“There just aren’t any good guys out there!” I heard a woman at a party say to her friends in exasperation. Well within earshot, I couldn’t help but think, “What am I, chopped liver?”
Luckily, I don’t offend easily. I can even understand how, after a series of dates with a few guys who “seemed” so nice at first blush (but weren’t), she might be ready to throw in the towel.
I think we can all agree that there are a lot of duds out there. But sadly, the answer to that is often to buy into the lie that “this is just how men are,” like it or leave it. All men have wandering eyes, all men fear commitment, and all men resent responsibility. Sound familiar?
Before you totally despair, let me give you a bit of hope: Not all men are just “like that.”
Why should you believe me? If I was one of said loser dudes, it would be in my best interest to propagate negative stereotypes about men. Think about it: If all men are selfish, sex-crazed philanderers living out an extended adolescence, then their girlfriends might think twice about looking around for someone better. Someone like me—and plenty of other guys I know—perhaps?
The fact is, there are plenty of good dudes out there. Problem is, if any of them run around claiming to be a gentleman, women end up being even more suspicious of them than usual. So what’s a girl to do if she wants some good old trustworthy truthspeak right from the mouths of real gentlemen? Keep reading, that’s what.
I picked out a reasonably diverse set of guys—single, married, and everything in between—and I asked them if they felt well represented by what’s assumed to be indicative of all men on the topics most important to us: our passions and priorities, our relationships and romances. Here’s what they had to say.
Assumption #1: Let’s be honest, men only care about sex.
We can all name guys we know who seemingly have only one thing on their minds, and they’ll do anything to get it (and nothing more). And I can name all sorts of guys who, if offered no-strings-attached sex with an attractive woman, would have a hard time finding a reason not to partake. But even many of those guys, warts and all, have more substantial goals in mind when it comes to women.
Take Leo, 31, for example. Leo desires a meaningful relationship first and foremost, even though the possibility of no-strings sex can be distracting.
“Sure, I’m capable of being a pig,” he says. “Men, like every human, have a tendency toward certain weaknesses (preoccupation with sex, money, selfishness, etc.), but I want something more than sex, too. When presented with a clear opportunity for a meaningful relationship, I will eagerly put aside my more superficial desires and buckle down for the long haul. I’m not saying I will be perfect, but I will try.”
And Leo is not the only guy to say so. Most every man I’ve spent significant time with has a deep desire for a real relationship that goes far beyond sex. One of those men is Jimmy, 26, from Nebraska. “As far as I’m concerned, sex isn’t even that far up the totem pole, big-picture-wise, anyway,” he says. “So many other things are more important: friendship, love, loyalty, etc. Sex is an expression of those things, but it isn’t greater than those things.”
In other words, ladies, men don’t only care about sex. If you ever get the sense that you’re being looked at as nothing more than an object of his gratification, you can do better.
Assumption #2: All men place physical attractiveness, namely a sexy body, above all else.
Verily writer Baleigh Scott threw down on Donald Trump for his use of the seemingly aged “ten-point scale” that men (and women) have been known to use to rate how hot a woman is, and rightfully so. But don’t all men rate women this way? Maybe, maybe not.
For Christian, 27, such a rating scale doesn’t get at what he’s really looking for in a woman. “The more discerning of us want a woman who is secure in herself,” he says. “I, for one, want a woman with real self-knowledge about who she is, both in her internal and external weaknesses and strengths.”
Yes, external beauty does matter to men, as it does to most every person. There’s something instinctive about it, at the very least. But this is why Christian’s description is all the more noteworthy—that is, the experience of being attracted to a woman and not just her body.
A few months ago I went on a long-anticipated first date. As we walked around town I could tell that she was turning heads, which made me feel really great about myself. Granted, people’s heads were turning probably to try and figure out why she was walking around with me. She was so beautiful; I literally would lose myself in her eyes.
That very same night, I met another woman. After a ten-minute conversation, I could hardly remember that I had been on a date with a different woman that same evening. This wasn’t because the second woman I met was even more attractive than the first woman—it was because we had chemistry and a connection, and that meant a whole lot more.
Does that make me a jerk for forgetting Woman A so easily? Probably. But more to the point, it made me realize all the more that external beauty, while great for Instagram and impressing people on the street, is only one piece of the puzzle when it comes to what I want in a relationship. Sure, some guys might consider it the one and only piece of the puzzle, but don’t waste your time on them.
