What are men looking for in a relationship?

I’ve lately been talking with some women who are in a whirl over “how to understand men.” Some of them don verbal grenade launchers when they start talking about guys, while others wring their hands, urgently and anxiously trying to figure out the Masculine Mysteries.

When I’m coaching people, I generally redirect my clients’ attention back to themselves because I find that fulfillment is not about changing other people’s behaviors to suit us, or trying to figure out what motivates others. In my experience, fulfillment is about discovering what we value, need and want in our lives and then honoring those values/needs/wants by making decisions that are congruent with them. So in short, I like to teach my clients to be a little more self-focused to become self-aware.

This is a good one to experience in a relationship, too.

This is a good one to experience in a relationship, too.

However, it never hurts to walk a mile in another person’s shoes. Not only does it teach us about how our actions impact others, it teaches us a lot about life from another perspective. Plus this topic never ceases to be an engima. So I thought I would ask a bunch of my guy friends about what they need and want in a relationship, to help women everywhere gain a little clarity and take charge of their outcomes. As I like to say: Proper Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance. Granted, my guy friends are articulate, creative, capable of looking inward, are not afraid of communicating, and over the age of 35*, so if nothing else, you’ll learn a lot about what an evolved, nerdy (and I mean that in a good way) mature guy wants. I should also mention this is informal, so I can’t quote statistics, except that I talked to seven of my friends. (And – to be beyond clear, I in no way suggest that a woman should alter herself specifically and solely to “ensnare” a man.)

Here’s what they told me, about what they’re looking for in a relationship:

Independence – Based on what my pals said, even emotionally healthy men want assurance that they can still be a separate entity, and not half of a four-eyed monster. Most women I know want to retain their sense of self, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that men feel the same way. Here are some suggestions to allow you to throw away that ball and chain:

>> Periodically turn down invitations to get together. My guy friends despise the idea of being tied down socially, so feel free to occasionally and confidently turn the tables and turn down plans in favor of “you” time. Not only will you honor your need for self-nourishment, guys will respect you for it, and then will start to wonder what you’re up to. A little dash of mystery is the ingredient that keeps the chili spicy. I should also mention that I have done this many times and have seen my boyfriend totally dig it.
>> Respect his privacy. Physical space, mental space, emotional space – every once in awhile it should be way cool for a guy to have some privacy and not have to reveal all. It also conveys trust and respect. If you feel you need to snoop through his desk drawers or look at his caller ID, I’d suggest taking a look at what’s underneath that motivation to do so. I know that I value privacy, too, so I look at this as a win-win.
>> On the flip side, Be independent yourself. My friends want long-term partners who have their own purpose other than being in a relationship. A great guy isn’t intimidated by independence and success. What matters to a man is that a woman still has space in her life for a great relationship and is grounded and present when she’s with him. This is the key to being a successful single, which then is the foundation of a successful relationship. Don’t drop your own interests, responsibilities, and friends just to be with him.

Straightforwardness – My guy friends told me that they hate being manipulated into a situation. “If my wife wants something, I want her to ask rather than play games,” says my good friend Charles. I was also told that guys often hold back because they think most women appear to be empowered but are secretly baby-hungry wedding ring-hunters. Remember that an empowered dater is not trying to trap anyone.

Forgiveness – The majority of my friends with whom I talked say that forgiving mistakes is “vital” and grudges are wedges.  Guess all the spiritualists were right – there is no love without forgiveness. And remember that empowered forgiving doesn’t mean you’re a doormat.

Appreciation – Guys can often come off as cocky, but most of my guy friends are brave enough to admit that they still feel insecure and at times need to know that they’re respected and appreciated. As a strong, empowered woman, there’s nothing wrong with increasing a guy’s esteem, in an authentic way. I know that many of my girl friends appreciate appreciation so why not guys?

Playfulness –  From what I’ve been told, men love to be active and to play. They were raised to express themselves and connect with those around them through action. It’s part of their bonding process. However, too many women want to talk their way into a man’s heart. But the fact is that it’s not your words that make a man attracted to you, it’s the experiences you create with him. Watch or play sports together, be competitive in casual games like ping pong – even add a little teasing and sarcasm here and there – and you’ll really ramp up the attraction and interest. My friends also advocate that playing “mind” games requiring mental prowess — i.e., Scrabble, puzzles, and chess — can prod passion, too.

