Can I have one without the other?
March 13, 2011 5:49 PM   Subscribe

I really like a certain type of person. Help me figure out if this is healthy and what it all means.

Long story...

My first relationship was with an abusive man. I loved his unconventional nature, his bluntness, his ambition, his passion for life, and that he seemed to accept all aspects of me, even the odd ones. He was extremely narcissistic, sadistic, and ultimately dangerous -- and I regret ever getting involved with him -- but I still value the good things in the relationship, which was very deep.

I had a series of relationships with some great guys that I liked very much, but didn't feel that particular powerful connection.

Most recently, I dated someone that I felt a similar connection with. We also had a very high-conflict relationship because I wouldn't put up with a lot of his bs, he's a very straightforward person who would say what was on his mind, and he encouraged me to tell him things he did that bothered me (and boy, did I unload!). Our relationship ended, but we still like each other, and could perhaps get together again if we could figure out how to get along with each other.

But the larger picture is not about this particular guy, it's about my own personal growth.

I am truly happiest when I'm with someone with a big ego, a bit of a swagger, positive and confident. I'm sometimes like this myself, and I have big dreams and plans of my own, so part of it is needing a match.

Another part is needing someone who violates social norms -- who doesn't care what people think, who says what's on his mind, who is politically incorrect and makes his own path. I'm like this to some degree, but I like being with someone who is even more this way.

A few data points: I have a lot of friends who are super-confident in this way, and I seem to function well as a sort of consigliere, building on plans we make together, sharing their vision, using their confidence to bolster mine, while attending to the practical side as we work together on a project. I really enjoy it and it seems to be a natural fit.

I have also been this kind of person for others -- some people have jumped on my bandwagon and let me run the show... but I'm less comfortable in that role.

I have a couple of family members my age who are like this too. We used to spend hours as kids and teenagers making plans for businesses we would launch someday, artistic projects we would work on, etc. Nothing came of it (at least so far), but those are some of the most enjoyable memories of my childhood -- making cool plans for the future, brainstorming crazy ideas. These family members are a bit unconventional too -- one is heavily into counterculture scenes, one is bi-polar and very excitable. We have lots of crazy ideas. I love it.

So it's not just romantic. It's something I really like in people. I am very extroverted and have lots of friends who are not like this, but when I meet someone of this sort, we just click, and it's wonderful.

I'm wondering, though, if this has some necessary connection to narcissism or if I will necessarily get hurt being near this type of person. I associated this kind of energy with my ex, but now I'm thinking that maybe it's not narcissism, but high-energy, unconventional people that I like -- and if they are not narcissistic, then that's perfect.

I'm in therapy, but askmefi has so many wonderful viewpoints and experiences.

So, hope me.

Are the traits I like necessarily connected to narcissism? Can I find what I'm looking for with someone who is good for me?

Are you like me? Do you like this kind of person? What does all of this mean?
posted by 3491again to Human Relations (44 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
 
I can tell you that I am like you in this way, although personally I am an introvert and very taciturn. My taste for the crazy has yet to bear a single good fruit. Recently, my therapist (and don't you love a sentence that starts that way) suggested that I was influenced at a very young age to associate love with fear and domination, and although I had a happy childhood with an excellent father, this tendency may have come about for other reasons.
posted by Countess Elena at 5:53 PM on March 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Best answer: My first serious relationship sounds exactly like your first. Right down to him being dangerous. He nearly swallowed me with the force of his personality. My next couple of relationships were the same. Someone who "doesn't care what people think" is exactly a narcissist. As if their perspective is the only one that is important and the only one they should care about. The day I realized that not only did I date men like this, I'd become a woman like this as well I decided it was time to make a change. I wasn't as charming as I thought I was when I was telling the world off with my every action. Someone who doesn't care what others think also doesn't care what you think-at the end of the day, his perspective is king. That isn't confidence. It is possible to stand up for yourself, follow your own sense of integrity, have a will of your own, and also play well with others. I'd strive for that-both in yourself and in those you care about.
posted by supercapitalist at 6:14 PM on March 13, 2011 [25 favorites]


This study might interest you. Warning: relies on self-reports.
posted by mnemonic at 6:28 PM on March 13, 2011


Response by poster: Hey, sorry to threadsit, but just want to make clear: I don't want the narcissism part. I'm not interested in psychopaths. It's more that I'm wondering if the traits I like come separately or are always bundled and what your experiences have been.
posted by 3491again at 6:35 PM on March 13, 2011


I am truly happiest when I'm with someone with a big ego, a bit of a swagger, positive and confident.

