(Update: What Men Love About Women is here.)
Imagine a young man working at the seafood counter of a grocery store. Before he wraps a fresh fish that someone has just purchased, he pretends that it is dancing on the counter, singing “I like the night life, baby!”
This young guy, a coworker back in the days when I took any available job to get through college, was perpetually in pursuit of women. He was not stacked or gorgeous, and he definitely wasn’t rich or he wouldn’t have been working with me. Yet he was very successful at attracting women. He relied on his ability to make them laugh.
That’s where the dancing fish came in. I remember the young lady who was buying it. She giggled, and it’s quite possible that my friend got her phone number that day. A sense of humor seems to be something that women value in a man.
What else do women like?
Back in May, I posted an unscientific, online survey asking men and women for their thoughts on the opposite sex. The research is part of my 2014 book, The Woman’s Guide to How Men Think: Love, Commitment, and the Male Mind.
I asked questions such as What are the most frustrating things about men? and What do you like most about women? In gratitude to all the men and women who have generously participated so far, here are a few of the comments I have received.
We’ll do this in two posts. This one contains some of the thoughts women expressed about men. In the next post, I’ll tell you what the men had to say. These sentiments are not necessarily my own. I just picked what I thought was representative and interesting.
First, the Complaints
Before we get to what women like about men, let’s start with some of the frustrations that women shared. One of the most common complaints concerns what one woman described as “The silence! The damned silence!” Here are a few of their thoughts on men who won’t talk:
“There’s nothing more frustrating and painful than to feel a need to communicate with someone I love and yet not feel welcome to approach him.”
“I wish I understood why he retreats and clams up if I’m upset. That is when I need him the most. But he just hides, like he’s riding out a hurricane. It makes me feel so alone. Unloved.”
“We aren’t mind readers. If men don’t communicate exactly what’s going on, we will jump to conclusions. It shouldn’t be our fault when the man gets angry about this… Men will never truly understand how much lack of communication hurts us.”
“Most of the time, pushing your buttons is the only way you’ll respond. And how hard is it to simply tell a woman she is pretty or bring her flowers? Little things go a long way.”
A close cousin to silence, many women reported that male stoicism is frustrating and hurts a relationship.
“At times I feel that if there is anger expressed (whether he is angry at me or something else), at least there’s still something going on in the relationship, but if he just retreats, it feels like there is NO relationship at all. Me feeling empty.”
“Why it is preferable to shut down rather than try to communicate and reconnect if there is an issue? Why do men hold in thoughts that are actually very important and could be useful to share?”
“Men ignore problems until it’s too late. By ‘too late’ I mean they wait until there is no love or affection left to rebuild on.”
“…I blame our society for forcing young boys to ignore their emotions, so we [women] did it to ourselves. How many times have we said to our boys, ‘Be a tough guy. Tough guys don’t cry. Be strong’ when what we should really be saying is, ‘that must’ve been scary/hurtful/hard.’”
“I’d like him to know I’m not presenting a trap when I inquire how he’s feeling. I don’t want to judge or mock, I WANT TO HELP. I want to understand him, and I want him to understand me.”
Several women also reported that there is an upside to male silence and stoicism. There may even be advantages.
“I have recently learned that emotional intimacy or open communication does NOT mean sharing every thought, feeling or experience I had that day.”
“The fact that men don’t need to talk is also a plus. It is nice to just be together and not discuss much.”
“Many times I want to hash out a problem without a lot of emotion, and, in general, men are better at intellectual focus on an issue.”
“The positive flip side of men not being as verbose as women is that they are more likely to be direct and to the point. They are not as likely to be manipulative or passive-aggressive. Their moods are generally more stable.”
Women expressed various and sundry other frustrations:
“Most seem to be extremist (for lack of a better word). Whether it be clean or dirty, cuddly or cold shouldered, open about emotions/feeling or completely shut about anything having to deal with anything to the point of convincing themselves ’they don’t care’, a workaholic or lazy... I think you get the picture.”
“I wish men understood how important conversation is for maintaining and deepening an emotional connection. They seem to think that most conversation has no function unless it’s conveying concise information toward a specific goal. They don’t seem to understand the part about how paying attention, even to things like chatting about each other’s days, deepens bonding.”
