"Let's talk about us." Say these simple words to a guy and he'll wince, roll his eyes, or even sigh, as if to say, "Not this again." You might chalk up our response to emotional bankruptcy; you wouldn't be the first woman to do so.
But here's the thing: We men care a lot about our relationships. We think about them all the time. We talk about them with our friends. But that doesn't mean we've cataloged everything we want in a girlfriend—or figured out how to tell you what our needs are, for that matter. What if you take something the wrong way? What if you ask us a question that we just don't know how to respond to, or can't bear to answer?
Of course, men have a vested interest in helping women know what we want. So as a public service, we, the editors of Men's Health, asked nearly 2,000 visitors to our Web site to reveal their secret thoughts, using an anonymous survey. The gist: What qualities does a man look for in the perfect girlfriend? Here's your crib sheet to wowing any man.
- Laugh with Us—And at Us
Men don't measure mates against the Victoria's Secret catalog. In fact, only 12 percent of us say that superficial stuff matters more than a woman's sense of humor, smarts, or sweet demeanor. That trio proves irresistible to more than 75 percent of our readers.
But of the three, sense of humor is most important—it serves as our mental matchmaker. "It's a sign of intellectual compatibility," says Billy Goldberg, M.D., coauthor of Why Do Men Fall Asleep after Sex? "You can't just be a laugh track. Men want a woman who is as comfortable relating her own ridiculous anecdote as she is listening to ours."
Humor actually serves three roles. First, it defuses awkward situations, says David Borgenicht, coauthor of The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Dating and Sex. So the dinner your guy just charred is hilarious, not disgusting. Second, it identifies common ground: "Really? You loved Blades of Glory, too?" And most important, it shows your spine—our high-school yearbook photo or encyclopedic grasp of baseball stats probably deserves to be skewered, after all.
So go ahead, take us down a notch. Wield your humor wisely and we'll be hooked for good.
- Take Your Affection Outside
Ninety-seven percent of Men's Health readers, which is as close to unanimous as it gets, want a woman who's willing to show her love in public. "Men want a woman who's confident enough in her sexuality to make a move, no matter the circumstances," says Neil Chethik, author of VoiceMale.
That doesn't mean you should suck face at the Four Seasons. Subtle displays—a close kiss during a walk, a graze of his thigh in the car, even a smoldering look shot across a crowded dinner party—can stoke his fires. His hips will tell you how passionately to pounce: Only half of all PDA-friendly guys want a full-on makeout session in public. If he moves closer, that's your green light to heat things up.
- Kiss Us When We're Down
Men want a partner, not a caregiver. More than 67 percent of Men's Health guys are begging for an end to sappy, smothering moves like fixing our errant hair or straightening our collars.
What's a caring girlfriend to do? "A man wants to be with someone who will defend and support him," says Chethik. It's easier for him to accept help from you—to admit that he has a weakness—if a specific event or issue is bringing him down." In other words, help us fix our problems, not our character flaws.
So bring us soup when we're sick in bed; lift us up when a work project is stomping us down. Help a man feel secure, like you've got his back, and he'll want to spend time with you. Stifle him and he might start looking to escape.
- Compliment Us—Carefully
We love that you love our abs. But we hope that isn't all you love about us. "A man wants to hear that no matter how he looks, there's something deeper you find sexy about him, whether it's how he tells a story or how he touches you," says Chethik.
Our Men's Health guys agree: Only 8 percent say they like to hear about physical qualities, but 66 percent want you to pinpoint an intangible quality, something we uniquely possess. Be sincere and specific: "I love how safe you make me feel" trumps "You're so great" any day. Bonus: You're reinforcing his efforts to care for you.
- Impress Our Friends . . .
You're smart enough to grant your man the occasional guys' night out, right? Good. Boxing out a man's friends is a relationship deal breaker, according to 83 percent of the men we surveyed.
But make the most of that long leash you've granted him. Look at his best available pals as fix-up material for your solo friends. And if he's planning a pub crawl, meet his crew at the bar, buy the first round, then peel off so they can spend time together: "You have a blast with the boys, hon. I'm going to head home and relax." He'll keep you in mind all night long, and later on his buds will gripe less when you're on a date during the NBA playoffs (if it's game two, in an early round).
"It's important for her to relate to his friends," says Dr. Goldberg, "not just tolerate them."
"You don't have to love your boyfriend's friends," adds Joshua Piven, coauthor of The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Dating and Sex, "but you do need to respect their relationship with him."
- . . . And Let Us Meet Yours
We're jealous. We admit it. And we hate that side of ourselves as much as you do.
We're not prudes, mind you. We know you flirt, and 79 percent of us don't mind, provided only words—not phone numbers or caresses—are exchanged. "Men want to be with a girl who radiates, someone who makes other people say, 'Wow, she's interesting, engaging, and attractive,'" says Piven. "We want her to be social with other men without being blatantly seductive."