Of course there are positive, confident men who aren't horribly self-centered. They're called "emotionally healthy." It raises eyebrows when women don't prefer that.
posted by mnemonic at 6:42 PM on March 13, 2011


Just as another data point, I very much dated the "swaggering semi-narcissist" for a while, but realized that I had a certain addiction to drama. I totally agree with supercapitalist's general assessment, but would add that just for myself those sort of strong, didn't-care-what-anyone-else-thought types also led to constant sturm und drang that was very compelling.

And yes, I have found that much of what you want -- unconventionality, straightforwardness, zest for life -- does come in a quieter package, lacking narcissism. But it might be less obvious, less dependent on swagger and braggadocio. In other words, ego and swagger are not the only or best indicators for unconventionality, straightforwardness, and a zest for life.
posted by lillygog at 6:53 PM on March 13, 2011 [6 favorites]


Best answer: I would ask you what you mean by "happy," and why you think you need a man who is your "match" in ambition. My guess is that there is something here about you feeling personally validated that the asshole confident discriminating guy chooses you, and conversely, that your worth is reflected by theirs. Can you separate out this essentially childlike view of seeing the man as either your daddy or your reflection from what actually makes you happy in the long run?
posted by yarly at 6:55 PM on March 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Best answer: "Super-confident in this way"...what, in the way of jerks?

I'm not totally sure this is the right venue for this sort of "Discuss me," particularly when crossed with objections to same. It's really not clear what the question in here is; "What does all of this mean?" is chatfilter. Nobody's going to offer psychiatric diagnoses over the internet, so I don't think you're going to be able to get a good answer about whether or not these labels apply.

Is it healthy to like people like you describe? No. Will you get hurt by chasing high-conflict relationships? Yes. You are not describing desirable traits. Are they narcissistic traits? I don't know; I'm not a psychiatrist, and neither are you. But it certainly sounds like you are confusing high-drama mean people for dynamic people with integrity.

I would be very careful to look for kindness when seeking out the 'don't care what others think' type. Particularly given the history of abuse (and drama). There is a healthy way to not worry about what others think, and some deeply unhealthy, sociopathic ways, and if you are finding this don't-care with people who are into fighting? Probably the latter.

You are not painting a flattering portrait of your circle or yourself here; the bluster about the surplus of confidence crossed with not actually getting stuff done? Do I like that kind of person? No. Chill, do something useful, make the world a better place instead of windbagging and looking for drama.

It sounds like you are unable to recognise the negative attributes of these people as negative, and thus the answer is: no, you're not going to be able to filter out the small bit of negative that you are able to recognise as same, as you are for whatever unhappy reason attracted to jerks. You are stunted to the point where you see a dangerous abuser as somebody who had all sorts of redeeming qualities. I think that's sick -- and very sad, and I hope you can find a better path.
posted by kmennie at 7:01 PM on March 13, 2011 [8 favorites]


Best answer: I am truly happiest when I'm with someone with a big ego, a bit of a swagger, positive and confident
---
Another part is needing someone who violates social norms -- who doesn't care what people think, who says what's on his mind, who is politically incorrect and makes his own path.
---
I'm wondering, though, if this has some necessary connection to narcissism or if I will necessarily get hurt being near this type of person. I associated this kind of energy with my ex, but now I'm thinking that maybe it's not narcissism, but high-energy, unconventional people that I like -- and if they are not narcissistic, then that's perfect.


It sounds like you are conflating narcissism with healthy confidence when they are two very different things. A narcissistic asshole does not care what other people think and will not hesitate to trample on those feelings. A person with a lot of confidence cares about what other people think and takes their feelings into account, but does not hesitate to be unconventional himself because he's comfortable being different. So perhaps you need to work on distinguishing these two things and try to find someone who is confident while ditching the narcissists.

Example: you and your date encounter someone who does something wrong - a bumbling waiter, an uneducated person saying something incorrect, etc. When they leave, does your date graciously say goodbye and politely laugh off the mistake? Or does your date rant about what an asshole that schmuck was, how could they not read your date's mind? The former is confident and caring, the latter is a narcissist - run from the latter.

Basically, when you meet someone who meets your criteria for unconventionality and swagger, look for signs that deep down, when no one is watching, he does care about other people. (Don't arrange a test of his caring, because that's unkind, untrusting, and tests can be cheated on. Just observe.)

The other thing you could do is give quieter people a chance. Sure, the loudest/hottest/brashest person in the room is fun to date for a few weeks. Over the long term, you might learn that the quietly confident person is more fun and more dependable overall.