Acceptance – “Particularly of our inner nerd,” says my friend Steve. (Most guys I know are into comic books and sci-fi movies.) There’s an adage that I love: “Accept everything about yourself – you are you and that is the beginning and the end. No apologies, no regrets.” The same applies for other people. Relationships are not about trying to intentionally change or fix others. Plus, who wouldn’t love to go with our honey to see the latest superhero movie and watch Hugh Jackman or Christian Bale run around in a tank top. Is that really such a chore?

Confidence –  There’s this tendency for women to berate themselves for their weight (since we’re on this topic, check out this video on the effects of negative self-talk – here) but most of my friends don’t care if their wives and girlfriends can’t fit into clothes they used to wear 15 years ago. “Confidence is sexy,” states Bob. Conversely, complaining that you feel fat and gross isn’t. Says Stuart, with a smile, “we may not have a body like David Beckham, but that doesn’t stop us from acting like we’re studs.”

Cool, calm, collected – Eventually there’s going to be a situation that comes up where you and your man won’t see eye to eye and misunderstand each other. How will you respond to this and share your feelings? I have personally witnessed women become emotional flamethrowers, hissing vipers, when faced with a situation that went awry in some way. Attractive? Healthy? Functional? Hardly.

A woman who has the maturity to not blame or criticize (anyone, really, but especially her partner) but to share her feelings in an honest and authentic way that helps a man better understand her, will be in a far better position to have her needs met. This is part of being the Chooser – remember that concept? Find out more – here. In addition, how a woman handles her emotions is one of the most important things men look for when deciding whether or not to get serious with a woman. If she lets her emotions spiral out of control, this is a big red flag. The same can be said vice-versa, if the man shows a lot of anger – or conversely, no emotions at all.

This is not to say that emotions should be repressed – Au contraire mon cheri! I’ve blogged at length about the importance of feeling our feelings here and the gifts they provide. On the other hand, if a woman can feel and discuss her feelings without a lot of hysteria, yelling, screaming and accusing, she will not only convey the importance of her needs but will win respect by demonstrating that she is a real and equal partner.

Usefulness or Contribution – Believe it or not, I’ve been told that the so-called stoic sex is hardwired to nurture (a decidedly ‘feminine’ trait, by golly!). Sheltering people from harm makes a guy feel strong or noble, which makes him feel good. Lots of women mistakenly believe that this means that men are looking for a “weaker” woman who will make them feel like they are smarter and more powerful. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Real men want a woman who inspires them to help out. Again, I don’t advocate helplessness, but allowing a guy to see your vulnerable side will allow him to liberate his inner Superman. If any of you have read “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus”, you’ll remember these two pieces of advice below, in terms of how to cultivate your own super hero. It sounded corny to me at the time I read the book, but my guy friends affirmed them:

>> Give him a job. Ask him to fix or build you something. Performing concrete tasks is a way of bonding that enhances his sense of success.
>> Ask his opinion. Whether it’s about your 401(k) options or the best travel sites, it telegraphs that you value his brain as much as you do his brawn.

Attraction – Men aren’t as scared of commitment and relationships as they are scared of being in a relationship with a woman where there is no passion and attraction. A common way you can accidentally kill attraction is by either trying too hard to get him to like you, or by acting like the relationship is too serious too soon. (I talk about attraction killers in my blog post on Common Dating Traps – here) Relax, let things happen naturally, have some fun and be courageous enough to shake things up from time to time.

Alrighty! I know that there are a lot of books dedicated to deciphering what’s rolling around in a guy’s head but what my friends have said doesn’t seem so mystifying to me. What do you think? If you’d like to weigh in on this topic, I created a special survey for you < click here >. (Poll closes on Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2014!) Please feel free to include what is important to you in a relationship – I’ll be sure to post an update to this article with your input. If you’re a woman reading this post, I’d be interested in hearing what you want to experience in a relationship too, so please click on that link above. Based on your input, I’ll write a future post about what’s important to a woman in a relationship. Any other questions? Email me here.

And many thanks to my guy friends for being so candid.

*Post Script: I mentioned the age of my guy friends because a Kinsey Institute study shows that men and women have different desires that change as they age (i.e., Men in their 20s and 30s want both freedom and sex. Women want to be settling down by their late 20s and 30s. For the over 40s set, cuddling and kissing takes the top spot for both men and women. The study also shows these desires also fluctuate over the course of togetherness. Check the study out here.

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2 comments

  1. lindamags says:

    Well this post was more about what guys want to experience in a relationship, using my guy pals as a micro-study group. The activities listed under “playfulness” were things they suggested but they are nerds in the best possible way. Playing ping pong might not be on every guy’s list of favorite things to do … but I’m sure you get the picture.

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