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Terry Gaspard, MSW, LICSW Headshot

What Makes a Woman a "Keeper"?

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Growing up in a house full of women, I've spent most of my life baffled by men's attitudes, behavior and psyches. Additionally, the vast majority of my clients are women and they often try to pick my brain about the male perspective and what they're looking for in a mate. I've listened to hundreds of clients and read dozens of emails with a variation of these questions: When will I meet a guy who makes me a priority? Or, will I ever meet a man who is ready to commit and settle down?

Let's face it, there are a lot of stereotypes about what men want from a woman. These include but are not limited to the following: Guys just want to be waited on, get laid, avoid commitment and prefer pizza and football to a night out on the town.

My father was an active and loving parent, even after my parents' divorce. As a result, many of the negative stereotypes of what men want from a mate never rang true for me. However, I only lived with him part-time. Since he was a complex, but quiet man who didn't talk to me about these things, I went through life feeling doubtful about what men wanted from a woman.

Since I'm pretty clueless about what guys believe makes a woman a "keeper," I recently began searching the internet and library for answers. The best book that I've come across that offers amazing advice is She's the One by Gregory Gilderman. The reason why I'm fond of Gilderman's book is because he offers readers positive tips about relationships and pokes fun at himself along the way.

While Gilderman's book is decidedly humorous, he concludes that guys want a woman who is considerate, decent, generous and affectionate. He writes: "What makes a guy view a girl as serious or marriage material is her character." In fact, he stresses the importance of loving her for who she is as a person, rather than how she styles her hair.

The following is a list of what makes a woman a keeper adapted from Gilderman along with my own ideas. A woman who:

1. Is strong and has good character. A woman who radiates great strength, wisdom, compassion and love. A woman who is comfortable in her own skin and someone a guy can be himself with. She isn't a chameleon nor does she sacrifice her own happiness for her man.

2. Admires her partner. A woman who attempts to make her guy feel useful, smart and special. She avoids talking on her cell or texting when she is spending time with him -- unless it is urgent. She lets him know she values his opinion and wants his help when a problem arises.

3. Doesn't torment his jealous mind. According to Gilderman, guys are basically prone to jealousy, so it's best for a woman to be considerate and not to describe her sexual history or to go on and on about other guys. In his weaker moments, he may think of himself as a failure -- so he might imagine that his partner thinks so, too. A confident woman is proud of what she does, but reminds her guy that he is talented and a standout.

4. Doesn't destroy him when they argue. We all have moments, when under enough stress, we fight dirty. While most arguments begin over trivial matters, they can escalate fast if we're not careful. So if you find yourself focusing on what your guy is doing wrong, criticizing, rolling your eyes, using sarcasm, or being downright blameful, stop and pause. It is always best to examine yourself in these situations. I agree with Gilderman that many men have a tendency to withdraw and be less emotionally expressive when conflict arises. So a smart woman is a guide in the emotional arena and attempts to stay calm when conflict rears its ugly head. This will definitely help her guy relax and de-stress.

5. Is comfortable with her sexuality and takes pride in her appearance. Doesn't apologize or worry about her body. Looks good for herself and takes pride in her physical appearance. She is comfortable being vulnerable and sharing her wishes, feelings, and desires sexually. Most men will take her self-confidence as a compliment and respond favorably.

6. Is nice to his mom. Did you ever notice people can say a multitude of nasty things about their parents, but can't tolerate others doing so? This is especially true of men and their mothers. So tread lightly with negative comments about his mom. Try to smile and be polite when you visit his mother, even if there's no genuine affection between you. Certainly if your guy's parents say something awful or racist, call them on it in a nice way. But learn to be tolerant of normal family nonsense such as weird food, boring TV shows and awkward conversations -- if you want your guy to feel accepted.

7. Makes him feel like a success. If you're glad to be with him, let him know. Refrain from sounding awed about more successful guys which will make him feel slighted. Instead tell him often how excited you are for him when he has a great day -- such as "I'm so happy for you that you make that sale you've been working on."

According to relationship expert Teri L. Orbuch, men want a true partner who can help guide their life together as a couple. She says, "We are attracted to people who have unique strengths and gifts to bring to a relationship, and that can be humor ... that can be a job outside the home for pay, that can be working inside the home with children, that can be an athlete."

Clearly, men want more from a woman than looks and a good time. In fact, a German study that surveyed 2,000 men over three years found that 76 percent of them would not accept a partner who didn't have a job, and 45 percent said they want a woman who earned a serious amount of money. In fact, 2/3 of the men surveyed expected their partner to be financially independent.

In sum, love denotes many things to couples in the 21st century, but guys are no longer in the market for a beautiful trophy wife. Mutual respect, sensitivity, independence, and good character appear to be at the top of their list.

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