On preview: seconding lillygog's idea that you may be a little attracted to drama. It's hard to tell from your post, but there are definitely people who find brash, narcissistic people more interesting because of the whirlwind of emotion (good and bad) that they stir up. I've never seen a complicated or overheated relationship end well, no matter how attracted the partners were to begin with.
posted by Tehhund at 7:06 PM on March 13, 2011 [12 favorites]


Someone who "doesn't care what people think" is exactly a narcissist.

My perspective is the exact opposite: people who care what people think are narcissists. On one side, constantly worrying about how other people judge you evinces a belief that you are on everyone's mind; on the other, putting on a show for someone about how little you care about what they think demonstrates the opposite, a desperate need for others to see you in a particular way, as a non-conformist, etc. The constant drama around these people is a way to conceal the fundamental dependency on what other people think, and maybe also because they become objects of fascination for people on the other side.

In the end, both share a belief in Them, the invisible entity that's presumed to exist, that watches you and who has to be impressed and to whom all one's efforts at being a "good" or "bad" person are directed. This is the entity we refer to when we say "They say that..." In religious communities, God is imagined to be this Them, so it's essentially the agency of guilt, shame, social control and oppression.

The non-narcissist realizes that They does not exist, so only they are able to be free. And only they are able to be truly ethical, because they look at the concrete consequences of their actions. Unlike the narcissist, who is blinded by his or her own image reflected in the eyes of the imagined Them, and only sees consequences insofar as they affect their image as an ethical/non-ethical person. This type asks "How is this going to make me look?" which leads inevitably to "What they don't know can't hurt them." This can only be avoided by positing that you are under constant surveillance - God is omnipresent, knows all and sees all - which is authoritarian. Narcissists readily submit to this (partial or complete) surveillance because they cannot cope with the crushing burden of freedom that entails full ethical responsibility - it's better to be under a capricious authoritarian master, because the burden of making ethical choices is then on their shoulders, you were just following orders. Alternatively, you can rebel against the master, which also reinforces their position.
posted by AlsoMike at 7:17 PM on March 13, 2011 [13 favorites]


Response by poster: kmennie -- the not getting stuff done part was in regard to childhood plans made with old family friends and relatives. A lot of the things we didn't get done were things we planned when we were kids. I was just referring to the feeling I had, and the kind of people they were/are.

Also, I am *not* chasing high-conflict relationships. We broke up because it was too much conflict and drama. I'm just wondering how to get the parts I like (unconventionality, straightforwardness, etc.) without the parts I don't.

To everyone else -- this isn't about being loud or hot. None of the guys I've liked or my friends who are this way are "the loudest people in the room". It's more about a certain attitude and how to distinguish that from narcissism.
posted by 3491again at 7:21 PM on March 13, 2011


Best answer: "When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people." -- Abraham Joshua Heschel

Unconventional, straightforward people are great. Stick with them. But make sure that there's an underlying kindness and caring in their personality.

There's a difference between having a narcissistic streak and being a narcissist. I also think you might find knee-jerk contrarianism that passes for being "straightforward" over the age of about 30 is a bit, well, predictable and something you shouldn't necessarily find to be a positive trait.

What you're looking for does exist, and they are separable from pure narcissism-- the people you're looking for tend to be very smart while also having been around so many other smart, accomplished people that they have a certain amount of humility. That's basically my standard-- if I find someone who might be genuinely smart and accomplished but seems to have friends who they constantly criticize as being unaccomplished or lazy, I tend to wonder why this person is purposely surrounding himself with people who supposedly can't "compete" with him; probably because it makes him feel better. On the other hand, if your brilliant, accomplished friend can always point to someone (without jealousy or anger) of someone even more brilliant and accomplished, then that's a good sign.
posted by deanc at 7:38 PM on March 13, 2011 [6 favorites]


Best answer: It's more that I'm wondering if the traits I like come separately or are always bundled and what your experiences have been.

My husband is a man like this. It's funny reading this question since just a couple days ago I was talking with him about how when I met him he was "not my type" because I associated these sort of "alpha male" traits with, well, being an asshole - yet I was very powerfully drawn to him. There is something primal and larger-than-life about him that is so attractive - I know he would defend me and his family without question - but he is not a drama seeker or causer and he does not make me uncomfortable or afraid.

I loved his unconventional nature, his bluntness, his ambition, his passion for life, and that he seemed to accept all aspects of me, even the odd ones... I am truly happiest when I'm with someone with a big ego, a bit of a swagger, positive and confident.

