What Do Men Really Want?

Name: Kellypositive-quotes-sayings-life-being-single
Comment: Just curious about your thoughts on something. I’m single, no kids. I have been married before but divorced awhile, had two long-term relationships since. I have been lucky to have lived in both Los Angeles and NYC, as well as traveled to many places all over the world. I consider myself savvy and sophisticated, but still funny and accessible. I am wondering, though, about how men receive my “story.” I’ve read here and other places that men want and need a woman to have some vulnerability. I have that but it’s underneath and you have to get to know me first. When I talk about my life experiences, is it signaling I don’t need a man? Or do I just say f##k it and be myself and the right fit will come along eventually.
Age: 45
City: Atlanta
State: GA

I’m not sure how your story translates as not being vulnerable. Okay, so you’ve lived in some major metropolitan cities and are well traveled. And? How is that unique or special? The point I’m making is that being cultured and independent isn’t really a turn off. It sounds to me like that’s your narrative. As I’ve said before, people who self-identify in certain ways usually lack self-awareness. So, you might think you’re savvy and sophisticated, but it’s possible that men see you as stuck-up and pretentious. The fact that you think you even have a “story” is telling. It hints at the possibility that you see yourself as a character, not a person.

The notion of a single woman with a tough outer shell and only the right guy can break through it is a fantasy created by Lifetime movies. It’s a cliche. Take it from me, as someone who has constantly been told how “tough” and “strong” she is, that woman is not attractive to men. Strangers do not wish to work overtime trying to soften up or tear down some emotional wall. That just doesn’t happen.Viewing our softer side or our vulnerability as some prize that needs to be earned is the problem. It’s not a compromise of your integrity to just be nice and fun and easy to be with.

When people comment that I seem “no nonsense” and “self-sufficient” that’s code for abrasive and intolerant. I have a strong personality. Any man I date has to have a backbone. But that doesn’t mean that men who don’t want to date me are weak or don’t get me. Men are not deterred by a self-sufficient woman. They are turned off by a woman who doesn’t appear capable of letting them in. We’re too much work. There are times I have to shut my mouth and bite my tongue. I don’t wait for men to earn points before I show them my softer side. I make a concerted effort to do that right away because I know I have to, as it doesn’t come out naturally.

Sure, you can stay as is and cross your fingers that the right guy will come along. Maybe he’ll be played by Eddie Cibrian or Dean Cain. Or you could make a concerted effort to seem more vulnerable and available.

Or do I just say f##k it and be myself and the right fit will come along eventually

This is another myth we’ve been told over and over that we have come to take as fact. There is no such thing as someone just coming along. Especially at our age. At our age, we have to put in the work. The real question isn’t whether or not you need a man in your life, but rather do you want a man in your life. It’s perfectly okay if you don’t. Walking around seeing yourself as some heroine in a rom com is a waste of time for all involved.

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19 Responses to “What Do Men Really Want?”

  1. Ben Iyyar Says:

    I met a woman through friends who was happy, kind, loving, physically attractive, and also very giving. We were both older, 34 years old, both divorced, neither of us had children, and we were both looking for something serious. We dated for almost a year and we have been pretty happily married for over thirty years now with four sons. I am not sure if I was looking for a particular woman to share my life with but I know that at the age of 34 I was definitely looking for someone to settle down with and raise a family whereas before I was really just playing the field and having as much sexual fun as I could. I felt very safe and comfortable with the girl I married more than anything else and even though we are older now, I still see that same beautiful young woman I married when I look at my wife.

  2. Matt Says:

    Just like a job interview, people’s expectations of their future with you are influenced heavily by the actions of your past. When you are 45 years old, you will have a story line, as well as all the stereotypes that come with a single independent world-traveled woman of that age. It sucks to be stereotyped, but that’s what people do.

    So what do guys want from that character? For starters, sex. Especially if it is a younger guy. Younger guys late 20’s to mid 30’s would enjoy a fling with a woman who knows her way around the world and in the bedroom (or anywhere else). Sorry to say this, but that’s what they will see, regardless of who you really are.