“Their desire to solve things overshadows all communication attempts even when they know that’s what women want or need.”
“Why do they get comfortable and stop trying to impress their women? All the things she fell in love with in the beginning come to an end, making her wonder if it was all an act.”
And there were a few things women just didn’t understand:
“For the life of me, I will never really understand the American/western “man hug.” Is that back-smacking and general lack of other bodily contact really just so people don’t think you’re gay? Or is there some sort of competitiveness to it? Like, the person who smacks harder is really the dominant one, or trying to be?”
“I wish I understood what’s going on in his head when he withdraws. It’s so hard to see he’s in pain, to know he’s in pain, and to also know he’d damn near rather eat glass than admit it.”
Now the Good Stuff
Don’t let all those complaints and frustrations mislead you. Overwhelmingly, the women who participated in the survey appear to like men. Here are a few of their favorite things:
“I like the serene and effortlessly sexy way they carry themselves when they feel like they’re in control... Here are some examples: carrying a big load of groceries into the house, checking the oil of the car, arranging his fantasy football league, killing a creepy bug in the basement, opening a jar for me, or driving a stick shift. When he’s in this relaxed state of control, all I can do is melt and admire.”
“What do I like most about men? Their simplicity ....sex and food.”
“They tend to be less catty than females, and often present themselves in a way closer to that which they really are.”
“The way their hugs feel, so strong and protective.”
“Once they have made up their minds, they usually stick with it.”
“They can be so cute and funny when they really want to be!”
“They’re easy going and uncomplicated.”
“...Their boyishness. The sense of humor and play that some men have is by far what I like most.”
“Men are easy going and don’t sweat the small stuff.”
“Humor. Protectiveness. Strength.”
“I like that men are usually more forthright about their thoughts. I like that men can disagree with each other and that doesn’t seriously endanger their relationships. I like how men are more free to express their sense of humor. I like more than anything else, the combination of power (with the inherent potential to destroy) coupled with the man’s choice for tenderness.”
“Their confidence, strength, and tendency to be easy-going.”
“I actually love that men are ‘doers’: that they want to help you fix your problems and offer solutions. If I want to just bitch about something, I tell them that upfront, but otherwise it’s nice to have some fresh perspective about what to do.”
“I LOVE that men don’t gossip like women, and they tend not to make all sorts of generally baseless judgments about everyone and their business. You wouldn’t believe how much women can tear people down about all kinds of trivial stuff.”
“I envy many of the abilities that seem innate to men; the ability to not internalize, they often seem to have better control of their emotions, forgive quicker and easier.”
“I like that men are logical thinkers. That their world is usually black and white. I like that they are daredevils at times and over-protective at other times.”
“Their sense of humor, their masculinity and strength.”
“Their straightforwardness. Their focus on problem-solving.”
“They seem to forgive and move on very easily.”
“...and a nice butt doesn’t hurt!”
“Men don’t understand how very much we need them. It is so in vogue nowadays to act like we are so independent, and have no need of men in our lives. But it simply isn’t true. We are lonely without you.”
A few women also offered up some good advice for men:
“I wish men understood that what they call ‘nagging’ would simply disappear if they manned up and did their fair share around the house.”
“I wish men did not feel they are so responsible for our happiness.”
“Reassurance and a few words go a lot further than being quiet and thinking you are doing the right thing.”
“We [women] have intuition, and it can be right.”
“Hey men - your penises are a perfect size and just fine the way they are!”
“Most women do not see vulnerability as weakness and appreciate open communication.”
Next, the Men Speak. No, Seriously. They Told Me Things.
We’ll hear from the men in the next post, so be sure to check back. Here’s an appetizer to hold you over:
“I understand everything about women,except all those weird things they do.”
This survey was part of my 2014 book, The Woman's Guide to How Men Think: Love, Commitment, and the Male Mind.
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Dr. Smith is a psychologist in Denver, Colorado
and the author of The User’s Guide to the Human Mind: Why Our Brains Make Us Unhappy, Anxious, and Neurotic and What We Can Do about It
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