Yes. He is this, but without (most of) the dark parts you are listing. My husband is simple - what you see is what you get. He's not complicated. He has the ability to be manipulative, and I consider him rather selfish and self-centered (not a bad thing, but different from me), but I don't consider him narcissistic and definitely not a malicious or abusive sort of person. He doesn't really care about anything materialistic and he doesn't judge people - this is unconventional, I find - even when I try not to be, I do care about things, status, class, and I judge people. (Someone narcissistic would be more judgmental and care more about status symbols, I would think, whether conventionally or counterculturally.) He is fundamentally secure in himself in a way I am not. This is a great example for me. He treats women as equals and respects children, elderly, the poor, the underdogs... he can always hold his own but he doesn't step on others to get there.

Another part is needing someone who violates social norms -- who doesn't care what people think, who says what's on his mind, who is politically incorrect and makes his own path.

He is blunt and straightforward but aware of his audience. So he is the same with me as he is with anyone else, but he's a good sales guy - he doesn't do or say things that are shocking or provocative just to shock. He likes to be, and is, the kind of honest, tell-it-like-it-is sort of guy. I think this is key - I don't find him unpredictable or uncontrollable. (In fact I just talked to him about this question and I realized even though he tells me "bad boy" stories from fifteen years ago about getting in fights and so forth, in the ten years I've been with him I've never even seen him drink too much - much less get in a fight or something like that. I can see how he was like that when he was a teenager, and he grins when he tells me these stories, but his sins in the time I've been with him are so minor compared to anything like that.) He is not irresponsible. He can be impulsive, but not reckless.

I see on preview while I was typing this up that Tehhund has said it very well. Confidence is sexy - dangerous isn't. Honest unconventionality and energetic is sexy - conflict and rudeness isn't. I'm sure a lot of people do think to get the sexy traits they have to put up with the negative traits - your classic "bad boy" - but it's not healthy or true!

My husband is very comfortable being different but he cares about other people and is not dismissive of them nor does he mistreat people to his own gain. I know it is stereotypical to associate these positive traits with the flip side of narcissism and drama and OMG he's so complicated but - I can tell you personally - you can have the positive without the negative; and you should control for that, and be wary and watchful for the negative, since they often are coupled IRL and in the tropes we see in movies and so on so we are more likely to brush it off.

I hope relating my experience helps you figure out what to look for and what to avoid. Good luck!
posted by flex at 7:48 PM on March 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Another part is needing someone who violates social norms -- who doesn't care what people think, who says what's on his mind, who is politically incorrect and makes his own path. I'm like this to some degree, but I like being with someone who is even more this way.

There are two kinds of rebels. There are the kinds of rebels that look and act and smell and taste like rebels, but don't ever actually get around to doing anything really rebellious because they spent too much time caring about themselves and alienating everybody else that eventually nobody wanted anything to do with them.

Then there are the rebels that are quietly ambitious and work towards their goals which are fed from an inner fire that needs no outside nods of recognition that they're cool enough.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:24 PM on March 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


Best answer: Some of this is just dating until you find someone who fires on all cylinders, so to speak. There aren't really as many set personality types as there seem to be, because people have little quirks and habits and backgrounds that make them different.

Someone can be opinionated and loud but really good at defusing conflict, for example. Far different from someone opinionated and loud who needs to "win" every conflict.

I would suggest avoiding people who violate social norms because they enjoy making other people uncomfortable/upset. It is a bit sadistic or, at the very least, not very empathetic. Every narcissist I know enjoys this kind of thing because it's a great way to be noticed and have an impact on other people and who cares if they don't like racial slurs/"the truth"/graphic descriptions of violence/whatever.

Another general tip is look at how many long-term friends they have, look at how they get along with those people, and listen to the way they talk about them. Multiple long term friends, low-drama relationships, they talk about them with respect and affection? Good sign.
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:04 PM on March 13, 2011


(In case it's not clear, I'm not saying that everyone who violates social norms does so because they enjoy making other people uncomfortable/upset. People certainly violate social norms for all sorts of reasons, some of them very good. )
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:06 PM on March 13, 2011


Someone who revels in being unconventional is not self-confident. They are creating a personality because they don't have enough confidence in their own one to carry them through. That can be useful in the short term (public speaking!) but once you start to believe your own press you lose the plot.
posted by fshgrl at 11:21 PM on March 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think what you're describing isn't possible. You want "positive and confident" plus swaggering and rude. Swaggering, rude people may be confident, but by definition they are not positive.

I also note that you say a guy was "straightforward" but you wouldn't put up with his "BS". You don't get BS from a straightforward person.

