Why is it that the shadier a bro is, the more likely you are to have a crush on him? Despite insisting to your friends that you do like nice guys, you just haven’t met the right one, you have no real interest in dating the bros that are already in love with you. Much like every billionaire’s kid would rather go to art school than work for their parent’s company (unless those billionaire kids have the last name of Trump), the idea of a sure thing—no matter how promising the future might be—is just boring. Like, if Annie was Daddy Warbucks’ biological daughter, you know she would have Princess Jasmined that shit and run off with the baker’s son.
The reason it feels wrong to date someone that’s actually into you is actually pretty scientific. It’s called attachment theory, and basically it’s the reason you could be totally chill about a bro one day and then freak TF out when he stops answering your texts. Like, you didn’t even like him that much and suddenly you’re four years back in his Facebook profile photos wondering if your kids would have his eyes or yours. Basically it all comes down to your relationship with your parents. If you grew up with parents that withheld love in your childhood, then you’ll seek bros that withhold love when it comes to relationships.
According to attachment theory, whatever you knew in betchhood is what you’re going to seek as an adult in relationships. Some people fall into the secure attachment style, which means they are confident and stable when it comes to relationships. We know you can’t relate, so think every character James Marsden has ever played. Usually, these people are boring. Like, they’re ones at Sunday brunch whose only relationship update is that they’re thinking about seeing if their bf would be into adopting a cat. Sure, this person is good when it comes to actually needing real advice or finding a DD, but they’re never going to be the person who makes you feel better about yourself because their poor life choices make you look like a saint. On the other hand, there are avoidant and anxious attachment styles, which tend to attract each other despite being complete opposites and are responsible for 90% of the “Woman Shoots Ex Over Stolen Chicken Nugget” type articles you see in your newsfeed.
Remember in Jersey Shore when Sammi was obsessed with Ronnie even though he was straight up a dick to her? Or when goddess Selena Gomez was so obsessed with King of Fuckboys Justin Bieber? These bros have avoidant attachment styles, which means they’re both afraid of getting too close to someone but also afraid of being alone. Hence their hot and cold shady AF behavior. But because fuckboys play mind games and make us think their love is limited, it triggers us into thinking they have something we need to hang on to. Basically the more someone pulls away, the more likely they are to trigger attachment and anxiety from their partner.
Think of it this way: Diamonds didn’t get expensive until DeBeers locked up all the diamonds in the world, because once something’s rare and hard to get, everybody wants it. Likewise, a bro could be living on an air mattress and playing music in the subway for a living, but if he indicates he might be losing interest, that’s when we think he’s the motherfucking prize. At least that’s what my therapist tells me, and given that when she doesn’t return my calls that’s when I want to see her the most, she might have a point.
Despite what your exasperated friends might tell you, you don’t actually like fuckboys more than nice guys—they just know how to trigger your attachment to get you to think you do. Can you imagine if in Sixteen Candles the jock just told Molly Ringwald in the beginning that he liked her? She’d be creeped out and he’d never questionably pawn off his drunk girlfriend to the freshman. I mean, that movie is problematic for many reasons now that we’re thinking about it, but that’s a discussion for another time. The bottom line is, thanks to attachment theory, a bro can be hot AF and we’d still be creeped out if he was into us before we determined how we felt about him.
So why does your brain tell you something is more valuable when you’re about to lose it? It’s because baby animals in the wild need to learn not to leave their mothers too young, so when they start to lose their sense of safety, their brain tells them to find it again. It’s for their own good, but in your case it makes you think you’re “settling” if you date a bro who brings you flowers on a first date, but lose your shit over a guy who shows up 45 minutes late in the same T-shirt they wore last night.
In your case the “safety” is actually just whether or not he’s going to take you as his plus one to his college buddy’s wedding in a few months. If you’re not totally sure you have that on lock, you’re going to retaliate by accidentally leaving your Bumble open so he can see you’re not too attached. The good news is attachment styles may come from your childhood, but once you identify your own patterns, it’s much easier to change it. So before you convince yourself you’re falling for a bro right after he stops texting you back, reconsider whether you’d be as into him if he was actually into you. And if you meet a bro that is more into you than you are into him, you just have to convince yourself he hates you and then maybe you’ll fall for him too. Just do your best to avoid bringing up the whole “my subconscious mind thinks that you’re my monkey mother” thing on a first date. It’s kind of a red flag.