May 15th, 2012 by Nina Atwood
Saturday at the beauty salon where I get my hair done, everyone was buzzing about the bestselling erotic fantasy novel Fifty Shades of Grey. My stylist, eyes glowing, told me I just had to read it. It seems that some of the women in the shop were getting a little marital lift out of Fifty Shades. One customer reportedly had “attacked her husband twice” the week that she read the book. So I gamely downloaded it and did my “research,” and it is truly a page-turning erotic journey. Since the book seems to be such a phenomenon, I wondered about the impact on relationships. Why, I wondered, do we love this book so much?
First, there’s the obvious. He’s hot, she’s hot, and their wild sex life is so combustible it could light up a large city for at least 48 hours if we harnessed it. That said, I don’t think too many men are reading this book. When I mentioned it to my husband he gave me one of those deer-in-the-headlights looks. Not only had he not heard of it, he had no frame of reference for it and couldn’t even begin to understand why anyone would waste time reading it. So the audience is clearly women, millions of them. But what is the allure for us?
Christian Grey, the main male character, represents women’s top fantasy: he’s drop-dead gorgeous, he’s high testosterone (sex three or four times a day is nothing to him), and he’s unbelievably wealthy (think assets with “b”). This guy drips power, and he aims all of it at the object of his lust and, later, love, Anastasia Steele. But that’s not the real draw to this story.
The book begins with the typical romance novel formula—handsome, sexy, powerful guy meets beautiful, vulnerable woman; at first she resists, then she succumbs to him; bada-bing, bada-boom, they fall in love, and ride off into the sunset together. But E.L. James brilliantly takes the old formula one step further, painting a compelling psychological portrait of a deeply wounded guy—heavily into BDS&M—who is transformed and healed by the love of a good woman.
Christian Grey is a predator, but one that we can imagine taming, just enough so he will be a mate, but not so much that he becomes boring. He’s darkly erotic, powerfully sexy, and ready to be “cured.” What a fantasy! He is the quintessential Wounded Guy. That’s the real draw to this story, and why it’s topping the bestseller lists.
The Wounded Guy attracts the caretaking female like the moth to the flame. He’s the guy whose childhood was so scarring, or whose divorce was so pulverizing, or for whatever reason is so emotionally damaged, that he cannot love in a normal way. Typically, sex is both his weapon and his only way to connect, so he’s driven by the need to seduce and conquer. Women who fall in love with the Wounded Guy often say “but the sex is fabulous”! That little word “but” comes after the long litany of all the damage he’s doing in her life.
His wounds compel him to draw close to her, often in some kind of dramatic, romantic, soul-searing, highly sexually charged way. He bonds fiercely and suddenly, unwilling or unable to pace a relationship. It’s a deep dive, or it’s nothing.
Then, just as she begins to think they are a couple, he acts out his pain. He pulls away, he may indulge in his addiction of choice (drinking, drugs, infidelity, work, etc.), and then he either breaks up or creates so much chaos that she breaks up. Later, he comes back expressing remorse, she softens, and they begin again. This becomes a vicious cycle, completely emotionally exhausting. Over time, it looks like love addiction. Unable to bond in a healthy way, this couple bonds in an addictive way—I can’t live with you and I can’t live without you.
The draw to this kind of guy is powerful for women who are trying to heal their own childhood wounds. Deep down, she wants to bring him out of the darkness of his wounded soul, draw him into the light, and heal him. If she succeeds, she proves something to herself—that she is special, worthy of the attention, love, and desires of this compelling man. There’s just one tiny problem. It doesn’t work.
Contrary to fantasy fiction, you cannot heal the Wounded Guy with love. He needs several swift emotional kicks in the butt. He needs loads of “tough love,” not the sweet, I-adore-you kind of love you want to give him. His healing cannot come from you being his Mommy, the one he didn’t have before.
He needs to hit rock bottom and experience a dramatic loss before he can begin to heal. The pain of doing what he’s always done has to be greater than the pain of change. Because his wounds have compelled him to do so much damage, he needs to experience remorse. There are other steps, but they are best taken in a therapeutic setting, not in the course of a relationship. Big clue: most of them never do heal because they don’t allow themselves to be vulnerable enough to be hurt enough to have to change.
Here’s the real problem with trying to heal the Wounded Guy. You will wear yourself out, and your own emotional needs will not be met. Over time, your lack of success in winning his true love and commitment will erode your self-esteem and self-worth. And at the end of the day, he will probably move on to someone else, transforming mainly out of the process of loss and recovery. It won’t be about you or for you.
The reason we love Fifty Shades of Grey is because it’s the story of every bad love relationship that women have had with their own version of the Wounded Guy. I have my own Fifty Shades in my history, and so do millions of other women. But I moved on years ago, to my sweet, totally devoted Vanilla guy. I no longer need the roller coaster ride of a Fifty Shades relationship. I’m completely content and fulfilled.
If you’re trying to heal your Fifty Shades guy, or if you don’t understand the fiction of the book and you think you’ll one day snare a wounded, sexy billionaire, stop and do some soul-searching. Find out how to side-step this temptation and create a new pathway to a loving, rewarding relationship. Read Temptations of the Single Girl: The Ten Dating Traps You Must Avoid. Check out the tons of free resources on singlescoach.com and get the enlightenment you need to create the life and love you really want.