It sounds like what you want is a guy who is a bully since the traits you describe are definitional of bullying. There are plenty of those and they can often appear or actually be positive and confident a lot of the time. The odds that they won't bully you and/or will only do so in ways you like, though, are slim to none. So either become totally submissive (which they won't like either - no fun) or expect high conflict.
posted by tel3path at 11:34 PM on March 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


Response by poster: I really need to rethink this question -- a lot people seem to think that I am looking for loud, rude blowhards who never do anything so I can have lots of drama with them. Also, bullies.

It's more a certain kind of confidence, passion, and unconventionality. I'll have to think about this a bit more and better define what I'm talking about.
posted by 3491again at 1:27 AM on March 14, 2011


Best answer: Another part is needing someone who violates social norms -- who doesn't care what people think, who says what's on his mind, who is politically incorrect and makes his own path. I'm like this to some degree, but I like being with someone who is even more this way.

1- Seems like an odd definition of social norms. Wearing capes in the summer, underpants on the outside or skipping instead of walking is violating social norms. The things you list are sadly far too normal.

2- Would this be a better way to say what you are looking for? "Someone who is unafraid to violate social norms, if necessary."

3- Because the person you are describing does sound like a run of the mill bully and asshole. Doesn't like to wait his turn, returns found wallets empty of money, throws garbage out the car window, doesn't come home, doesn't leave notes, doesn't take jobs that are "beneath him".

4- But maybe that's not what you meant. Maybe what you want is someone who doesn't *care* about the judgment of others, but who also IS considerate of others' feelings and rights. If someone is acting like an ass, they will say "you are acting like an ass". The kind of person who doesn't quit a job because the boss is awful, but who also doesn't suffer in silence. He tries to fix the situation rather than blow it up. But is capable of blowing it up if he has to. When someone is being a dick in a bar and he invites that person outside, it isn't necessarily to kick his ass, but to set him straight. If that means an ass kicking, fine. But it usually doesn't. Someone who knows that being the bigger or stronger man sometimes means the one who can take the longest view of a situation. ?

5- You are drawn to this kind of person because you believe that you are a volatile person, and while you love that about yourself, and others probably do also, there IS an unsteadiness in it. Most of the time it is great- you are assertive and make your own path. But there have been times where you have gotten over your skis and crossed the line, and you need someone you trust to "keep you in check". Not to stifle you, but simply to act as a sort of high limit switch. Someone who pushes when you need a push- up or down.

6- This is a very rare sort of person. And a difficult relationship to maintain. If my assessment is right anyway. Because when someone like that fails to meet your expectations, it destroys the trust that makes the relationship possible. Strong people are like two musical notes that are loud, but in tune. If one of them goes out of tune, you start to get destructive interference.
posted by gjc at 3:28 AM on March 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


The most important of these is confidence. there are many men out there who are confident but also have the skills and awareness to keep it from becoming narcissism. You can find out by dating people who are part of your community of friends, so there is a bit of shared history there.
posted by By The Grace of God at 3:36 AM on March 14, 2011


Response by poster: gjc - Yes, that's a lot more like it. :) Not a rude guy who has to have his way at every moment and violates social norms by stealing and littering and being a jackass. More like someone who "isn't afraid to blow things up" (what a wonderful way of putting it)

I think the words I use to describe this are limiting the way I think about it. I'm not sure how to describe the kind of person who is "not afraid to blow things up" to differentiate him from a blowhard jerk sort of person.
posted by 3491again at 4:00 AM on March 14, 2011


But confidence, passion, unconventionality, and assertiveness (the quality you seem to be groping towards in your latest update) aren't all that rare either. And yet you seem to be finding these qualities extraordinarily miasmic and nebulous and undefinable except when embodied by an abusive person.
posted by tel3path at 4:41 AM on March 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think what your looking for exists in a person that is not bad for you. I am like that person . You just have to be very picky.

Seems Like you want a guy who can be the boss of the relationship without being mean ,nasty or abusive.

You need a guy who has had parents who taught them manners. Which is hard today .

I am the boss of my relationship with my wife BUT i try my hardest not to be bossy abusive (i know it sounds wierd). My wife is an introvert though and likes to follow instead of lead .

The problem is guys like me dont hang around bars too much. (when i was single anyway). I was soo busy with work and college that my dating life came from online personal sites. I would have maybe one nite a week for dating.

What your looking for does exists BUT its very hard to weed out from the guys who are also abusive. You have to be very picky
posted by majortom1981 at 4:47 AM on March 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Best answer:
I think the words I use to describe this are limiting the way I think about it.


I think that is a really key insight. Sometimes there is huge power in being able to name something, whether it is something you fear, or something you desire.

