What do women want? For those who've ever pondered this question, here are 19 relationship secrets. They're based on the study of healthy, happy couples and our changing gender roles. Secret No. 1: Women appreciate a guy with a sensitive side, especially when they're upset. Put your arm around them and hand them a tissue. Nurturing is a powerful way to connect.
When it comes to romance, many women do like men to take a traditional masculine role. This is especially true in the wooing stage of a relationship, according to psychologist Diana Kirschner, PhD, who's written several books about love. They are perfectly capable of pulling out their own chair or opening a door, but if you see them hesitate, they might just be waiting for you to be the gentleman.
Styles come and go, but men's attention to their grooming and clothing should be long lasting. It's important to women from the first flirtation through the honeymoon and beyond. "You've got to figure out if there's a certain look that she likes," says Kirschner. "If she likes a guy in tight jeans, you wear tight jeans."
OK, this tip doesn't come from women, but from clever testing by psychologists of women's subconscious preferences. One intriguing study found that the color red made men seem more powerful, attractive, and sexually desirable to women. There's a caveat, though. Red doesn't make guys appear nicer or kinder. That part is up to you.
Nothing captures a woman's heart quite like a good man who wants to be a better man, according to love guru Kirschner. "Women love personal growth, they love a man who is thoughtful and sensitive." She likes it when her man recognizes a flaw -- a short temper, for example, or a regularly sullen mood after work -- and loves it when he makes an effort to address it.
When something's bothering them, they want your ear, not your advice. "Men feel the need to fix things because they are solution-oriented," says Kirschner. "But to a woman, really listening is a wonderful, wonderful thing that deepens the relationship."
Listening is important, but they also want to know that they are being heard. Nodding along won't cut it. When she pauses, she's giving you a cue to respond in a compassionate, caring way, says Kirschner. If they tell you that they are upset because their boss gave them a tough time, they want to hear you say, "I'm sorry that work was such a drag for you today." And remember: Resist the urge to offer solutions.
The three dates before sex rule is an urban legend. Women don't set a timeline on when they'll invite a potential partner into the bedroom. Some women will want to have many dates before sex. A good rule of thumb is to give the relationship at least two months to grow before entering the sexual arena.
Guys often want to take the quickest path to sex. But many women prefer the scenic route. "Women want sex but they get to it in a different way," says psychologist Kirschner, who has helped hundreds of couples achieve a more rewarding relationship. "They want to feel connected and understood, they want to be romanced." That means time and talking and touching -- in other words, foreplay.
This is something both of you need to focus on, but Kirschner says that women appreciate it and feel more protected when the guy makes it clear that it's a concern to him -- and then shows her that he practices what he preaches.
Women do like to talk to about what's going on in the sack, and they want to please their man -- and a tactful approach is often best. Ask them what they like. Be sure to ask for what you want in a positive and validating way. Kirschner advises saying something along the lines of, "I would really love if you [fill in the blanks]."
When you have an off night and can't perform, she feels bad, too. She might worry that she no longer turns you on and she will want assurance that that is not true. She will want to talk about what's going on and what you are doing about it, especially if it's a recurring problem. "It's a touchy thing for both of you," says Kirschner, "but talking about it is a plus."
Remember the saying "imitation is the highest form of flattery"? A woman often conveys how they feel about you by mirroring your moods and moves. They may order a meal that pairs with yours, wear your favorite color, or smile or cross their arms when you do. Mimicking is their way of putting you at ease and letting you know they are charmed.
Does your partner curl up in your sweater or sneak into your work shirt? Some researchers have found that the scent of a man's perspiration has a relaxing effect on women.
Women like to be told they look nice, and they like a man who notices without being told. When they are wearing a sexy new dress, for example, they'll give you major points for saying how hot they look, especially if you mention the dress before they do. If they are looking particularly attractive, if they have a new haircut, if they are looking more fit -- let them hear about it.
When your woman wants to talk about the relationship, it doesn't mean you did something wrong (well, not necessarily). Kirschner says that many women like to talk about the "state of the union" -- what's going right, what's going wrong, or simply what's going on. This is a good thing. An honest, wide-ranging talk can bring the two of you closer.
You may feel more comfortable sitting side by side, but many women prefer face time -- and we don't mean the latest mobile video chat technology. Kirschner says that women prefer their men to make eye contact with them as they're talking. And looking her in the eye during sex will deepen the relationship outside the bedroom.
How do you know if they are ready to commit? They'll say so. This is something that women are often quite up front about. But they don't want to have "the talk" too often. If they are ready and they have given you time, the next time the subject comes up, be prepared to step up or step off.
Romance is something she will always want, whether you've been together two months or 20 years. Flowers, an intimate dinner, a few lines of love poetry -- don't worry, they don't have to be your own -- might sound cliché, but Kirschner insists that most women appreciate such simple romantic gestures and often show their appreciation after the lights go down.
IMAGES PROVIDED BY:
- James Randklev / Photographer's Choice
- Richard Upshur / Flickr
- Blaise Hayward / Photodisc
- Monalyn Gracia / Corbis
- Peter Augustin / Lifesize
- Zave Smith / Uppercut Images
- Romilly Locker / The Image Bank
- Jose Luis Pelaez / Blend Images
- Willie B. Thomas / Vetta
- Tom Merton / OJO
- Lauri Rotko / Gorilla Creative Images
- Frank Herholdt / Stone
- Henrik Sorensen / Riser
- Jupiterimages / Botanica
- Jochen Sand/Photodisc
- Laurent Delhourme / Taxi
- Ryan McVa / Photodisc
- John Slater / StockImage
- Kris Timken / Blend Images
- Diana Kirschner, PhD.
- Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.
- American Psychological Society.
- Knapp, M. and Hall, J. Nonverbal Communication in Human Interaction. 7th edition, Wadsworth, Cengage Learning, 2010.
- West Virginia Department of Education.
- Schnarch, D. Passionate Marriage: Sex, Love, and Intimacy in Emotionally Committed Relationships; MacMillan, 1997.