5 Things Most Guys Don’t Understand About Ladies and Their Needs
For as long as men have been trying to enter into unions with women — marriages, relationships, flings, one-night stands — the question of what women want has been germane.
It’s also been something of a mystery.
Despite several consecutive decades’ worth of shake-ups in how gender is seen, portrayed and understood, the conception of what modern women want that many guys still embrace is pretty outdated (if it was ever grounded in reality in the first place).
“What it comes to what women want, many single guys are looking through a warped lens,” says dating coach Connell Barrett. “Everything from the media to modern myths to friends’ opinions conspire to implant a fictional story in men’s minds — that women only want rich guys or great-looking guys with six-pack abs. Sure, good looks and money are nice bonuses, but men put far too much weight on them. And when a given guy lacks those qualities, his confidence plummets — often along with his dating results.”
Why do so many men latch onto these ideas when they actually end up hurting them in the end? One reason could be that it’s easier to imagine women seeking out a series of concrete and identifiable end-goals — even if they don’t line up with your own personal characteristics — rather than admit that desire is kind of jumbled and confusing.
“We want to simplify and break information down into soundbites,” says Jess O’Reilly, Ph.D., host of the “@SexWithDrJess” podcast. “I’ve worked with some of the most (financially) successful experts in the world who make sweeping statements about what women/men want and many of them are rooted in sexist assumptions and oversimplification of evolutionary theories. Popular culture portrayals reinforce these myths, and it may be because the majority of decision makers at television and movie networks are still straight, white men. This offers are narrow view and leaves out the perspective of well over half the population.”
So what are these myths, exactly? These experts, as well as several ordinary women, gave their input regarding what they feel are five pervasive misunderstandings of what women want.
Myth No. 1: Women Want Rich Guys
“Female primary breadwinners aren’t necessarily ball busters, and men can be masculine without making more money than their female partner. I feel like the implication when I tell people I’m financially supporting my partner is that I’m somehow being taken advantage of. No one seems to consider it might not only be a fully rational choice, but also something I do happily.” – Wendy, 29
Rich guys can do lots of things less well-off guys can’t. Fancy restaurant? Check. Dream getaway? Check. Dozens of roses? Check.
But money in the bank doesn’t mean you’re a good person, and as women are increasingly making gains when it comes to financial self-sufficiency, the idea of having a guy look after them financially is looking less and less necessary these days.
“Men over-value three key things: how good-looking they have to be, how much money they need to have and how interesting their words must be,” says Barrett. “This crushes a guy’s confidence because he feels unworthy compared to some idealized, George Clooney-esque man that he thinks women want.”
Not being a debonair silver fox multi-millionaire is the reality for almost every man on earth (and it’s one that women are keenly aware of, too). Most guys have enough money to treat a date or partner here and there, but not enough to casually throw away. Meaning, the average woman is very much used to this, and the idea that rich guys are somehow every woman’s dream? Yep, blown way out of proportion.
Not to mention, many guys overlook that what’s actually desirable isn’t wealth, it’s generosity. All the money in the world is meaningless in a relationship if you’re not spending some of it on a partner. Similarly, just because you’re poor doesn’t mean you can’t find ways to make someone feel special.
Myth No. 2: Women Want Strong Guys
“Wanting to date a feminist is not synonymous with wanting someone who never does romantic or nice things for you; beards are not the be-all, end-all of attractive physical attributes, and being a teammate is more important than fighting a woman’s battles for her.” – Jessica, 27
So much of being a man is about being strong, whether physically or emotionally. But rather than developing actual strength, often the focus is about simply not seeming weak, leaving many guys terrified of seeming vulnerable or incapable.
But that’s far from the truth. “Strength is attractive,” says O’Reilly. “[But] vulnerability is attractive too — especially in the long run.”
The idea that women only want strong guys who never cry or admit insecurity “is a stereotype reinforced by both men and women and it’s to everyone’s detriment,” she adds. “If you can’t open up about the range of human emotion (happiness and sadness, confidence and fear, self-assuredness and insecurity, power and jealousy), you can’t effectively manage these emotions and you’re likely to end up hurting yourself and others.”
Rather than only heading to the gym to pump iron, becoming comfortable with your limitations, your fears and your setbacks can be the real way to many women’s hearts.
Consider therapy (by yourself or with a partner), or open up to your friends and family about the things in your life you’re not strong enough to do. Rather than pursuing a narrow, inflexible idea of strength, become someone who knows — and is comfortable — with who he really is.
