I’ve conducted a lot of research regarding women’s friendships and the ways that people can most effectively maintain healthy friendships over the long-term. In a recent research study, however, we explored what women, from 18 to 75, need from the men in their lives. Not surprisingly, the qualities women seek in their romantic partners, male friends, and men, in general, are not much different from what they need in a friend. This makes sense, of course, since any good relationship is built on some basic, down-to-earth qualities.
Specific to Romantic Partners . . .
Women don’t need partners who invest all their energy into trying to prove how strong, manly, masculine, macho or heroic they are. They just want men who are willing to meet them where they are and treat them fairly and equitably . . . and are also able to ensure that the romantic spark keeps burning.
Unfortunately, not every woman is going to be the “right one” for every potential partner, just like women must recognize that not every potential partner they pursue will return their affection. There’s no reliable assessment that can predict whether someone is going to be a good match for you or not. Even though all of the dating apps have tried to use their algorithms and calculations to turn matchmaking into a science, you can never predict the human heart.
As a disclaimer, even when you bring all of the following qualities to a relationship, if the chemistry isn’t right or the timing is off or he or she is “just not that into you,” lasting romantic relationships are not going to necessarily follow. However, recognizing what we need from the important people in our lives increases our “relationship quotient” so that we can at least be aware of the areas worthy of enrichment prior to establishing a new romantic relationship.
What Do Women Want?
The traits that women value most and need most from the men in their lives can be categorized in three discrete areas: moral integrity from all men, relational sensitivity from friends and partners, and satisfying intimacy with their romantic partners in a variety of forms.
Traits of Moral Integrity
- Mutual respect is an all-or-nothing proposition; once a person loses respect for a partner, all bets are off. Women should be given the same respect that men offer to other men. When a person is made to feel disrespected or patronized, the relationship is likely to end sooner rather than later. In terms of romantic relationships, even when you’re angry or disappointed by a partner, respect should be maintained.
- Open communication that occurs regularly and tactfully is essential. A healthy relationship flourishes when communication is clear.
- Honesty is another “make or break” trait. Especially with your partner, don’t give any reasons for someone to doubt you.
- Trust and trustworthiness allow relationships to deepen.
- Be responsible and take responsibility for your actions and behavior. Long-term healthy relationships require a high level of maturity. Without maturity, disagreements and conflict worsen as couples try to play the “blame game.” Communication fails and emotional damage can be done that cannot be easily repaired.
Traits of Relational Sensitivity
- Women need men to show kindness, patience, understanding, empathy, and compassion. Regardless of the type of relationship, whether romantic, friendship, professional, we should be considerate of another’s feelings. Recognize that a partner’s trials and tribulations matter to her and that partners’ roles are to cherish and care for and about one another.
- Friendship between men and women is also desired. Being a friend to your partner means treating her in the patient, accepting manner in which you treat good friends.
- Emotional maturity is essential. It’s okay to have a little childish fun or be a little footloose and carefree about life when it’s appropriate, but it’s important for women and men to behave like the grown-ups they are when it’s time to do so, too. Being aware that brute strength does not equal intelligence is also helpful in maintaining healthy communication and connection. Sometimes it’s better to sit back and think through problems before trying to manhandle your way, or your partner, to a forced solution.
- Being supportive to the women in your life can do a world of good! Supporting your partner is a primary role. Whether your partner or a friend needs emotional support or practical support, be there to assist in small ways and big ways. Whether it’s taking time to listen or more active involvement and support in big decisions, child rearing, finances, and so on, make your presence a positive and supportive one.
- Sensitivity coupled with validation of her experiences are needed. The cultural experiences of adults vary greatly based on gender identity. Recognize your own biases in how you view other women and imagine how your partner might be negatively affected by a world that sees women as less than the other 49% of the population. Don’t assume she is “making things up” when she shares stories of prejudice, discrimination, and unfair treatment. Gender roles constrain behavior and playing a part in breaking down harmful gender roles at home and in the workplace benefits both men and women. Don’t make women jump a higher bar to prove themselves – women and men should be afforded the same rewards for the same investment. Gender shouldn’t be a disadvantage in a relationship or a work place.
Types of Satisfying Intimacy with Romantic Partners
- Bring adventure and excitement into the relationship in safe and welcome ways. Challenge your partner’s perspectives and allow your own perspectives to be challenged as well. Open yourself up to new experiences and ways of thinking about the world as you make it safe and inviting for your partner to do the same. Intellectual stimulation keeps relationships dynamic.
- Companionship and partnership go along with friendship and these also create the glue that keeps most long-term relationships moving forward over the years. No one realizes how little energy they might have for sexual activities once kids arrive or jobs demand longer hours or illness or disability occur; there will be times when loyal companionship is what both of you need most from the other.
- Saying the words “I love you” may not be easy, as these words can be highly charged. Sadly, for some people, they believe that saying them can make them more vulnerable to being hurt. Your partner, though, deserves to be made aware of your love. However, if saying those three words just isn’t going to happen, make sure you show your partner love in ways that matter most to your partner. We all need to feel loved.
- As for sex, women ask that men don’t make everything about sex – don’t do favors that you assume will result in sexual favors being done for you. Your “good behavior” should not be viewed simply as a means towards a particular end – that “end” meaning sex. Good sex can’t be bought and by expecting sex as a “pay-out” for doing something that pleases your partner, you turn a potentially romantic encounter into a business deal. Few and far between are the women who want to feel that they “owe” a partner sex.
- Sexual activities that are geared to pleasing your partner, not just your own sexual urges, are what women’s partners need you to provide. Sex should be a “fun adventure” that allows partners to explore and expand their sexual connection, not just a repetition of the “same old, same old.” The “same old” gets old and women sexual exploration with their partners. As one participant shared, “Men need to ditch that ‘females sexual purity myth’ once and for all – with the right partner, women enjoy sex every bit as much as a man.”
Equitable Treatment is what Everyone Deserves
Women need the men in their lives to be feminist allies who want to see the women in their lives succeed every bit as much as they want to enjoy their own success. Treat women with the same deference you would treat a valued friend. Be thoughtful and solicitous, but avoid being obsequious. Women can spot a phony a mile away, so going overboard is likely to backfire. Men should take time to recognize and acknowledge a woman’s strengths and respect her for all that she brings to the relationship. And when it comes to romantic relationships, women want the same things men want, they might just want them in a different order.