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What (Some) Women Want

02/24/2015 07:17 pm ET | Updated Apr 26, 2015

"What does a woman want?" This question baffled Dr. Sigmund Freud throughout his psychoanalytical career, as it has baffled many men before and since.

But my female friends insist adamantly that the answer is obvious: "We want love," was the unified answer I got when I asked them. "Simple, sincere and committed love."

Is that all?

Further digging got me a list of things they hope for. It probably applies to both genders. I should start by saying this is not a scientific sampling; it's just women I met from different religions and backgrounds. This is what I found from my own interviews:

Devotion: She wants him to be devoted to her.

One of the main things many mentioned and complained about is the lack of a man's "devotion" to her.

"I hate it when I am sitting with a man and his eyes are everywhere but on me. Every woman, particularly the younger ones, must get a look over. So disrespectful to me and to those women," said one young Arab woman, who ended up breaking off an engagement over this habit.

Some could accuse her of being insecure, but then again, would you want to be with someone who is always looking elsewhere?

Confidence: She wants him to be confident.

All the women I interviewed, regardless of background, said that a man is a successful partner when he is respectful, confident, attentive, and ambitious and able to be both a good husband and a good father, a combination that is rare to find these days. 

"Confidence is at the heart of it. If a man knows who he is and what he wants, then his partner feels comfortable and knows where she stands... a real nurturing healthy bond can form," said a married friend who is in one of the few very successful marriages. Her husband is her good friend, good partner and a good father.
I have seen that some men are good husbands or good fathers, but fewer are both.

Wealth: She wants him to be well off (not necessarily rich).

He must be settled, the women insisted, in the sense that he is ready to take on responsibilities, and must be able to afford a family. Some of the women mentioned men who had proposed but have no means to support them.

These days while many women work, they like to feel that can stop working and focus on the children after marriage. Even though some women won't admit it, but they would love to stop working and let someone else deal with the bills and they focus on the nesting bit.

Good Looking: She wants him to be attractive and tall.

The focus on the physical was conspicuously less mentioned than it was for a group of men I interviewed for what they want in a woman.
When I pestered them about appearance, I heard "he must be tall" ... "with broad shoulders" ... "with a full head of hair, no bald spots." Feeling petite and protected around the man is important to many women.

He doesn't have to be "too" handsome though. I reported once how someone can get into trouble in Saudi Arabia for being "too handsome."

Ultimately, all these women say that a gentleman who can roll up his sleeves and help around the house and sometimes with the children is the picture of the perfect man. And so do I.

Kind heart & a good sense of humour: She wants to laugh, cry, and be merry with him.

Men and women agree on this: A person with a kind heart who is attuned to the needs of others will be a great friend and a great partner.
They also agreed on the importance of having a sense of humour. Life is difficult, and a couple needs a sense of humor to deal with the tougher times.

Arab! (yes, this was mentioned as a bonus.) She wants him to spoil her.

For those living in the UAE, and they were mostly Western women who said this, that the solution to all their woes is marrying an Arabian prince, preferably one that would come in riding on a white Arabian horse. Arab women also mentioned it, but were doubtful it would ever happen.

Also, they know them.

"We grew up around them. They are all poetry and passion, but only before marriage," said an Arab woman who is a mother of six.

An American who married an Arab man from a desert tribe had a different opinion.

"The old Arabs would go after what they wanted and they were clear in their hearts and in their minds. Not full of baggage, nitpicking and issues as men have today," she said.

While he is no prince, her husband is the closest to one, she said.

But wait. Not just any Arab. There is a "preference" expressed to marry a Khaleeji man, which means from the Gulf. The top three nationalities mentioned were Emirati, Qatari and Saudi.

2015-02-20-princecharming.JPG
Arabian prince charming on his modern white horse of the desert, the Toyota Land Cruiser.

One of the ways some of the women admit they get to meet these Arabian men is by converting into Islam. Of course most convert for the sake of religion, but some admit, it is the fastest way to guarantee "a good wholesome husband who will spoil the wife." Their words, not mine.

Of late, there has been a lot of bad criticism of Islam. This is caused by groups like ISIL trying to hijack the faith in order to justify their violent actions. The Islamic State is about as Muslim as the Ku Klux Klan can be seen to be Christian.

Nevertheless, Islam is said to be the world's fastest growing religion, with hundreds of converts registered in the UAE every year. At just one of the Islamic centers here, it recorded over 20,000 residents, from 200 nationalities, that have converted to Islam since the center's inception in 1993.

Before I am attacked for making any generalizations about converts, I spent a whole year listening and observing, even going to courts and asking about this, that one of the first things converts ask about, whether male or female, is finding a wife or husband. They want to share their lives with someone, to help them along often a difficult decision with dramatic consequences on the family and on their lifestyle.

One of the questions asked of the converts by the judiciary officials here as they go to authenticate their new faith in court, is why they are converting.

"We ask if they convert for Allah or to just find a husband or wife. We have women who convert to try to get Muslim Arab men of particular nationalities, as they feel they will have a better and comfortable life as they are often known to be well off and to spoil their wives," said an Emirati working at court.

"You can imagine how upset that makes other women who have a hard time finding husbands from within their communities without all this new competition," he added.

Aha. besides wanting all this, women don't want more competition.

So this is what I was able to gather from many women from different walks of life....

Women want all this, in addition to love. Simple enough, right?

Rym Al Ghazal is a senior feature writer and columnist for the National Newspaper. She is working on her second book, Single in the City.

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