After recently musing on what women want, how could I resist seeking Google’s assist on what men want? More precisely, I was curious to know about what men want in a relationship.
To my surprise, searching for “what men want” led me to this: what men want… in a wife.
Seriously? Are we still so traditionally inclined? Are young women trying to understand – first and foremost – what it takes to get married? Hello 1962. Or maybe I should say… 1952. Third option: I could be scandalously out of touch with what most women desire, perhaps because marriage was never top of list when I was younger, and nor is it top of list at this stage in life.
Here is my quick illustration of what happens when you enter “what men…” – yes indeed, we will note the search terms fill in “want in a wife” followed by what men want in bed, followed by what men “secretly” want. (We’ll get to that another day. And in case you’re wondering, my recent scouting turned up female secret desires as well. I can only imagine our secrets mesh, just as male and female sexual fantasies have much in common.)
What Do Women Think Men Want From Love?
Although I fully intended to pursue all areas of relationship – naturally, I was curious to see what gems I might unearth that make men happy in bed – I was stopped in my tracks by a summary on Huff Post.
It was well placed in the results for “what men want in a wife.”
Specifically, it lists the reasons men marry, culled from an admittedly unscientific source that nonetheless provides interesting fodder. I admit – I was fascinated.
But after fascination came dismay, as I concluded that we’ve made very little progress in being realistic about marriage. Among other things, our premarital vision of family is totally idealized – wife as best friend forever, and as usual, there is no indication of awareness that kids are hard on marriage.
Men: As Idealistic as Women?
As excerpted from Huff Post – the notion of building family with the person you love is unabashedly romantic:
I want a legal document that will tell the world that she is my family…
Ditto on sentiments like this:
I want to be able to spend the rest of my life with someone who I love and who loves me back.
Are these very young men? Men who have never married and divorced? Reddit (the originating source) is hardly known for its moderate tone in these matters. And while there were some arguably cynical (albeit truthful) remarks – the various benefits that exist when one is legally married – overall, as I allowed the predominant expression of idealism to sink in, I found myself sad for the inevitable realities that will hit if and when these men do marry.
They’re in for a bit of a shock.
Commitment Through Rose-Colored Glasses
While the Huff Post list doesn’t explicitly address what men search for in a wife or what they expect from marriage itself – two enormous topics – it leads me to conclude that men may enter into a first marriage as exquisitely and woefully ill-prepared as women.
Case in point: this quote, which is wildly naive in an era of rampant divorce:
“… Marriage is a promise that we’ll be together for life. Most of my acquaintances have a fair-weather relationship. If things get shitty for them, I’m not there. And in turn, if things get shitty for me, they won’t be there for me. Marriage is a promise that you’ll be there for each other even when things are shitty. Furthermore, it’s one that you’ve made in front of your family and the world, so you’re more likely to work to keep it.”
But for half of us, that isn’t the case. Or am I interpreting in too simplistic a manner? I can’t help but think of the reasons people don’t marry, and among them, fear of divorce.
So how do we reconcile this contradiction – that marriage is forever – though half of us divorce?
What Men Want in a Wife
Even Forbes got in on the conversation, with this column which dates to 2010. Jenna Goudreau reports on a study of Top 10 Traits Men Want in a Wife. They include: a desire for home and family, good health, good looks, education and intelligence, and dependability – as in “trustworthy, faithful and reliable.”
Also near the top is a “pleasing disposition.”
I found this interesting, on the item “ambition and industriousness:”
Despite the pervasive stereotype that men are intimidated by ambitious women, men rank this trait ahead of others like refinement, being a good cook and having similar religious backgrounds.
And apparently the importance of physical attractiveness has been moving up.
Values and Character
As I scan the Forbes list above, I see issues of values as well as of character. I recognize the extent to which feeling as though your life partner is in your corner remains a hallmark of what we expect in a committed relationship. And I conclude again that men and women are not as far apart as we sometimes believe.
Beyond basics, are we dealing with luck? Why are skilled at negotiating the bumps along the relationship road – learning to reconcile differences and manage them well – while others are irretrievably derailed?
At what stage do we position ourselves to supplement our idealized views with greater insight into what the other person wants and needs, what we want and need, and how we’ll make it work?
What We Want… The Second Time Around
Surely, what we want in relationships changes when we’ve moved past our youthful experiences, moved past a starter marriage, or muddled our way through a divorce – with or without children.
In the many years I dated following the end of my marriage, it was clear to me in talking with men that they were looking for something different from the “first wife” – generally younger, frequently “simpler,” and otherwise more compatible on some measure of interests, profession or outlook on life.
And yet, aren’t “what men want” and “what women want” similar in that most of us wish for a long-lasting structure that brings out our best selves, that lends support in the storm, and provides celebratory warmth for the good times we’d like to share?
With or without the legal benefits – some of us call that arrangement “family.”
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