Perhaps if you can figure out how to accurately describe what you are looking for, you will then be able to see it when you meet it.

Maybe that means working with a really good therapist who can help you find the right language for these things, or maybe it means reading and thinking and reflecting on your own, I don't know.

Your question also reminded me of this question from years ago. She was looking for something a bit different than you are, but the issues raised of how to get the positive attributes without the negative ones that are often associated with them are the same. My guess is that there are more than a few previous questions that overlap with yours, even if none of them are exactly the same, because this is such a common thing to struggle with. All of us want the good without the bad, even if it isn't easy to find.
posted by Forktine at 6:11 AM on March 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Swagger in moderate doses isn't harmful, but when it reaches narcissistic extremes, it is often based on emotional states that are the opposite of the "confident, positive" qualities you're after. Indeed, many narcissists swagger because of a gnawing insecurity. The swagger and brusk, politically incorrect behavior compensate.

The biggest red flag in your post is in the first sentence of your "story."

My first relationship was with an abusive man.

I realize you most likely haven't been abused in successive relationships, but the first relationship may have set a pattern, and eventually you may end up in an emotionally and/or physically abusive relationship. Inside and outside of the therapist's office, you need to take this potential seriously. Your health and life may depend on it.
posted by Gordion Knott at 8:31 AM on March 14, 2011


Best answer: For a while I was also attracted to the big personality big ego type (though not the mean type). I sort of still am but I think the reason for it is that if they have a big personality, it kind of gives me permission to let my personality be big too - I don't have to try to contain myself to fit, to not overbear them, etc (thought that doesn't mean not begin considerate and thoughtful).

Now I try to just give myself permission to let my personality be whatever size it's going to be, no matter who I'm around. Maybe it's a classic case of wanting to 'catch' the person you actually want to be. Just in case this resonates with you!
posted by Salamandrous at 8:36 AM on March 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Another part is needing someone who violates social norms -- who doesn't care what people think, who says what's on his mind, who is politically incorrect and makes his own path.

What kind of social norms do you want violated? Do you want someone who is not afraid to voice an unpopular opinion, or someone who voices particular opinions that are unpopular because of their disregard for norms against overt endorsements of racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, etc.? Sean Hannity used to run a dating site for the latter, and though it seems to be defunct, I'm sure something equally atrocious has sprung up in its place.

The difference between the general and specific cases above are a good example of how the larger-than-life traits you're talking about are not always good or bad in themselves. I suspect you'll get a lot of mileage from separating presentation from content in most of the traits you are worried you like.
posted by Marty Marx at 8:45 AM on March 14, 2011


*is a good example
posted by Marty Marx at 8:45 AM on March 14, 2011


I think you are focusing on emotional qualities, when the primary distinction between a good news/bad news guy for you is actually a cognitive quality.

Based on your post, your follow-ups, and your "best answer flags", here's what I think: you are looking for a critical thinker. People can meet social norms uncritically (because that's what people do), or they can flout social norms uncritically (because they're self-centered sadists and like shocking people, and feel basic contempt for other human beings.)

On the other hand, people can critically assess social norms, evaluate the fundamental purpose behind them, and choose to meet or not meet them. A norm might be good (don't insult people for the hell of it), relatively neutral (dress up for the opera/dress down for the derby), or bad (shun people in interracial marriages).

You seem to like people who are confident and dynamically engaged with the world, but you're getting all mixed up on this "cares what people think" "is willing to blow things up" stuff. I posit that you're looking for someone who thinks critically about his social context and makes choices about how to behave in it. This is the opposite of either uncritically meeting OR flouting social norms.
posted by endless_forms at 8:49 AM on March 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


Response by poster: Thank you all so much for helping me clarify my thoughts on this. So much to think about!

Forktine -- I had read that post about pulling my hair, and that is EXACTLY what I'm looking for. I should probably leave the whole abusive thing out of it, since it was a long time ago, I've learned from it, and I'm strong enough now to respect myself and demand respect from the other person.

Salamandrous -- good point, I do feel more free to be myself when I'm with people like this, and I can work on being less embarrassed to be as big as I can be in more situations

endless_forms -- good point, and a lot to think about. Yes, I do love critical thinkers, not rebels for the sake of being rebels.

Thanks, mefites. You are awesome as always!
posted by 3491again at 10:55 AM on March 14, 2011


The trouble with outward displays of confidence is that they're often just over-compensations for weakness and insecurity.