    For guys in their 30’s to early 40’s who are looking for a serious relationship, you are not in their eye sights, other than for the aforementioned sex.

    For guys your age and older, I can’t speak for that with authority. I think they are either
    1) divorcees looking for another relationship, and you have to fit into each other’s lifestyle,
    2) guys into the bachelor lifestyle that are interested in you for dating, sex, and maybe it might lead to something long term.

    If I met you and heard what you just said, I would interpret your story line as the next 5 years will be like the last 5: traveling the world, being single, with some kind of transient relationship thrown in if it works for you. If it matches my lifestyle, I might flirt and date you that way. If you come across as needy, or “independent” I’d just move on, as there are easier prospects with younger women.

  3. jane Says:

    Interesting article. The big question here is why is the woman expected to let her guard down immediately, be vulerable etc and (as is implied) the man isnt expected to? I’ve had the same problem of men thinking Im stuck up or closed off just because Im not being emotional and telling them how Im feeling about them from day 1. And I’ve really resented when men have told me this, because its not like THEY were sitting their pouring their hearts out to me so why was I supposed to trust them immediately either? Sure, having fun and being talkative is one thing, but Im not going to ‘put it all out there’ until Im getting met halfway.

    • ATWYSingle Says:

      The problem is that you equate being vulnerable with pouring your heart out. Those are too different things and they can be mutually exclusive. I think you’re issue is that you actually don’t know what being vulnerable means.

    • AnnieNonymous Says:

      For what it’s worth, I expect any guy I’m seeing to have a sweet side too. It’s not something I put out there myself as a lure. I view it as part of the path toward forging a connection: does the warmer part of my personality work well with his?

  4. Kelly Says:

    To Moxie, that’s what I want to know: how as a woman with a strong personality do I let men know I am/can be “soft”.

    • AnnieNonymous Says:

      This is why I don’t like talking about this stuff in terms of being “vulnerable” or being “soft.” Be warm. Make eye contact when the man is talking and indicate that you’re really listening. Give him a sense that you’re capable of genuinely caring about people. Be sincere and earnest. These are easy things to do without seeming like a child. Practice being like Christine Baranski on The Good Wife if that helps. You can be strong and independent and still show other people that you’re a real person inside.

  5. Nicole Says:

    Kelly, you don’t say what you’re really looking for… Obviously different men will see your “story” in different ways. But I’m going to assume you’re looking for a relationship, maybe long term if it’s the right guy, and that you’ve been having difficulty finding that (since you wrote in for advice ;) ).

    Atlanta is a great city, I lived there for a couple of years, live in a similar southern city (Dallas) now. But it isn’t New York or LA or even Miami. The men who live in Atlanta are there because 1)they grew up in the area and stayed near their family or 2) they moved there for a job. Which means they will either be staying in Atlanta until their parents die or they retire, or they will be there until their next promotion. And these guys are far more likely to move to Houston or Raleigh than New York.

    I think you probably come across to these Atlanta guys as interesting and fun, but unlikely to be satisfied with them long term. If you paint yourself as a worldly, sophisticated woman, you are going to seem incompatible with a lot of the men around you. They might enjoy dating you, but they’re not going to get attached, because you seem like you will be on to your next adventure at any moment.

    Maybe you would rather weed out the men who are happy in a mid-sized city and think Cancun is an exotic destination. That’s ok. Nothing wrong with deciding you’d rather be single until you meet someone who shares your desire for an exciting life. You just need to realize you are limiting your prospects by doing that, especially where you live right now.

    If you do want to focus on finding a relationship now, maybe try to make your story less about the exciting things you’ve done in the past, and more about whatever’s important in your life right now. Job? Hobbies? Family/friends? A story that’s about what you’re really like, not just the things you’ve seen or done. Sure, your past is impressive, but what a guy really wants to know is what life with you would be like now and in the future.

    • Speed Says:

      “If you do want to focus on finding a relationship now, maybe try to make your story less about the exciting things you’ve done in the past, and more about whatever’s important in your life right now. Job? Hobbies? Family/friends? A story that’s about what you’re really like, not just the things you’ve seen or done. Sure, your past is impressive, but what a guy really wants to know is what life with you would be like now and in the future.”



