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“It’s time for men to ‘man up!’” I can’t even count the number of times I’ve heard women say this. These women want a guy who takes the initiative in the relationship. They want the guy to “lead” by asking them on a date. They want to know that he is interested in moving the relationship forward and toward the right destination—and oftentimes, women think that his sense of direction is best tested when she isn’t providing too much help.

It’s not that these women are stuck in the 1950s. It’s just that they think relationships work best when the guy has his hands on the steering wheel. The truth is, there are quite a few men out there who prefer to be the one in the driver’s seat, too. These men feel their best when they are expected to keep the momentum of the relationship moving forward. This means planning follow-up dates, initiating the exclusivity conversation—that sort of thing.

But after talking to guys who like to make the first move, I have discovered that taking the lead doesn’t mean they expect women to just come along for the ride—they actually see the role of their female counterpart as quite a bit more active.

I talked to five men who like to take the lead, and here’s what they have to say about the women by their sides, the co-captains helping navigate the relationships along the way.

Suggest a dream date.

Have you ever wished your guy would get a little bit more creative than the old dinner and a movie routine? Well, these guys wish you would speak up and tell them what kind of date gets you excited.

“I definitely want to take the lead in the relationship,” Justin says. “Especially early on, like asking a girl out, etc.” That being said, Justin admits that it’s great when a girl suggests a date. “It’s totally OK to suggest some things you might want to do on a date!” he says. “It’s awesome when women do this because the man can be confident in whatever else he plans with the knowledge that she is more likely to enjoy herself.”

Charlie agrees that he appreciates when a woman is open about her preferences. “Too many times I hear ‘it’s fine’ or ‘whatever you want,’ whether it’s where to eat, what activity to do, or when to make plans,” he explains. “If a woman withholds her preferences from me, it makes it harder for me to decide what to do. When I take the lead, I want to make decisions that reflect what’s best for both of us—that way I can love her better!”

Few women have to plan dates on the regular, so it might be hard to understand how difficult it is. Whether you like your guy to plan dates or not, help him out by telling him about your dream date or suggesting activities you have always wanted to do. Your man will thank you—and your date will be a lot more fun, too.

Go for that hot topic.

I think many women are dying to bring up deeper conversations. We want to know how our guy thinks about the world and what things have shaped his life. We are also eager to let him get to know some of the deeper aspects of our own lives. The good news is that guys love it when you help guide the conversation.

“On a date, I especially love it when a woman takes the initiative to start good conversation,” Justin says. Isaac also agrees that he appreciates when his date brings up whatever she might wish to discuss. “If she has specific things she wants to talk about, I want her to steer the conversation as such,” Isaac explains.

Even if you like your date to take the lead, don’t sit back and make him sweat while thinking about what to ask you next. Be yourself, and let the conversation flow as easily as you would with any other friend.

Spell it out.

Oh man, I laughed when I heard the guys mention this one. I can’t tell you how many times I have said something like, “He should just know!” But alas, men are not mind readers, and it’s up to us to tell them how we are feeling and what we are thinking.

“I find it attractive when women express their desires and wants in both the trivial and meaningful things in life,” Bill says. Kevin also likes his date to be explicit about what she wants. “I greatly appreciate feedback or, perhaps better put, communication,” Kevin says. “I’m especially grateful when a woman communicates whether she enjoyed a date or not or what she would like to happen differently in our relationship.”

Justin also says that he likes it when a woman tells him what she is thinking. “I’m not a mind reader, and dating shouldn’t be a guessing game,” he explains. “It’s nice when the romance is complemented with honesty and expectation.”

Say ‘Hey!’

If you like to play it coy and leave it up to the guy to approach you, that’s fine. But know that even guys who like to take the lead appreciate it when you initiate conversation.

Take Justin, for example. Justin says, “I’m not the best judge of whether or not a girl is interested, so I always appreciate it when a woman takes the initiative to begin a conversation pre-relationship. This helps me pick up on her interest level.”

Don’t sit and wait for a guy to come talk to you, even if you are waiting for a guy to “man up.” Just because a man likes to take the lead doesn’t mean that he won’t be excited to be approached by a confident woman.

Pick up where I’m lacking.

We all know it takes two to tango, and guys know it, too. When we see an area of the relationship that lends itself to our particular skill set or even to our feminine genius, graciously jump in to help.

“I love it when a woman recognizes things that she excels in, especially where it’s something that I lack,” Isaac says. “This way her strengths can complement mine, as well as mitigate my weaknesses.”

There you have it—helpful feedback from the guys and food for thought for those of us who are waiting for a guy to “man up.” Perhaps there are some areas for us to “woman up” and let the guys know they’re not in this alone?

Photo Credit: Shannon Lee Miller