Ever wonder why your best friend — a total genius with the biggest brain and warmest heart — is dating some "loser" in your eyes who doesn't treat her nearly as well as you know she deserves? Or why your colleague whose shoes you dream of filling someday comes to the office every morning complaining about her husband's absolutely cringe-worthy behaviors?
How in the world did these smart, successful women end up in such toxic relationships?
Well, research says that these types of women are actually more likely to become "addicted" to toxic men than others. In other words, the people you'd never expect to fall for those who treat them horribly are... usually the ones who do.
So why do women with such high standards in seemingly every other aspect of their lives seem to have such low standards in relationships? It's a lot more complicated than you'd think — and in the end, it has next to nothing to do with low standards (or weaknesses!) after all.
Successful women are successful because they've put in the work. They know that commitment reaps rewards, and they apply that same attitude in their relationships. Putting in the effort in other parts of their lives has usually gotten them the results they're after; why would love be any different?
"Generally, you will transfer this understanding without even thinking about it — that chances are if you work hard on your relationships, they're going to be good," psychologist and executive coach Perpetua Neo told INSIDER. "Add that together with empathy and it can be really difficult because you start to tax yourself with trying to understand why he is the way he is."
In other words, high-performance women tend to just keep giving and giving and giving...
Successful women aren't weak — rather, they're targets for all reasons that they're actually the opposite of weak.
"It’s a common misperception that these men go for weak women; it’s quite the opposite — these pathologically self-centered guys want a strong woman who has a lot to give," writes Huff Post contributor and founder and CEO of Date Like a Grownup, Bobbi Palmer.
So why do narcissistic men prey on powerful women? Palmer says it's because these types of men look for women who can constantly stroke their "surprisingly fragile" egos. They also want someone "steady and strong" they can count on to take care of them — particularly someone empathetic to attend to their "child-like needs" and someone smart who they can prove they're even smarter. They also tend to want self-sufficient women so they don't actually have to take care of the woman's needs, she says.
It's easy to become blinded by love and, frankly, good sex. This is especially true because most people don't show their true, toxic colors right off the bat — and if a relationship starts off as a loving, mutually beneficial and growth-oriented one, it's difficult to admit it when that relationship takes a sour turn (especially for strong-headed women who tend to be fixers).
Toss satisfying sex into the mix, which builds chemistry, and an unhealthy relationship can quickly become a toxic one. That's because studies overwhelmingly show that men who possess the Dark Triad personality traits (narcissism, psychopathy and Machiavellism) are adept at beginning new relationships. They have a greater willingness and ability to compete with their own sex and, thus, mate more.
Meanwhile, women tend to demonstrate dueling desires: a loving and committed partner and an attraction to men with darker personality traits, usually for the shorter term. In other words, women's innate sexual selection comes into play — and strong women who are in touch with and confident in their sexuality may pay more mind to that.
AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.