  6. Sherry Says:

    Jane: being vulnerable is not the same as being overly emotional or putting it all out there for everyone to see.

    Being vulnerable, especially during dating, is simply revealing layers of your most genuine self and being cognizant that rejection is part of the game. Both men and women can be vulnerable during dating. In fact, being vulnerable is the way people truly get to know each other.

    For example, the vulnerable man hopes that the woman he’s dating will understand his sense of humor instead becoming annoyed and rejecting him for telling too many jokes. He is revealing an aspect of his most genuine self by sharing his offbeat humor with his new love interest. He is taking a risk by being vulnerable and opening this facet of his personality to this woman since he runs the very real risk of rejection.

    • jane Says:

      Okay I can see that being a different type of vulnerability although I think I’m good at that. I’m never shy about sharing my personality, even with platonic strangers. That’s why I assume when someone told me I was being guarded they meant emotionally BC it never occurred to me to hide my interests or qualities.

  7. Kelly Says:

    Nicole, thanks for that. Exactly how i feel about it. Im southern and yes, the men here prob do view me that way. I just need to recalibrate i guess without losing myself completely.

    • Nicole Says:

      I hear you, we southern gals have our own special dating challenges :)

      A lot of seeming “softer” is mannerisms and appearance. Sundresses or soft drapey sweaters instead of blazers, delicate jewelry instead of statement pieces. At least for the first few dates.

      I consciously try to wait a beat before opening doors or asking for a table at restaurants, to let the guy step up and do it. Yeah, it feels fake sometimes, but it gives you the chance to see how HE handles things.

      Also, you could try reframing the way you talk about your life. “I love reading” instead of “I read 4 books a week.” Makes conversations feel more like getting to know someone, and less like one-upping each other.

      You definitely shouldn’t have to hide your accomplishments… Just find a way to present your awesomeness as a something guys can enjoy, not something they have to compete with or live up to.

  8. Howard Says:

    I hate breaking things down to their Least Common Denominator. Men run the gamut in terms of what they seek. I actually believe, we all can find someone, if we put in tremendous effort. Unfortunately for most people, the person we generally find, is the person we deserve, and not that idealized person we imagine we should have. If a man or woman is pretentious or too self-important, he or she will find someone that is also like that, or who caters to that.

    The real question is not what men want. For the OP, it’s what the men she seeks, want. So how does one find one’s idealized person? That requires heavy lifting; we have to change. If we don’t match what that idealized person is seeking, we are never going to get that person.

    This, of course, opens the conversation, that it may not be worth it to get that person, if the change required within us is contradictory to our values.

    Let’s get to the OP’s letter. There was a line that struck me:

    “I have that but it’s underneath and you have to get to know me first.”

    The gist of that is very familiar to me. I see similar self-focused disclaimers and non-negotiables, in online profiles all the time. I believe it’s the number one reason many women have problems in the dating world. Let me give a counter to that sentence above.

    Why should I want to get to know you, if you are not giving me good reason to work past that outer shell you have created? It’s fine and good to think we are special. But don’t imagine that someone should somehow glean that, when all they have to work with, is that shell they see.

    So let’s look at a few things that could help get guys interested and keep them interested.

    1. Availability: Women always harp on this when it comes to desired qualities in men. The sad thing is that many women, themselves, are not truly available. If you have too much baggage, you are not fully available. If you present yourself with an outer shell or with disclaimers or non-negotiables, you are not truly available. A man has to feel like he can walk comfortably into your life and become your partner. But be careful. Do not become a doormat.

    2. Becoming the prize: This could be interpreted as conflicting with number one but it does not conflict. There is a way to be truly available and for a man to see you as a prize. When a woman pulls this off, she is well on her way to reaching her objectives. A word of caution, if you have to say that you are a prize, then you have already lost. Actions speak louder than words.

    3. Congeniality: This lost art of communication can be learned by anyone, if one gets past an overly self-focused mindset. For some people it may even be worth doing a course or program where congeniality is taught.