Have you seen Saturday Night Fever? That first time you see John Travolta's character walk into the nightclub, he purely radiates charisma and confidence. If that was your first time seeing him, you'd never question what kind of guy he is. The movie is slick though, because you've just spent 30 minutes watching him get ready for that entrance, in which he sulks during dinner with his parents, primps narcissistically in the mirror, fails to impress several women with his little-boyish attempts at flirting. He's a big mess of lost, confused ignorance, but it would be easy to mistake him for someone cool and self-assured and independent if you met him out on the town.

Anyhow whenever I meet someone that I'm unduly impressed by, attracted to, or jealous of, I try to remember that character. And then I remember that the most confident and independent people I really know happen to be quiet, unassuming people. Not because they're afraid of other people, but because they don't feel threatened by them.
posted by hermitosis at 11:18 AM on March 14, 2011 [7 favorites]


I had read that post about pulling my hair, and that is EXACTLY what I'm looking for. I should probably leave the whole abusive thing out of it, since it was a long time ago, I've learned from it, and I'm strong enough now to respect myself and demand respect from the other person.

I just want to point out that in healthy relationships, you're not often put in the position of having to "demand respect from the other person." It's just not a boundary you are forced to draw often, if ever.

And you do know that bedroom behavior does not correlate to real life behavior, right? Someone could be a great hair puller, but just as nice as pie and totally conventional in other arenas.

After reading your other posts, I think that you need to not focus so much on external things that you achieve according to certain fantasy characteristics you imbue them with (a man, a job, etc.) Instead, you need to start a very long-term, evidence-based project of figuring out what happiness means to you, and what makes you happy, and what you actually value. Not what turns you on, not what you dream about or idealize; but what actually is GOOD for you and seems RIGHT to you based on the concrete alternative available to you. In short, I think your head is too much in the clouds. Real life is great; come down here and experience it.
posted by yarly at 11:49 AM on March 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Best answer: I think I’m on your wavelength, OP, or a similar one- let me describe my personal history and see if it rings any bells with you.

I’ve been very, very, attracted with a special kind of synergy to a few people in my life, and what I would isolate as the main quality they had in common is creativity. You didn’t specify that in your post, but I can identify with hints of it in your description of making wild plans in childhood with a close friend- a sort of mutual worldbuilding and future-planning that’s intoxicating.

This type of attraction and synergy I’m talking about is not the same as “eros-lust” and is not exclusive to romantic/hetero relationships. It is also extremely rare, and has genuinely occurred perhaps 2 or 3 times, but is totally unmistakable when it happens. Some of the best periods of my life have been when I had access to this kind of synergy-friend: Someone to bounce my ideas off of in a way that opened my mind beyond anything else could. A good way to describe it is like having a muse. I sort of think of it this way: Many things are inspiring, starting from the beauty of the natural world, to other people’s art projects, to life events- but nothing is more inspirational than a human being at their height. When you find someone who thinks about things in a similar way, it’s like exponential growth.

So essentially, I would reframe this from “confidence and not caring what other people think” to “warm, creative energy and uniqueness” – is that about right, or no?

Anyway, I think this is something you should pursue-carefully- inasmuch as you even can pursue it, which I still haven’t figured out how to do. It’s something that just “happens” really.

I would be careful about getting romantically involved with people like this long-term, however (although they make excellent business partners)- it’s really easy to conflate the “creative feeling” with the ‘eros-lust feeling” and they’re two separate things. I find that as far as long term romantic relationships, especially with children, go- stability and safety are better, generally speaking, than inspiration and growth. It’s sort of like, when you meet someone like this, it’s a chemical reaction that forces one or both of you to grow and change, and in the aftermath you may be very different people. However, there is a line between settling for someone totally boring, and waiting for someone comforting, fun, and supportive without being volatile. It’s definitely possible to find someone who holds up their end of the relationship and makes it worthwhile, without either expecting you to latch on to them, or them latching on to you. It's best when you've both matured and dreamed your dreams and aren't looking for someone to complete or change you any longer. Make sense?

I don’t know if that really answers your question or not, but keep in mind that everyone is different and it’s hard to generalize- all you can do is learn from your past mistakes and be discriminating at the start of any new relationship.
posted by Nixy at 1:03 PM on March 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


And you do know that bedroom behavior does not correlate to real life behavior, right? Someone could be a great hair puller, but just as nice as pie and totally conventional in other arenas.


This. Remember this. It is a good cheat sheet to carry around for the future. And it can help you make that final decision that stops you from getting involved with a bad news bear.

Just sayin'.
posted by vivid postcard at 1:13 PM on March 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Response by poster: Thanks again to everyone for your help -- can I ask the mefite world for one more favor?

