a no-brainer to say no to bad relationships and yes to good ones. But unfortunately, theory is so much easier than practice when it comes to this kind of relationship. Let me explain a little more. 

No matter who you are, there is a part of you that was made to connect with the things that trigger your past.  Because our identities begin to take shape at such a young age, we will always be drawn to the nostalgic.  Whenever I hear the sound of an ice-cream truck passing by, there is something spectacular about that noise that makes my heart leap.  The same emotions I felt as a child are re-triggered, and I instantly connect with that memory.  Certain TV shows, times of the year, holidays, scents, and people trigger a reaction from my past whether or not I want them to. 

But with all those good memories that shape our past- we are also made up of the opposite- painful memories, broken relationships, and trying times.  When we look back there will always be a spectrum of emotional memories rooted in the good, the bad, and the ugly. 

Just like the emotional trigger of the darling sound of the ice-cream truck brings me back to the roots of being a little girl, for many people, their negative emotional triggers serve the same purpose. 

For Kelly, her relationship with Andre reflected a series of interactions with a father that was distant, uninterested, and unloving.  A father who never cared to give her the time of day, no matter how hard she tried, how much she loved, or how well she behaved.  Something within her connected with Andre, because within the dynamics of their relationship she found a place that was familiar and a role that was comfortable. 

Sometimes, it is easier to connect with what is comfortable rather than what is healthy.    

There are so many men and women out there, festering in the pain of a dysfunctional relationship because they have never found healing from the wounds of their past.  Rather than working through the pain of their past- they unconsciously begin to replicate that pain through the relationships that they choose to enter and the people they choose to engage with.  And let me just put it out there- Christians are not exempt. 

If you find yourself in a dating relationship in which you are giving so much more than you are receiving, maybe it’s time to take a good hard look at where you at and where you’ve come from.  What are the things that are keeping you in this place that you never imagined you would be?  What are the beliefs you hold about yourself that cause you to believe that you don’t deserve any better than this?  What is it about the chaos, the pain, and the neglect that make you feel comfortable- and what will it take to finally let go and begin to heal?

Rather than run to relationships to mask the pain of our past, we need to begin working through that pain on our own.  We need to bring our pain, our insecurities, our vulnerabilities and our self-worth our of the secret and into the light of God’s healing grace and mercy.  We need to come face to face with where we’ve come from in order to have any hope of moving forward into where we want to go.   

For some, this will come with awareness, understanding, accountability, and the healing power of time.  But for others (specifically, but not limited to, those who have a abuse history (physical, emotional, sexual, spiritual), or come from a family history of addictions) this may require some serious and committed work with the help of a professional counselor**. 

The health of your relationship is a reflection of your personal health, because you will always attract the kind of person you believe you deserve. 

So take a good hard look at your relationship history and ask yourself what that says about you.  And then, take the steps to pursue change, healing, and health.  Because at the end of the day, whether you believe it or not, there is a loving God who declares that by His grace you deserve that and so much more.

My dear friends, may you be challenged to finally pursue what you really deserve. 

For more on working through your past, and finding and KEEPING a healthy relationship, pick up a copy of my book True Love Dates, today!

*As with all articles on this website, all names and identifying information have been changed to protect the identities and confidentiality of the individuals mentioned. 

**To begin your journey of healing, go to www.aacc.net to find a professional counselor near you. 

Debra Fileta is a Professional Counselor, national speaker, and author of the book True Love Dates: Your Indispensable Guide to Finding the Love of Your Life,  21 Days to Jump Start Your Love Life, and 21 Days to Pray for Your Love Life, where she writes candidly about dating, relationships, and how to find true love. You may also recognize her voice from her 150+ articles at Relevant Magazine or Crosswalk.com! She’s also the creator of this True Love Dates Blog!  Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter


  1. This is so true. I always wanted my dads attention and went to extremes to get his approval but always never felt it was enough.Children were seen and not heard in my era. I’m presently coming out of a relationship I knew was not good but felt there was some spiritual reason I couldn’t just leave yet. I hadn’t dated in 12 years and 1 week after I told God I was ready, Romeo came on the scene. He was my dad to a tee. I fell in love over the next 3 months and now 1.5 yr later , I’m thanking God there was some distance between or homes and my morals that kept the relationship slow moving. Of course I had to do everything in the relationship just as you described in your article. I have learned a lot and have realized I’m so much more valuable than to ever allow anyone to use, mislead or lie to me like he did. I was convinced it was a God thing . Boy, did I have a temporary mix-up the devil will kill steal and dystroy. All he accomplished was to make me stronger in Christ and learn who I truly am in Christ.
    Loving Jesus and completely his with or without a man! Thanks, Nancy

    1. Nancy! God bless you sister! May you continue to see the faithfulness of our Lord Jesus Christ.

  2. After my divorce I have managed to date two women who only took, especially the last one. My ex was a taker as well. Meaning, I had to walk the straight and narrow so to speak. While dating this last one she had such a deep hatred for her ex and how he controlled her for their 30 years of marriage. I tried to talk to her and let her know she had to let go of that a forgive him for us to move forward. I was told I was being judge mental and holier then thou. So, I put the relationship in Gods hands and within a week and a half God closed the door on it and set me free! Since then I have been reading more Christian books and studying my bible on relationships and how God says they should be, hence finding your site, book, and doing the 21 days. I have learned so much about myself and who God is making me! I grow daily and I am worth something to God…remember He sent His Son for all of us!!! Thank you you Debra for the ministry you do for all of us broken people! God has someone for me and in His time I will cross her path!
    God bless

  3. Wow!! I love this! So true! This is exactly why I took a long break from trying to date. Growing up I had so many negative experiences with males there were angry and abusive. I thought that it was normal for men to act that way. As I got older I noticed all the guys that I was attracted to were verbal and emotional abusers in a variety of ways. After a while the Lord made it very clear that I needed to stop trying to date and heal all the wounds that I never dealt with. I can now say after 10 years of working hard to heal, I’m healthier and happier than I’ve ever been. I make better choices with people I choose to interact with. Most importantly I now know what healthy men and relationships look like.

  4. I come from a very abusive fundamentalist past. No matter how hard I try, I cannot be attracted to the “nice steady” men in my life. It’s the bad boys I fall for every time, believing everything they say even when they’re actions don’t match. Counseling would be great but what do you do when you can’t afford it? How do you work through these issues on your own?

  5. so true! after 17 years of hanging on to a destructive marriage, I rededicated my life to Christ and soon realized my worth. although my father was present in my childhood, he had to involvement in our emotional needs. I paid a heavy price and continuously forgave a man who was addicted to porn and cheated on me repeatedly. as painful as it was, I thank God every day for his intervention 🙂

  6. I never had a father. He was never home…he heated on my mother, loved his singing in bars and never kept his promises to spend time w me or my sister and brother. I come to terms and realized I have always been looking for that father type guy. Iv had relationships that cheated on me. Relationships that left me because of the lifestyle they wanted to live (drugs) my X husband was controlling. Finally my ex boyfriend who kept making promises and never kept them but he keeps telling me he loves me and is miserable wo me…unfortunately I fell in real love w him…the kind w butterflies in my stomach and my heart hurts when I hear his name and every night when I get in bed.i pray every night and during the day asking God to give me direction.

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