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What Do Men Want?

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Sigmund Freud famously asked, "What do women want?" But men have been pondering this question since the dawn of, well, man. In Paleolithic times, cavemen were rumored to stay up late into the night with their fellow troglodytes, gnawing frustratedly on leftover bones and trying to unearth the answer to this most perplexing question.

The truth is, men are just as confusing to the fairer sex. And we have no shortage of questions when it comes to the male psyche. What do men want? As a dating columnist and coach, I see so many women analyzing, deconstructing and driving themselves mad attempting to figure out what it is men are seeking from women and in relationships (and yes, I was there once, too).

Here's a novel yet simple idea: Why not ask them? The next time you're out at a bar, strike up a conversation with the guys next to you and offer up the question. Really listen to what they have to say. You may start to see some general themes emerge the more you ask.

A couple months ago, I did exactly that, but via Facebook. I emailed about 25 male friends and acquaintances -- mostly men in their 20's and 30's but a couple older men as well -- to ask them the following:

"What do you, as a man, want? There are no right answers, only your truth."

I heard back from 12 of them.

I had asked for 100-word answers, knowing full well the difficulty of trying to encapsulate the answer to such a question via a Twitter-like response, but I wasn't so sure the men I reached out to would want to take the time to respond with much more than that, anyway (you know, that relationship-y stuff isn't always their favorite topic). You can imagine my surprise when many of the respondents had taken the time to write a few paragraphs. Perhaps they were elated by the idea that, finally, a woman thought to actually ask what it was THEY WANTED. The answers ranged from theoretical to specific, shallow to profound, and the majority focused (without my prodding) on what men wanted from women and in relationships (as opposed to what they wanted in other areas in life -- job, home, possessions, etc.). I suppose it's a fallacy to think women have the market cornered when it comes to musing about love and relationships.

It seems that the more time passes, the more complicated people assume the answer to this type of question will get ("It was a simpler time back in my day..."), especially because gender roles, with each passing decade, become more relaxed and fluid. Surely, though, while the answers may be different in some ways depending on the era, I believe there will always be timeless themes that emerge when this type of question is posed. While the wants and needs of different people are always unique, thereby partially nullifying such a query, I did get a sense from many of the responses I received that there is a certain male need to be with a woman who takes pride in her femininity and allows her partner to take pride in his masculinity. That is to say, despite a general desire for gender equity in relationships, a man still wants to feel he is with a woman and not someone who is competing for, trying to tear down or undermine his manhood. That sounds a bit nebulous and it's going to mean something different for everyone, but it's a sentiment that was echoed by several respondents. (Oh yeah, and "less drama" from women was a common request.)

Below is a collection of their responses. All names have been removed.

#1:

I suppose it varies by the man. As a man who is currently going through a divorce, this has been on my mind a lot lately. So I'll just answer for myself.

I'm a very successful, intelligent and somewhat Alpha male. So I don't need you to tell me how to run my business, who my friends should be or how to live my life. What I do want you to understand is that even though I am very masculine, I have a softer side. I have feelings, I can be sensitive and I do cry. It's amazing to me how many women find that threatening, as if they are the only ones entitled to have feelings.

This is not to say that women and men are the same. I want a woman who is feminine yet strong -- not in a masculine way -- but a woman who radiates quiet strength, wisdom, insight, love and compassion. Someone who gives as much as she gets. A woman I can be myself around.

#2:

Simply put, I just want someone who I am attracted to, who I have fun with, who gets along with my friends and family and that is not a constant pain in the ass.

We all have bad days, but If you want some context about what will drive men crazy, here you go:

1) Don't call 50 times a day to check on me... especially if you know where I am. If you need something, call or text, but if I am golfing with my friends and you call and it is not an emergency, please don't expect me to be excited that you called or surprised that my phone is off.

2) If we are on a date, don't be texting and taking phone calls, because that is our time together. If we are just hanging out and watching TV and you get a call, get up and take the call in another room if it going to be more than a minute or two. I promise to do the same for you.

3) If you ask me a question or for advice, really make sure that you want the answer. There is nothing worse than being asked for advice and then having your girlfriend get mad because you gave them an honest answer that they did not like.

4). It is okay to be mad, but at some point please tell me why you are mad so I can either fix it or not repeat whatever I did to make you mad.

5). Be on time.

#3:

For a man, the basics in a relationship involve, first and foremost, character. A man wants a woman who is trustworthy to a fault, utterly responsible and reliable and totally loyal.

Men are creatures of habit. They thrive on routines. If their lives are well-organized and predictable, they will be content. Men do not like disruptions. They do not want relationships filled with drama and conflict and surprises. If that is what a woman is offering they will start looking elsewhere.

Men do not like to be criticized. They do not like their relationship to feel like therapy. They do not want to think that they are not good enough or that a woman is trying to make them over.

If a man does not have many good qualities that you can praise and admire, what is a woman doing with him?

Most men would like to be married and to have a home and a family. They will normally be very appreciative of a woman who is willing to make a home for them. I am sure that I am revealing my age, but most men, even young men, are thrilled to find a woman who knows how to cook--- not gourmet quality meals, men don't care about gourmet food-- but who can competently put a meal on the table with some consistency. They are very happy when a woman is willing to show her love by caring for them.