Myth No. 3: Women Want Asshole Guys
“The bad-boy complex, aka a cover-up for being emotionally unavailable, is toxic for both women and men. I really don’t think most women want someone who can’t communicate and is emotionally closed off.” – Elsa, 27
Every guy fresh off a rejection seems to fall on the old, unrealistic crutch that women prefer bad boys to nice guys; the asshole on the motorcycle can swoop in and run off with your dream girl just by virtue of his don’t-give-a-f*ck attitude.
Barrett blames the early-2000s popularity of “pick-up artist” culture for the continuing relevance of this strain of thought today.
“Many men think women want jerks and ‘bad boys,’” he says. “Blame the book ‘The Game,’ and the subsequent rise of the pickup-artist community. A lot of so-called experts in the ‘PUA’ community feed a myth that men must be polarizing, cocky alpha males who have to tear a woman’s self-esteem down in order to succeed. But the truth is, women hate jerks and love nice guys. As a ‘Maxim’ model once told me, ‘Nice guys are sexier than 6-pack abs.’”
Being a class act can certainly go a long way. According to O’Reilly, there’s “a rich body of research suggests that kindness is the key to lasting, happy relationships.”
“A comprehensive study of 2,500 couples over 20 years found that conscientiousness and emotional stability (low levels of neuroticism) are far stronger predictors of relationship satisfaction than likemindedness or having similar personalities,” she says.
That doesn’t mean being a milquetoast doormat is the way to dating success, but that being cruel, callous or unkind is decidedly not.
Myth No. 4: Women Want Handsome Guys
“A lot of myths about physical attractiveness to women are wildly off the mark. So many women I know date men they’re actively attracted to (i.e. not just settling for) — men who are short, hairy, not-ripped, ‘effeminate,’ and somehow whenever this comes up, so many straight men in my immediate circle are genuinely shocked.” – Emma, 29
Incel culture alleges that women are incredibly shallow creatures who will only date model-type hunks, and that a difference of a few millimeters in a man’s facial bone structure can be the difference between a guy who can’t get laid to save his life, and a guy who can’t stop getting laid.
But the stereotype for straight couples is so often that it’s the woman who’s out of the guy’s league — think of viral tweets like this one. Or consider how often people come up with reasons for a woman to date an ugly, unstylish man: his money, his sense of humor or his dick size. Yet there’s no real female equivalent.
In this case, Barrett thinks guys are guilty of a little projection.
“Men are very visual, in terms of attraction,” he says. “Because looks matter to us guys, we assume looks matter just as much to women. But women are drawn to, or turned off by, our behavior, our energy and how we treat them.”
If you feel you’re lacking in the looks department, it’s not a death sentence to your dating odds — nobody’s perfect, after all. Most women would rather date a guy who’s so-so looking but cleans up well, knows how to take care of himself and is great in bed (all things that you can improve with practice) than a model whose life is in disarray.
Myth No. 5: Women Want Guys, Period
“I don’t really date men anymore. I’ve had plenty of negative experiences with cis, heterosexual men, but my realization that that wasn’t working for me was more about gaining some clarity about my own desires and wants, not due to man-related burnout or trauma. Though lord knows I do have that.” – Mical, 26
At the end of the day, all these misconceptions stem from another, deeper idea: that women are primarily attracted to stereotypically masculine traits, and that they want a guy who provides, is tough, doesn’t apologize and looks good doing it.
But more and more women are waking up to the realization that there’s more to life than men who fit the old mold. In some cases, that means women exploring their sexualities and realizing they’d rather date women, or gender non-binary people. In other cases, it means they’d prefer a sensitive man over a macho one, or it’ll be a bit of both.
“Men have been prescribed rigid roles when it comes to sex and relationships,” says O’Reilly. “They have been told that they can’t be flexible and if they are, they are subject to homophobic and misogynist backlash. As we begin to embrace the fact that gender is fluid, these roles will broaden and hopefully, everyone will be more concerned with identifying their own authentic needs as opposed to doing what they think they should in order to perform gender.”
The moral of the story? It might be time to start thinking about what women want a little differently.
“If we make assumptions along gender lines, we’re inevitably going to strike out because gender stereotypes don’t apply across the board,” adds O’Reilly. “What is attractive to one woman might be a turnoff to another. We need to consider what an individual person wants and not assume that we can predict their needs based on their gender.”
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