Assumption #3: Men just want women to take care of them.
Watch most any comedy coming out of Hollywood, and you’ll see a man happy in a relationship only if (a) he’s getting all the sex he wants, (b) his woman dotes on his every whim, and/or (c) she gives him free reign to hang out with his buddies as much as he wants.
Full disclosure: I sometimes wish that’s how it worked. But I’ve also learned something as I’ve gotten older, which is that I have a greater appreciation for a relationship that’s mutually beneficial rather than one-sided. And, good news, ladies: I’m not the only man who feels this way.
“Some women assume all guys want girlfriends who will just take care of them (cook for them, clean for them, cater to them, etc.),” says Ben, 26, from North Dakota. “But I am much more attracted to a woman who will challenge me to be a better, more independent man.”
Maybe it has something to do with growing up. Mature men have to be responsible for themselves, and if they have any relational sensibilities, they want to be responsible for the well-being and care of others.
For many of the guys I know, chivalry is a way of showing this mature respect and care for others. They’d be happy to walk a lady across the street or open a car door. When it comes to a relationship, it becomes our way of showing a woman that we intend to make her a priority and will go out of our way to make her feel special.
“I love it when a girl allows me to be chivalrous,” says Damian, 31, from New Mexico. Instead of expecting his gal to constantly make life better for him, he relishes a chance to anticipate her needs and desires. “When I’m given opportunities in a gentle way, it shows me that she’s allowing me the opportunity to lead.”
Sure, we all give and receive love differently. But if a guy is giving you the impression that he is expecting you to make his life better without a similar investment on his part, he probably isn’t mature enough for a relationship.
Assumption #4: Men would rather hang out with their buddies than spend quality time with women.
Chances are that your man loves hanging with the boys, and that can be a good thing. But we also know it can be taken too far. One time in particular I chose to hang out with my buddies instead of being with my girlfriend at an important time. I made a dumb decision that day, and I know I’m not alone among my fellow men when it comes to struggling to prioritize.
But that doesn’t mean we aren’t willing and able to make our gal number one. Take my buddy Al, 29, from Indiana, for example. If you knew him from afar in college, you might have assumed that he was simply your average party boy. And while his friends know plenty well how he likes to have a good time, we’ve also always known him to have his priorities in proper order, and that has served him well in marriage.
“I’ll never stop wanting guy time, baseball games, cold beers, playing Call of Duty,” Al told me. “But I understand how those self-fulfilling activities take a backseat and yield to my wife and kids.”
Speaking of baseball games, Matt, 28, from Massachusetts, had this to say: “A month ago I passed on free box seats to the Red Sox for no other reason than I had been out for work one other night that week, so I didn’t want to be away from my wife another night.”
If you didn’t know Matt, that might sound like pandering or even bragging, but that’s not him. He loves a good ball game, but more importantly he loves his wife, and he’s a devoted father. And to him, it’s not a difficult decision, especially given that the Red Sox are in last place (zing!).
Believe it or not, even for guys, love will cause someone to do things he never thought he’d do. “Driving twelve hours each way to see my girlfriend’s sister isn’t an ideal weekend for me,” Anthony, 24, from Minnesota, says. “But I knew it made her happy, and seeing her happy makes any awkward family get-together worth it.”
If you feel like you’re playing a game of tug-of-war when it comes to pulling your man away from his buddies, it might just take time. Or it might mean that he’s not ready to put on his big-boy pants and grow up. It also might just mean that he’s not that into you. Either way, know that you don’t have to play second fiddle.
The fact of the matter is, men (and dare I say, women?) are not perfect. We are all a curious hormone-infused amalgam of virtue and vice, stupefyingly capable of great good and heroism one moment and just as capable of disappointing the next.
Here’s what I should have said to the woman at the party: Stop looking for a man who has remained miraculously untouched by human weakness. Keep a sharp eye out for those men who have wrestled with immaturity and shallow sentiments and have come out the other side looking to rise above them in their desire for something greater. Plenty of men like this are out there.
Next time you’re out and about, and Hans and Frans are simultaneously vying for your attention—and causing you to lose faith in mankind as we know it—remember this: They don’t speak for the rest of us.