Dating is tough. It was tough when you had to flip through the personals section of newspapers, and it’s tough now swiping left on Tinder. Even though the technology has changed, dealing with creeps, liars, and drama has stayed the same.
Conventional wisdom tells us, though, that if we know what we want, specifically, and ask for it, the dating process will be a little bit easier. But even when you do know what you want, and you find a guy who has it, it might not be all it’s cracked up to be. What you thought was hot and desirable turned out to be only lukewarm at best, and a total turn-off at worst. So here’s a little advice from experts about what women think they want in their man — but really don’t.
We want him to be jealous
It can be kind of flattering when your partner expresses a little bit of possessiveness. Maybe he saw you laughing really hard at another dude’s joke, or perhaps he saw you chatting with a cute co-worker on your way out the door to happy hour. If he asked about it, got an answer, then let it go, that’s fine! But if he was questioning and accusatory, that might be a sign of some darker tendencies.
Kimberly Hershenson, a New York City based relationship therapist, told me, “Woman often think jealousy is a sign of love. If your partner doesn’t want you socializing with others and is constantly questioning where you are or who you are with, this is not a sign of love but a red flag that this relationship is going in the wrong direction.”
So how he handles jealousy is the key, here. And there really is nothing wrong with him being a little envious once in a while; we all feel it sometimes. But if he starts to interrogate you, accuse you of lying, or control your movements, that’s a sign that he’s bad news, and not the kind of man you want to be with.
We want him to be the dominant one
Chivalry’s not dead. There are still men who will hold the door for you, pay for date night dinner, and chauffeur you to the movies and back. And it can even be nice to be with someone who makes the bulk of your decisions as a couple as long as they know what they’re doing and you’re comfortable with that.
But there’s a line that can be crossed. Is your beau being too dominant? Is he trying to control too much? You might be in an abusive relationship. Hershenson told me, “Women often think they want a ‘manly’ partner who takes control but if you are told how to dress, reprimanded for your thoughts and opinions, or are told who you can associate with these are all huge red flags that you are in an abusive relationship.”
So while it’s nice to have a partner who takes control, make sure he respects you and your autonomy both as a woman and as a person. If he can’t trust you to wear want you want, work how you want, and say what you believe, then it’s time to move on to someone who can.
Or we want him to be submissive
On the flip side, some women want a man who will always go along with their plans, and be attentive to their every want and need regardless of his own. But that will likely lead to complications.
Ayo Gathing, a psychiatrist, author, and relationship expert, told me, “Many women think that they want a man who is going to do what they want and give in to them. But a man who will not stand up for himself is not attractive in the long run.” For Gathing, it’s important that your partner is balanced within himself. She noted, “A man should not be stubborn and unwilling to compromise, however women don’t really want a man that has no backbone at all.”
Every good relationship has give and take, with each partner attentive to each other’s needs, and with enough confidence to stand up for what they believe in. You don’t want someone who is too domineering, or who is too much of a pushover, so don’t do it yourself either.
We want him to be rich
Well who doesn’t want to be rich? We all want to be comfortable! But it’s when wealth gets in the way of happy, healthy quality time that it becomes an issue. Noni Ayana, a sexologist and relationship expert with a master’s degree in education, told me, “Women say they want a man who has a six or seven figure income, and is a leader in his career. Depending upon the type of career, it’s possible he may rarely be at home, his job is his first love, or he may be seeking a wife but not necessarily a marriage.”
So for Ayana, it’s vital to understand that with wealth may come distance in other areas. Also, it’s important to know yourself. She said, “If you’re the type of woman that struggles with insecurity or jealousy, and is in need of consistent intimacy or affection, he may not be the guy for you.”
If you’re sure he’s the one, know what you’re getting into. Ayana noted that, “If you seek this type of life, be aware of both the pros and cons. Yet, also be aware of personal needs, wants, and relationship boundaries.” And if it works, great! But, as the cliché goes, money isn’t everything.
We want him wild
It can be super sexy when your date arrives at your place to pick you up — on his motorcycle. And it’s exciting to be with someone who is a thrill-seeker, taking you sky diving, to get tattoos, or out for an ATV ride.
But there’s eventually going to be a need for balance in your life, especially if you two decide to settle down and start a family. Laurel Steinberg, a sexologist and relationship therapist with a doctorate in psychology, and a professor of psychology at Columbia University, told me, “Women think they want a wild and dangerous guy, but they really don’t because once he is theirs or the father of their children, they won’t want to have to worry about his level of aliveness. A more cautious man may seem more ordinary to women, but ordinary is better than dead.”
There’s no problem if you both agree on your boundaries, and respect them; plenty of couples do wild things together. But if he’s planning a mountain climbing trip against your protests, or not wearing his helmet on his motorcycle, it’s time to have a talk.