Lots of people have read this question and come to the conclusion that I'm a drama queen who loves conflict and abusive relationships. I keep re-reading my question and can't see how people are getting that. (I say explicitly that I am looking for healthy relationships and that I broke up with someone due to excessive conflict.) Maybe someone can tell me in a PM (or here, if you like) where I'm giving off this impression. I'd really appreciate it, because I'm probably giving the same appearance to potential romantic partners and maybe attracting exactly the things I don't want!
posted by 3491again at 4:04 PM on March 14, 2011


Lots of people have read this question and come to the conclusion that I'm a drama queen who loves conflict and abusive relationships. I keep re-reading my question and can't see how people are getting that. Maybe someone can tell me in a PM (or here, if you like) where I'm giving off this impression.

I see it in your thread-sitting and need to clarify and correct everyone on the smallest detail about what you mean. What kmennie said.

Hey, sorry to threadsit, but just want to make clear: I don't want the narcissism part.

Also, I am *not* chasing high-conflict relationships.

To everyone else -- this isn't about being loud or hot.

You pout when people don't get exactly what you mean and you reward when they happen to hit in the general area you want.

It means you are super concerned with how you appear. Insecurity. It also means you are very vulnerable to someone who reflects back at you the person you want to appear to be.

(It seems like) If some man came up to you and confirmed that you are this awesome high-powered dynamo you are so attached to being, and you're his match in strength and passion, etc., etc., you'd be so open to manipulation you'd never see it coming.
posted by griselda at 4:58 PM on March 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


People who have been in unhealthy relationships will generally seek to repeat those patterns.


Also, "big ego" to me is synonymous with "asshole," and "swagger" reads "dick."

(ha! that looks funny, I'm not talking about body parts here)
posted by abirdinthehand at 6:03 PM on March 14, 2011


Just so you know, this question is being discussed over at the MeFi group at Fetlife.
posted by Forktine at 6:11 PM on March 14, 2011


Best answer: 'Lots of people have read this question and come to the conclusion that I'm a drama queen who loves conflict and abusive relationships."

I don't think that's quite what lots of people have concluded about you. I certainly don't think anybody loves abusive relationships. I think people often develop certain patterns of behavior and blindnesses that make them vulnerable to falling into bad relationships. Some of these patterns and blindspots are fairly apparent in your question and subsequent comments.

What jumped out at me the most is that you seem insecure. It's there in the elaborate contortions you make to put forward this fantastic, shiny vision of yourself. I'm not saying that you're not any of these things. Please understand that I'm not calling you a liar. But it reads like you're selling us a pitch, it smells like false bravado, and it's not clear who you're trying to convince.

Upon reading your description of the ideal man, it's even harder to believe that you have much confidence yourself. If you really understand what it means to have genuine confidence, and to be a true trailblazer, you'd already know the answer to your question. You'd already know that confidence doesn't come hand-in-hand with having a big ego, or a brash, larger-than-life personality, and that those characteristics are usually a facade for lack of confidence. You'd already know that "making your own path" has little to do with violating social norms and eschewing political correctness.

These blindspots are what your fellow Mefites have been trying to point out to you, to help you understand that by falling for men with the veneer of confidence, and the pretense of unconventionality, you may be falling into the same traps that caught you the first time. But instead of recognizing these deficits in your understanding, you've been busily policing this thread, checking off "not applicable" whenever a comment fails to reinforce the image of your ideal self. That's the dangerous part. That's your vulnerability. That's what has folks expressing concerns that you're going to end up with the same type of men, over and over again.
posted by keep it under cover at 7:59 PM on March 14, 2011 [11 favorites]


Response by poster: Keep it under cover -- all I can say is: Wow. Thank you. So much to think about. You've really helped me see something new, and extremely important. Thank you again.
posted by 3491again at 9:10 PM on March 14, 2011


Just piping in to agree with AlsoMike. People who care about what others think are more likely to be narcissists. So the unconventionality thing doesn't necessarily or even often go with narcissism. Narcissists more than anything want to fit in and be loved.
posted by timsneezed at 12:31 AM on March 25, 2011


I also don't think there's much overlap between narcissists and abusers, but abusers are probably more likely to be the unconventional, don't care what others think type.
posted by timsneezed at 12:32 AM on March 25, 2011


Narcissism is not really a scientifically valid diagnosis, but narcissists do not necessarily want to be loved-- they want to be special, important, and in control, which overlaps but is not the same thing. Conventional wisdom is that narcissists are generally manipulative and lacking in compassion, hence, tending to be abusive.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:28 AM on March 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


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