If they are decent and honorable human beings, men will show their appreciation in many ways, large and small. A man who shows no appreciation for a woman's efforts in the relationship is not worth keeping.

Thus far, I have left sex out of the equation. A woman who wants to have a long-term relationship leading to marriage and family would do better to place character strengths ahead of sexual skills.

To the male mind, a woman who is offers wonderful love and great sex but refuses to make a home is a concubine, not a wife.

#4:

1) Physical and emotional intimacy for obvious reasons. 2) Support. There's nothing better than knowing that your woman has your back and is there for you when times get tough.

#5:

Top qualities I look for in a woman:

1) Independence - I'm very passionate about my career, so an independent woman would enable me to juggle all the responsibilities and we can treasure our time together.

2) Drive - a woman who knows what she wants and achieves with her own bare hands is very attractive.

3) Maturity - I don't think anything would make a guy say "oh dear god" as bad as baby talk.

4) Taking pride in appearance - every guy would love to show his buddies that he's "got a hot ass girl" (subject to personal taste). For me, her appearance (that she enjoys herself) should reflect my image well.

5) Sense of humor - Make me laugh sometimes, so I don't always have to be the one doing the work.

#6:

My high school Earth Science teacher gave me this little tidbit my freshman year: "You want to marry someone who can be a woman, a girl and a lady."

At the time, it sounded like the louche ramblings of a man who spent time in silk bathrobes.

It makes sense to me now.

My own take on it: Men want a woman who can pass the "tent test." If you decide to go camping for a weekend and it rains the whole time, can you be content to sit in the tent with a woman? If so, you're in good shape.

#7:

What I want is the authentic woman. Almost any woman can become the ideal culture stereotype of what Hollywood told me was desirable (just as guys can work toward becoming the alpha male). But it is the actual person underneath that heavy role that I seek -- the human being. If I wanted the act, there are plenty who are willing to play it. But no one can play the authentic woman. Bring her forward.

#8:

What do I, as a man, want? Good question. Here are a few things I cooked up, but I can elaborate if needed.

I want to be challenged, grow and feel I am making a difference. I want a relationship absent of games and power struggles and full of unconditional love and respect. I want to be loved for who I am, not for who I could or should be.

I want to be able to make a woman feel like a woman and have that feeling reciprocated. I want to find a balance between progressive genderless equality and traditional gender roles. I want it to be ok to be chivalrous. I want to hold the door open for you.

I want my life to mean something.

#9:

I want to live a life of perfect health, abundant wealth and showerings of love.

I want to follow my heart and live my dreams.

I want to marry the woman of my dreams and have wonderful, healthy and happy children together.

I want to express myself through my writings and be a mentor for those coming behind me.

I want to be inspired on a daily basis and in turn I want to use this to inspire others.

I want to be grateful for all that is in my life and I want to be kind and generous to those that pass through my life.

I want to be myself.

#10:

I think this obviously is different for each person out there... For me, I want a woman who knows how to be a lady and generally acts like that in public. In private, I want her to feel comfortable and be open and trusting. In bed I like a girl who is confident and a little wild.

I've been in a relationship for about two years now (my longest relationship), and I would say the biggest thing I want in a woman is someone who is truly my counterpart and equal. I need someone who I can completely rely on to take care of everything from things around the house and finances to relationship things. I'm a pretty independent person and with my career goals need someone who is also very independent, but is also very affectionate.

I feel most girls I have dated are overly emotional. Having feelings and emotions are completely normal and I don't like that guys are often stereotyped as not having feelings. We do, we just deal with them differently. For me, I've learned to recognize my emotions but not let them control me. I think guys are more wired to fix things and seek solutions immediately. I find that women often want to focus more on feeling better. I know it sounds harsh, but ultimately how important is feeling better versus fixing the situation?

...Along that line, a girl shouldn't let a guy get away with crap. Call him out on his BS, but do so in a loving way. So if a guy does something or says something stupid just kindly say, honey, I know you mean well (or whatever the case may be), but it really would be better if you would do it this way, because that will get you what you actually want on this.

#11:

What I would like in a woman is not to play games and to be logical, reasonable, fun and no drama... I would like to be attracted to her and to put time and effort into seeing me as I would do the same for her. Life is hard as it is, and I want less uphill battles, not more.

#12:

Okay. What I look for in a woman.

First - I want a physically attractive woman. Maybe that's shallow. But anything less would be settling...

I want a woman that loves to be with me as much as possible, but still maintains her own set of friends, interests, etc. Together time is great, but alone/apart time can be good, too.

I need a woman that wants to have kids (biological and/or adopted). No exception.

I need a career woman -- perhaps this is a proxy for someone who is smart, motivated.

I want a woman that appreciates my often ridiculous sense of humor.

I want a woman who enjoys watching sports, but isn't a sports freak (wears a Brady jersey, can name the starting offensive line, etc.)

I want a woman who cares about fashion -- this may be more of an indicator of self-esteem, personality, etc.

I need a woman who is okay with just relaxing at home. I HATE going out and eating out many times per week. I'm a homebody.

Men, if you're reading this, what do you look for in a woman?