    • noquay Says:

      You have good points here; as a woman with an interesting story (fought her way out of poverty, first one in family ever to make it through high school, veteran of many protests from WTO in Seattle to putting myself in front of bad guys at numerous tribal confrontations, anti mining activist, high altitude organic farmer etc), I am not going to be most older men’s idea of “standard fare” and that’s OK. I do have good social skills, can make a man feel welcome, provided I am attracted. I also dress well when it is warranted, recognizing quality when I see it. However, I don’t think changing who one is will work; your true values come out in the end. Moxie is right, at our age, we have to do the work starting with knowing what we want, what works and what doesn’t and putting ourselves in places where who we want are more likely to be present. For me this means going to races, charity events, outdoor/environment oriented stuff and total avoidance of local bars.

      • Howard Says:

        As I said above changing who we are, may indeed not be a good idea, if it clashes with our values. However, if a tweak does not clash with our values we should seriously consider doing things a little differently.

        We enjoy a lot of amenities, like modern housing, cell phones, televisions, cars, etc. Each of those was created though lots of trial and error. A lot of errant paths were abandoned. Our lives are no different. It’s like driving to work one way and discovering another way that saves us five minutes. It’s only five minutes but we quickly abandon the old way.

        The mental approach should not be, changing who we are. It should be:

        “I am going to try some other ways of doing things, and I am going to be ready to abandon those if necessary, and try others and others until I get what works for achieving my objectives”.

        Remember Albert Einstein defined insanity as, doing things the same way over and over and expecting a different result!

    • msM. Says:

      Thanks for that post, very interesting!

  9. LostSailor Says:

    A lot of good comments. I agree that most men aren’t necessarily put off by a “savvy and sophisticated” woman or a “strong and independent” woman. Except if those words are the primary elements of a woman’s personality, because they can be just a natural part of who she is or they can be a defense mechanism, something she tells herself, willing it to be true, and that often does come off to men as some kind of contest or challenge: I’m strong and independent, can you deal with me, are you man enough?

    I have no idea if Kelly is presenting herself in the latter manner. It would help to know more details on what prompted her to write in. How are men reacting to her that she sees is problematic? Is she consistently getting one or two dates, but nothing more? If so, perhaps she needs to tone down the savvy and sophistication until she gets a better read on the men she’s dating. Southern men are likely to be more inclined to want or need to take the lead in a relationship and if she’s not letting them, that might be a problem.

    As for men wanting a woman who “has some vulnerability,” I think “vulnerable” is not the right word. Men who truly need a woman who is vulnerable are either taking advantage or don’t have the social skills to deal with more balanced women or, as Moxie puts it, don’t have backbone.

    What I think most men want is a woman who is “sweet.” By that I mean a kind and caring personality. That doesn’t mean a woman who is a pushover, quite the opposite. I think that true sweetness comes from a position of confidence and strength.

    Kelly also doesn’t say what she is looking for in a man. Since she mentions only a marriage and several long-term relationships, I’m assuming that’s what she’s still looking for. But she doesn’t say what that entails from her perspective. Is it someone to continue to travel the world with, someone who enjoys sophisticated things in life? That’s not necessarily a large pool of men to pull from.

    She also doesn’t indicate what she brings to the table, what she offers a man. If it’s just a savvy and sophisticated backstory, that’s not going to be enough. To echo Nicole’s and Howard’s comments, it’s about what Kelly is offering that not only allows him to fit into her life, but is attractive enough to bring her into his life.

    Savvy, sophisticated, and sweet. It’s all about balance and a little self-awareness.

  10. Steve From the City Next Door Says:

    The word “sophisticated” has been bad for me. The self-described “sophisticated” women I have dated have all (to the best of my memory) been expensive women – they expected me to get them expensive things and activities. I remember a fun date – it was only one – where the woman expressed shock I did not have season tickets to he Opera and whether that meant I was more of a Symphony type of fellow … she didn’t know if she could date one of those people. Actually I think she described herself as Cultured – another bad word to see in a profile.

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