So introduce us to your buddies. We'll feel less threatened by the other men in your life if we're friendly with them, too. You might even invite us to tag along for after-work happy hour once in a while. If we're mingling at a bar or a party, you don't need to hang on our every word, but reassure us every now and then by making eye contact across the room.
- Smooth Our Moods
Men aren't immune to mood swings; we're just more likely to bury them. When we're not acting like ourselves, simply say, "You look wrecked. What's up?" If he starts spilling his soul, resist the urge to coerce him into a dialogue—34 percent of guys only want you to listen.
"Men want women to be sensitive but not intrusive, which is a delicate dance," says Eli Finkel, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychology at Northwestern University. For a guy, simply telling you about his troubles can be enough, without trying to resolve them.
If that doesn't work, divert our attention. Helping us forget about that overbearing boss or obnoxious friend is the preferred coping mechanism for 32 percent of Men's Health guys, according to our survey.
"Sometimes we need to get our minds off a subject," says Borgenicht. "That could mean going out for a drink, cooking dinner together, or watching a movie." The more attention we need to pay to the diversion, the less brainpower we'll devote to stewing.
- Reinvent Foreplay
Slow-burning sex isn't better only for you. "Longer foreplay helps men synchronize with their partners, giving them confidence and, as a result, better control over ejaculation," says Seth Prosterman, Ph.D., a certified sex therapist in San Francisco.
Perhaps this will shock you, but foreplay is important to us, too. More than 75 percent of our guys say they want foreplay to last 15 minutes or more, which ought to please the 84 percent of women who agree.
Here's how to warm him up and clue him in. Start the seduction on a sweet note, with your man on top. Guide his hands, stroking his palm the way you'd like to be touched. Your magic phrase? "Like this." That's all—he'll get the point. Slip one hand down the back of his shorts, just below the waistline, and pull his pelvis toward you, showing him the motion that turns you on. Don't forget your line: "Like this."
Next, switch positions—you on top. Slowly kiss him along his neck and collarbone. Linger by his belt line, looking up at him as you kiss his abdomen. Repeat your refrain, and work your way back up to his lips. Switch positions again, and repeat.
- Know What Really Turns Him On
New positions are nice. Experimentation with toys or lotions can be fun, or at least interesting. But what turns men on most in bed, according to 39 percent of the guys we surveyed, is your unbridled enthusiasm (followed by confidence, at 35 percent, and creativity, at 17 percent).
"It's a turn-on to know we're pleasing you," says Dr. Goldberg. "If the experience is more interactive, it makes all the difference." Perhaps that's why 87 percent of men say "just lying there" is a serious turnoff, and 57 percent of men say that silence is a sexual downer.
So let him know what he's doing right. Grip the sheets. Beg. Plead. Demand. Make it less like a handshake and more like an earthquake (as long as you're actually feeling it). "All great sexual encounters deliver that sense of validation that you really have something special," says Prosterman.
In fact, your over-the-top passion can help a man feel closer to you emotionally—something more than a third of our guys singled out as the most important part of unforgettable sex.
- Ambition: The Other Aphrodisiac
There's nothing as sexy as a successful woman: Eighty percent of Men's Health guys say they want a woman who wants a career. But you also have to sync your free time with ours. Plan nights together at least a week in advance. And when you do have a romantic night alone, steer the conversation away from the water cooler. Your guy wants to feel as if your relationship is your priority when you're together.
Oh, one more thing: If you make a lot more money than he does, that's cool. Just don't flaunt it. Sixty-six percent of men still want to split costs evenly. Treating us once in a while is fine, but we'd rather have you splurge on a vacation or a meal instead of reminding us of our financial shortcomings by paying two-thirds of the rent every month.
- Primp Without Driving Him Crazy
Thirty-six percent of Men's Health guys say they very much appreciate the extra effort you put toward looking great before a date. He can enjoy the visuals, and you make him look good, too. But if you want to walk out the door without ruining his mood, follow the 10-minute rule: Give a realistic departure time and then hit your mark within 10 minutes. If you take any longer, he has every right to be annoyed.
- The Best Time for Sex
The workweek is the worst time for rock-the-firmament lovemaking: Sixty-four percent of guys say that exhaustion, stress, and packed schedules are the three biggest sex blockers. And women cite "being too tired" as their number one sex deal breaker. So lazy Saturday mornings should find both of you stress-free, well rested, and better able to focus on making a meaningful connection.
Your best move: Stall any advances until you've both had a chance to ease into the morning. Grab some coffee, then split the newspaper and an oversize bowl of cereal and fruit before starting your Saturday to-do list with, well, each other.
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