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As a single woman, my happily paired-off friends often ask me what I’m looking for in a relationship. I like to think I keep my heart pretty open and avoid getting caught up in picky details about my dream guy. But there is one important character trait that I really believe contributes to a successful relationship: courage.

According to Merriam-Webster, courage is “the ability to do something that you know is difficult or dangerous.” It’s also the “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.” Now I’m not asking a man to go bungee jumping or walk on coals for me (I mean, bonus points if you do, though). However, I am hoping to meet a man who has the strength to do things that are hard for him, whether that means giving up football for one Sunday afternoon to entertain in-town relatives or standing up for what he believes in when everyone around him thinks the opposite.

I think there are five key ways that a man can demonstrate his strength and fortitude while dating. And, guys, I hold myself to the same standards, so don’t be intimidated by this list!

01. Courage to ask me out.

It all starts here. I’m looking for a man who can muster up the courage to ask me out. He doesn’t need to try anything fancy or over the top. Just a simple, “Would you like to go out sometime?” will suffice. If he can do it in person, even better. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with a woman asking out a man she’s interested in or sharing her number with a guy she’s into. I’ve done it before, and it worked out! But the kind of man who can be clear with his intentions toward me, and who is willing to take the risk of rejection to ask me out, is showing that he has some skills that will go a long way to making a happy relationship. Call me old-fashioned, but I think it sets the tone for our dating relationship: I want to be pursued, and I want him to be clear about it.

02. Courage to challenge me.

Sometimes I’m stubborn and opinionated. (OK, a lot of the time.) I’m definitely not always right. And I think it’s important for a man to have the courage to say so. Being in a relationship with someone who will gently and respectfully challenge me, ask me questions, and get me to think about things from a different perspective helps me to grow and mature, which is important if we’re going to grow through a lifetime together.

I grew up playing tennis, and I always wanted to play against better opponents because doing so helped me improve. The same logic applies to relationships. I’m looking for a man who can challenge and encourage me in the areas where I fall short, a man who makes me a better person. It will take real courage to do that.

03. Courage to talk about the hard stuff.

This is a big one. Bravery is so, so necessary when it comes to communication. A relationship is bound to have its ups and downs. The man I’m with will be OK with broaching uncomfortable topics and even initiate doing so. We will both have things we struggle with, and we need to be honest about them in order to make the relationship work. I had one relationship where my boyfriend and I never fought. Seriously, not once. When he ended it, all the hard things that he never talked about with me came to the surface. I had no clue! But it did teach me that a successful relationship means having the fortitude to wade through the tough stuff together.

04. Courage to forgive me and ask for forgiveness.

I’m far from perfect, and I can promise you that I will make mistakes. The man I’m looking for will have the strength to forgive me when I say I’m sorry. Not only that, but he will also have the ability to move forward without holding a grudge. Healthy couples don’t dig up dirt from six months ago every time they have an argument. Leave the past in the past. In the same vein, the man I’m with will be courageous enough to ask for forgiveness. I know this can be hard to do, and I will respect him even more when he’s able to admit his blunders.

05. Courage to love.

I can’t think of anything more important than the courage to love. I believe love is a choice. It takes hard work, commitment, and the constant decision to care for another person even when you don’t really feel like it.

“Our society places a lot of emphasis on feelings,” Seth Aaron Smith writes in defense of choosing love. “We are taught that we should always follow our feelings and do whatever makes us happy. But feelings are very fickle and fleeting. Real love, on the other hand, is like the North Star in the storms of life; it is constant, sure, and true. Whenever we’re lost and confused, we can find strength in the love that we have chosen.”

I’m looking for a man with the courage to love me beyond fancy first dates and the honeymoon phase of dating. Someone who chooses to be with me rather than be by himself or continue to explore his options. Someone who commits to me, even when it’s easier to go it alone. Someone who loves me for me. Loving another person is perhaps the most courageous act there is. A man with the courage to do that is definitely a keeper.

I wish more guys knew how attractive true courage is to a woman. Maybe if they knew, those courageous ones would see how special they are, and those other less courageous men would take notice.

Photo Credit: The Kitcheners