Finding your person is no easy task. And sometimes it feels like the dating pool is filled with too many frogs, not nearly enough princes (thanks, Meghan Markle). So we sat down with three relationship experts, including husband and wife marriage counselor duo and authors of the 30th Anniversary edition of Getting the Love You Want, Harville Hendrix Ph.D and Helen LaKelly Hunt Ph.D, and marriage and family therapist Amy McMahan, MS, LMFTA, to find out what women are (and should!) be looking for in Mr. Right.
Don’t feel bad the next time you turn someone down because “the chemistry” just isn’t there. McMahan says initially women are drawn to men based on attraction. “We think to ourselves, can we carry on a conversation with this person? Do I feel energized when I talk to this person? These are qualities that help to establish a foundation, to form a deeper connection, and a relationship with this person,” McMahan says.
It’s difficult to build a relationship with someone who’s closed off. “A man who is vulnerable has a counter-cultural willingness to step away from the power position which men are raised to feel comfortable being in,” Hunt says. “For the partnership to happen, a man has to be willing to be vulnerable and he has to open his heart in order for that to happen.” And heads up, ladies: this goes for you too.
This is a big one, because it has three parts. “Stability means emotionally stable (so not flying off at the handle), then economically stable, and also relationally stable,” Hendrix says. If you’re not familiar with the third part, Hendrix explains that it means you can count on him to be predictable, reliable, and that he’s essentially someone you could rely on if you owned a home together or had a child with him.
If you’ve ever felt less than or silenced in a relationship, it might be because your partner wasn’t treating you as their equal. “The cultural discrepancy between equality that’s been around for thousands of years where women were unequal to men in every way, socially, economically, politically sexually, that’s changing,” Hendrix says. “Now women want to be seen as equals to men and not have to compete with men for dominance.”
It’s okay to want to influence (not change) your partner. In fact, McMahan says research by John M. Gottman (who studied what makes happy couples happy) shows that relationships are more successful when men allow themselves to be influenced by their partners. “The majority of women already do this according to research, but it’s not the same for men,” McMahan says. Being open to being influenced means the man shows awareness of his partner’s emotions and needs, and responds to them.
6. Emotional Presence
That means someone who stays focused on the talker — rather than looking at their cell phone or other distractions — but this goes both ways. A woman should be emotionally present while her significant other is talking, and she should expect him to do the same in return. But being present also includes being responsive, Hendrix says. Meaning when someone texts or calls their partner, the other person should respond as soon as possible, or let them know if it’s going to be awhile before they can respond.
7. Curiosity (About Her!)
It’s important that you feel like your partner is interested in you. “We tell [couples] to shift from judgement to curiosity. Instead of judging a person about their actions and what they do, be curious about it. Wonder why they dress that way or why they act like this,” Hunt says. However, she warns that you don’t want a person who interviews or grills you in conversation.
Hendrix says this one is non-negotiable. “Women want to be with someone who they feel safe with at all times. They want to say ‘With you I feel safe. I don’t have to be defensive. I know that when I’m around you, I’m going to be okay,'” Hendrix says.
If your man is, then he isn’t the man for you. “[Women] should be looking for a man who isn’t assessing them and constantly trying to upgrade them or improve them,” Hendrix says. “We tell our daughter when you feel judged by the guy, export him to the door or leave yourself.” When someone criticizes or judges you, they’re saying you’re not okay as you are, you have to change and then I’ll accept you, says Hendrix.
You don’t want someone who doesn’t ask for what he wants. “It’s one of the most important things that allows a relationship to thrive well,” Hunt says. “And so many men can’t do that. They don’t feel like they can ask for anything, so they don’t tell the woman they’re dating that they’d like a back rub every now and then or a foot rub.” Hunt says that healthy couples tell each other what they need and what actions make them feel most loved and cared about.