What Do Women Want?4 Min Read
“Any man who says he totally understands women is a fool. Because they are un-understandable.”
That may have been written as a punchline, courtesy of Steve Carrell’s bumbling regional manager Michael Scott (The Office, anyone?) but there’s a hint of truth in its sentiment. Many men say it’s difficult to understand women. Women’s desires have been portrayed as so nebulous and inscrutable that they have been the subject of plenty of movies and TV shows (though whether this reputation is deserved is worth being debunked — and Beyond the Beez is just the blog to do it).
Books like A Man’s Guide to Women, written by love researchers John and Julie Gottman, also tackle the topic. And although the title implies that a guide might be necessary, the takeaways are highly intuitive. Here’s what science believes women who are attracted to men want in a male partner:
Per the Gottmans, the number one thing women look for is trustworthiness. This might seem obvious (nobody wants an unfaithful partner), but extends far beyond mere fidelity. That includes:
- You are who you say you are and you do what you say you are going to do. This means you are not only reliable, but accountable for your actions when you mess up.
- You don’t make (or break) commitments lightly. An evolutionary influence from child-rearing may explain this one. Although men are not biologically involved in the later parts of reproduction, a father’s presence would have substantially improved the chances of their offspring’s survival. Women would therefore be more attracted to men they could trust to stick around.
Again, this one is intuitive — but it is also the cause of breakdown in many heterosexual relationships. According to the Gottmans, some of the most common complaints they hear from female partners is:
- “He is never there for me.”
- There isn’t enough intimacy and connection (ironically, this is the same thing men complain about, although their interpretation usually focuses on the physical — “There isn’t enough sex”).
Attending to your partner shows that you are genuinely interested and invested in their wellbeing. There are many ways to express this, but no need to feel overwhelmed — the best place to start is to simply ask your significant other about their needs.
The emotional part of your brain calms down when you feel in tune with another person’s feelings — in other words, when you experience empathy. Although feeling empathy is often automatic, expressing it can get lost in translation, particularly for men. These instincts, while well-meaning, can get in the way of emotional bonding.
- Empathy turned into problem-solving: In other words, any instance of trying to make things better rather than simply offering an ear. According to the Gottmans, “the goal is to understand, which can be done through asking questions — you don’t need to problem solve, she just needs to know she is not alone.” Listening and validating emotions shows that you care. Offering solutions, on the other hand, can serve to trivialize or intellectualize the problem, which spoils the opportunity for genuine emotional connection.
- Lack of attunement: There are times when your instinct for empathy might be less automatic — when you struggle to put yourself in your partner’s shoes, for example. In moments like these, failure to empathize can come off as cold and uncaring. This is a major problem in heterosexual relationships, as “the fights from many couples result from men dismissing women’s emotions instead of attuning to them,” the Gottmans say. In these situations, taking a second to consider your partner’s point of view and validate their emotions might turn a potential argument into a powerful bonding moment.
All of these values are helpful in knowing how to sustain a long term relationship, or at least woo someone you’ve been on a couple of dates with. But is there a way to show interest to a woman you’ve just met?
The answer is yes (to an extent) — women tend to be particularly in tune with body language, which means how you position yourself is an understated but significant opportunity to convey your interest. The most powerful way to convey interest is to turn towards your female partner. For some people — and particularly men — this may not be automatic. The Gottmans explain that in an evolutionary context, men faced their enemies and sat next to friends. Making conscious changes to your body language will ensure that you are sending the right signals.
As the extensive research done by the Gottmans goes to show, “what women want” really isn’t all that complicated. All partners have the right to desire trustworthiness, attentiveness, empathy, and nonverbal affirmation from their significant others, regardless of gender. That being said, understanding how to best fulfill your partners’ basic needs requires a lot of open communication. If you haven’t already, this is your sign to get the ball rolling!