It’s one big part of why, perhaps, we’re not such a good couple—I’ve detailed at length some of our issues here before, and we’re more of a quasi-couple than a real one, to my mind, mainly because she’s agreed to “be” GF and BF, which to her means sleeping exclusively with me, and spending some pleasant time together (having dinner, long conversations, daily phone check-ins, movies, afternoon walks holding hands, etc.) while avoiding what I’d label as “real intimacy”: spending the night or (perish forfend!) the entire weekend in one person’s apartment or the other’s, agreeing to commit to a monogamous relationship for longer than the next few days or so, and agreeing to resist the temptation to date other people. (This last one is weird: we’re dating each other exclusively but only and explicitly “for now”. She’s made a condition of dating me that she –and I—may go out on dates with other people, and we will stay sexually exclusive while these other, theoretical dates go on, but the sexual exclusivity, and our sexual relationship, will end whenever one of us decides to go to bed with one of these new –and so far, purely theoretical—dating partners.) IOW, she’s just not that into me, but since she’s the best thing I have going, I’m in no condition to object very strongly to any of these conditions.
In conversation recently, she told me that she’s categorically attracted to “bad boys” (we’re each in our fifties, so “boys” is metaphorical), and I clearly don’t qualify as such. I strive to treat her (or any GF) with consideration, with attentiveness to her needs, with respect, which I gather is the diametric opposite of what she seeks in a “bad boy.” I’ve jokingly offered to lie to her, to cheat on her, to stand her up now and then, to leave her phone messages unanswered etc., and she’s jokingly told me “No, thanks.” I suppose the weird part of this to my rational brain, apart from seeing the attraction in being mistreated (which is what I take the whole “bad boys” thing to be about) is that in a rational mode, mistreatment from men in her past is her principal complaint. On our first dates, she would tell me harrowing stories of her exes abusing her verbally, emotionally, a little bit physically, and she complained bitterly about feeling controlled and dominated throughout her long marriage, and I’d sit there and say “You poor thing! How on earth could someone mistreat YOU?” and think “I could be so good for her—I’d be so happy to treat her as precious and worthy of respect.”
But in reality, she seems not to value very highly my respect or consideration. She doesn’t resent it openly, but I don’t get a lot of “Thank you”s for such things as working around her somewhat chaotic work-schedule, or being open to last-minute changes in plans, or other stuff like that, stuff where I could easily assert contrary views or display annoyance but instead find ways to work things out without undue conflicts. She’s made semi-jokes about “When will we have our first fight?” and I respond, “I hope, never,” but I sometimes think she wants to have a fight about something, just for the sheer pleasure of fighting. More likely, she’s developed habits of conflict with men in her past that associate being in a relationship with tempestuous behavior. This latest assertion, that she’s attracted to “bad boys,” just makes me sad, because if that’s the case, and it seems to be, I’m not going to be able to meet this basic need of hers.
Am I misunderstanding something about an attraction to “bad boys”? Is it, as I’m supposing, just a strain of masochism? I think life with me is filled with conflicts but they’re mostly polite conflicts (or I strive for that as an ideal) that I can eventually resolve, but I don’t get the sort of routine mistreatment that she seems to be saying she enjoys from a man she’s comfortable with. If I am understanding her correctly, this is a sign to me that this relationship will not get any better over time, and as it wears on will only leave her feeling less and less satisfied with who I am and how I behave with her. Am I getting the whole “attraction to bad boys” thing correctly?