If you’re a guy, you’re going to meet a lot of women who don’t have a clue what they want — even if they think they do.
Ditto for women.
Almost all of us want the same handful of things out of a serious relationship. The hard part is figuring out what those are.
We don’t let ourselves want.
When we’re young, we think we want all kinds of stupid things. One time I went on a date with a guy who announced, over breadsticks, that he planned on having kids exactly at the age of 23, during law school, and that I would be doing most of the childcare.
Back then, I was eager to become someone’s manic pixie dream wife/hipster author who wrote sad novellas and published think pieces in The New Yorker. So I said something like, “That sounds great!”
He could tell I was lying. Maybe it was because my voice climbed three octaves, and my eyes filled with terror.
Thankfully, there wasn’t a second date. If nothing else, this guy knew what I wanted more than I did.
The truth was, I wanted someone who would love me, but also let me spend hours a day by myself.
I just thought it was the wrong thing to want.
So I never said it.
The more specific we are, the less we know.
These days, I think the aspiring law school dad didn’t know what he wanted either. He was just very confident he did.
Sometimes you don’t know what you want.
You have to explore. You have to get down on your hands and knees and crawl around in the dark, feeling for it.
So instead, we come up with 5-year-plans full of things we think we want, that sound really impressive to our friends.
Then we don’t do it, and that makes us feel like failures.
The more specific you try to make your life, the harder you screw yourself over. I’ve learned that while you need some kind of life plan, it’s best to keep it loose and flexible. Details cause unnecessary stress. The same thing goes for relationships, which leads me to my friend . . .
Do you keep a secret checklist?
One of my friends had a checklist for every man she dated. The list ran about three pages long. She kept notes on how often he brought her flowers, and the caliber of restaurants he took her to. She also counted the number of button-up shirts in his closet.
My friend communicated none of these expectations.
She kept the list a secret, long enough to do a full inventory on the poor guy. Then she sprung a performance review on him, usually over coffee. If you’re wondering how long her relationships lasted . . .
Not very long.
What my friend really wanted was some sense of certainty and security. She wanted someone she could depend on. The guys she dated couldn’t provide that. Her list was a convoluted search for stability.
When you don’t know what you want, or can’t explain it, you wind up compensating with massive checklists.
Great hair and huge erections aren’t the key to a woman’s heart.
A few months ago, some dude posted a question on some site like Quora, asking why he was still single.
Here’s a summary of his story:
I’m a wildly successful author. I give keynotes to rooms packed with hundreds of avid fans. I work out every single day. I drive a very nice car. I wear an Apple watch. I’m extremely charismatic. I get huge erections, and I have fantastic hair. Women are stupid for not being attracted to me.
Why am I still single?
I almost replied:
Maybe it’s because all you talk about are your huge erections and great hair? Women of substance find that unappealing.
But I didn’t post that.
I decided to write this article instead.
Women only think they want a “nice guy.”
We make fun of guys now for calling themselves a “nice guy,” before lamenting their lonely Friday nights.
It’s hard to know who really started this whole “nice guy” thing, because there’s an even older stereotype of women sitting around a box of wine, wondering where all the “nice guys” are.
Wanting a “nice guy” is the opposite of subjecting your dates to a 3-page checklist. Nobody can satisfy three pages of demands. But anyone can find a way to call themselves nice.
Axe murderers think they’re nice, just misunderstood.
It’s not helpful.
#NotAllWomen want to bang Chads.
Lots of people assume women seek out the most attractive, assertive, alpha male type in the room. Incels refer to this stereotype as Chad.
And it’s not true. Not everyone wants to bang a celebrity clone with rock-hard abs who drives a Tesla.
Of course, some women want exactly that kind of guy. It’s apparent in the way they dress, look, and act. It practically wafts off them and determines every decision they make, including how much time they spend at the tanning salon—as opposed to the library.
If you don’t want that kind of girl, don’t salivate over her. Let her chase her Chads. Her desires have nothing to do with you.
Look for the quiet girl in the corner, who’s waiting for someone to come up and ask what she’s reading these days.
Confused guys fall for thirst traps.
When guys don’t know what they want, they listen to what Maxim and GQ and targeted ads tell them they should.
They fall into thirst traps, designed by women who want their attention—but have no intention of dating them. Women who build thirst traps usually don’t know what they want either.
The end result?
A bunch of people wind up wasting each other’s time.
There’s no objective definition of “good looking.”
A hundred little details play into a woman’s perception of someone’s attractiveness. It includes everything from hairstyles to their voice and their conversation skills.
The same goes for a lot of guys.
Don’t try to make yourself attractive to everyone. Instead, look for someone who finds you attractive.
When we grow up, we realize what matters.
There’s something worse than growing up, and that’s growing up without realizing you have. You’ve matured, but you keep settling for immature relationships. Maybe you let go of your expectations completely, and lower your standards to the bottom floor.
You take the stairs back up, a little wiser:
Most of what we think we want in a partner doesn’t matter at all. The things we take for granted, though, are the hardest qualities to find.
Trial and error teaches us what to look for in a partner. It has a lot more to do with shared values and good judgment.
Here’s what everyone really wants in a partner:
Some people just want to date around, which is fine. People ready for long term relationships want someone who:
- Possesses some sense of social and emotional intelligence.
- Seems comfortable with themselves.
- Has some understanding of their purpose in life.
- Treats everyone with genuine respect.
- Knows they’re not perfect.
- Doesn’t expect anyone else to be, either.
- Wants someone to push them to be a better person.
- Makes them want to be a better person.
- Can take care of their own needs and desires.
- Understands boundaries.
- Earns their trust, and trusts them back.
- Makes reasonable decisions.
- Will have their back.
If you don’t know what you want in a relationship, this is a good starting place. Go from here.
Few people actually show up to a first date with all these qualities polished up and ready to go. But they’re there — at least in a rough, uncut form. The relationship shapes them.
Women want someone who knows themselves.
(So do men.)
Back in high school, I fell for a Mormon guy. He fell for me. We did everything together but kiss, which he refused to do until I converted. His parents wouldn’t let him date an agnostic.
In the end, I didn’t convert for one reason:
Know your priorities, kids.
Obviously, coffee was just a symbol for everything I’d have to give up for that relationship. I wasn’t willing to change fundamental things that I enjoyed to convince someone else I was good enough for them.
My Mormon pseudo-boyfriend couldn’t decide what he really wanted, and so he dumped the choice on me.
So I made the choice.
One night I knelt down in my room and tried to pray to a God I didn’t believe existed like he’d showed me, and I couldn’t do it.
We split up.
Knowing what you want can cause a lot of pain.
Decide what you really want.
When you do, dating will get a little easier.
You’ll tell each other your values. You’ll do it out loud, or you’ll show them with every little move you make. You won’t go chasing after thirst straps, and you won’t feel like you’re slamming your heart in a car door every time someone doesn’t text you back.
You started this thing thinking you were going to learn what women want. You finished knowing that it’s not just about what she wants.
It’s about what you want.
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