We want him well endowed
All blushing aside, women understandably want a good sex life with their man. And many of us have been taught to believe that the bigger the package, the better that sex life will be. But for long-term partnerships, it’s important to consider how both your bodies and desires may change over the years.
Dr. Steinberg told me, “Women think they want a man with a huge penis — but only until they have had an episiotomy when giving birth, after which a huge penis can feel like a knife for a while, a very long while or sometimes forever. Better to look for a man with a healthy interest in giving and receiving sexual pleasure than to focus on the size of what he’s got going on in his trousers.”
You don’t have to give birth to change sexually, either. And for some folks, sex might not be the first priority. You might place more value on companionship and emotional well-being. Couple that with the fact that not all men have penises, or penises that can perform in the bedroom, and you have a lot to think about.
We want him to always be with us
It’s natural to want to spend every second of your time together when you and your man are first falling for each other. And there are many established couples who do spend lots of their downtime together watching Netflix shows or going out.
But as you progress in your relationship, give your sweetie latitude to establish his boundaries and needs. Christene Lozano, a licensed marriage and family therapist, told me, “Some women may want their man to spend all of his free time with her. While quality time is important for every relationship, there needs to be a balance where each partner has their own alone time, their couple time, and their friends/family/etc. time. This balance is healthy for the relationship.” That makes sense, as you can’t be everything to someone else; you’re just one person.
And there may be other agents at play, such as a lack of quality time versus quantity of time. Registered clinical social worker and sociologist Chantale Denis told me, “Women in my practice often report that they want to spend more time together with their significant other, but what they really want is a deep bond with quality time with their significant other, not necessarily quantity of time.” So do your best to make the time you do spend together as engaged and rewarding as possible. But don’t try and keep him around every second of every day; let it evolve naturally.
We want him to be more romantic
Men should know how to show romance to their partners, in words and gestures alike. But a lot of woman wish their man was more romantic. Denis told me, “Women also tend to report that they want more romance in their relationship. Yet, few are adequately able to describe that that actually looks like.” Is it flowers once a month? Sexy presents? Lots of dinners out?
Indeed it’s more complicated than that. Denis continued, “What they really want is for their significant other to look at them with they speak. They want to know that they matter. They want to simply feel special, and that is reflective in verbal and non-verbal communication cues. In other words, women report that what’s missing is a genuine engagement in dialogue of what they have to say, and an emotional connection where their partner is able to express their own feelings so that she feels connected.”
So it’s not so much presents – it’s presence. Without that intimacy and attentiveness, all the flowers and candy in the world are meaningless, even if he brought them to you every day.
We want him to be independent
It’s nice when your man is independent, needing little from you. But for many women, if their man is overly independent to the point of neglect, it’s not an ideal situation. Shadeen Francis, a therapist, speaker, and educator told me, “Independence is a socially attractive quality, and women often seek men who show they are capable of taking care of themselves. Unfortunately, independence does not always lend well to partnership; it is hard to negotiate or compromise with someone strongly connected to their own agenda, and women can end up feeling left out of their partner’s intimate life and decision-making process.” So in lieu of someone who is super independent, prioritizing their own needs before others, what should women look for? Francis said, “Traits like interdependence, collaboration, or openness are worthwhile substitutes for independence for long-term relationships.”
The same is true for polyamorous relationships, where more independence can be required from all parties. But if he’s too independent, it won’t work. Rhonda Milrad, a licensed clinical social worker, relationship therapist, and founder of Your Sage, told me, “You think this sort of man would do well in a polyamorous relationship. However his lack of exclusivity means that he is not really committed to you. He sees as many people on the side as he wants, with no clear boundaries nor communication with you about his relationships.” So if you need support from him, you might not get it. Milrad continued, “His openness ultimately ends up hurting the relationship.”
So look for a man who is there when you need support, but who can let you spend time reading a book or going out with your sweeties. Then you can do the same for him, creating a balance that will last well into the long-term.
We want the perfect man
How many times have you daydreamed about finding the perfect man? Or heard your friends wonder if he’s out there? Almost all women do, and it’s natural. Dr. Gathing affirmed this, telling me that, “Women can’t help but fantasize that one day they will meet the perfect man. Good looking, financially stable, and sensitive with no annoying habits.” Sounds like a dream come true, right?
Maybe not, though, so it’s time to wake up. Dr. Gathing continued, “But not only does this man not exist, you wouldn’t want him if he did! Having faults and anxieties makes us human, so a man that does not show any faults is either hiding things or bottling it all up. Showing our insecurities and idiosyncrasies to the person we love is a part of a healthy relationship. Someone that seems too good to be true just might be.”
So while the perfect man may not exist, chances are that there’s a man out there who’s perfect for you. And that’s something to daydream about.